Readers of Monday’s Opinion page heard from state Sen. Curtis King and Rep. Judy Clibborn, each with their own perspective on statewide transportation needs and how best to pay a multi-billion dollar price tag. King and Clibborn chair the Senate and House transportation committees, respectively. At noon Thursday, join them and two…More
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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray met with The Seattle Times editorial board on May 13, 2014. Here are some of his comments.More
In approving a plan to stretch 474 miles of bike highways and byways through Seattle, the City Council puts a new challenge on itself. To fully build out the master plan, the city needs to find about $20 million a year for 20 years. The most common solution — if it can be said that comment-thread…More
No big surprises with the Seattle City Council’s unanimous decision on Monday to cap technology-based ride-services such as Lyft, uberX and Sidecar. The council passed a two-year pilot program to legalize and limit each network to 150 drivers at any given time, and to raise the number of taxi licenses by 200 over the next two years. (Read Seattle Times reporter Alexa Vaughn’s news side story.)
As The Seattle Times editorial board argued in this March 14 editorial, the city should have focused less on caps — for both taxis and ride-services — and more on consumer safety and leveling the playing field for all drivers. Increased competition has improved customer service over the last year, and it would be a shame to see ride-services cut back services in a city where people are driving less and demanding more affordable transportation options.
The other takeaway? This likely becomes a political issue in the next city council election cycle. See Uber Seattle’s tweet after the vote, which was retweeted at least 100 times as of Monday evening.
— Uber Seattle (@Uber_SEA) March 17, 2014
Before Mayor Ed Murray signs Council Bill 118036, he should also consider convening a panel to review and revamp the city’s antiquated taxi regulations. In a timely statement released after the vote, Murray indicated he plans to get more involved:
“As Mayor, I will direct my staff and the Facilities and Administrative Services Department Director to engage stakeholders and experts outside of City government in further discussions. Based on these discussions, I then plan to submit to Council my own recommendations to both ensure customer safety and improve customer choice while leveling the playing field for all industry players.”
This entire process has put Seattle in the spotlight because its city council is the first in the nation to limit the growth of a wildly popular service. Hopefully, Lyft, uberX and Sidecar officials learned along the way that they must release data much sooner and develop better relations with the council. Several elected members showed a willingness to revisit the cap in the future, but not until the market has time to adjust and the networks agree to be more transparent about their insurance policies.
Below the poll and forum, look for a sampling of reactions from the council members.
Do you agree with the council’s decision? Vote in the poll below.More
An experiment in bipartisanship that began with so much promise a year ago totally crumbled in the final hours of this year’s legislative session.
Let’s turn the clock back to March 27, 2013. On that day, I wrote a column, “State Senate Transportation co-chairs break new ground as political foes — and allies.” I’d gone down to Olympia to learn more about one of the rare political partnerships that emerged from the formation of the Majority Coalition Caucus. The buzz in the capitol at that time was that state Sens. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, were showing it was possible for a Republican and a Democrat to co-chair a committee and get things done.
Here’s what I wrote at the time:
Though other Democrats rejected the coalition’s offers to lead committees, Eide surprised her colleagues by accepting the co-chairmanship with King.
“I trust him explicitly,” she said, citing their experience together crafting budgets and serving on committees.
One week after a Seattle City Council subcommittee‘s controversial and preliminary decision to limit ridesharing services to 150 drivers per network at any given time, Lyft, uberX and Sidecar have each come forward to reveal the number of drivers on their respective platforms.
During a Feb. 27 hearing, council members complained loudly that these companies were refusing to release that information. The city’s top officials have struggled for months to reach an agreement on how to legalize ridesharing, which has disrupted Seattle’s highly regulated taxi industry.
Now armed with a little more information, council members should revisit the cap number they proposed and at least raise the limit on the number of drivers from each company who can work at the same time.
A March 10 vote by the full council has been postponed until March 17.
On Friday afternoon, uberX sent out a press release revealing it “has 900 active drivers on its system. This number does not include drivers who have left the system or those awaiting background checks to join the system. That number also does not include UberBlack or UberSUV drivers.”
The service also said more than 300 drivers are active at any given time and continues to grow with demand. So if the city’s proposed legislation is passed, hundreds of drivers using their personal cars will lose the ability they currently enjoy to earn income through uberX.
Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger’s statement:More
On Friday morning, the Seattle City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations will meet (again) to discuss what to do with app-based transportation companies such as Lyft, Sidecar and UberX. The three-member panel had planned to vote on a draft proposal that would have capped the number of ridesharing vehicles that can operate citywide.
That’s good. It means the council can avert the risk of passing a bad policy and punishing innovation.
Probably helps that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray weighed in throughout the week to express his concerns about the pending legislation. He tweeted this on Thursday:More
How about that wacky story out of New Jersey? Republican Gov. Chris Christie fired one of his senior staffers who apparently initiated some highway mischief that resulted in four days of traffic jams. All to spite a mayor who did not endorse Christie.
Other Christie appointees have resigned, and the story is still being parsed out. Can political retribution be this blatant and nasty? The aides plotted via emails and text messages with an ease and candor that suggests no one would ever find out or even ask.More
On Friday, Seattle witnessed an example of how disruptive business models can thrive and gain popularity with consumers, but they can’t escape forever from the weight of existing regulatory structures.
The Seattle City Council’s latest draft rules to legalize and regulate ridesharing companies such as Lyft, Uber and Sidecar, leave room for improvement before a final vote in early 2014. City leaders say their intention is to not punish or stifle innovation, but that’s exactly what their proposal would do.
We need to keep consumers safe through common-sense regulations, but we also need to let the market determine how many taxi, for-hire and rideshare services are really necessary. Perhaps the city of Seattle can go back to the drawing board and adopt more aspects of the California model, which ridesharing companies like Lyft contend are fair and will not put them out of business.More
King County officials are weaving their way through some gnarly political traffic.
Should they cut Metro transit routes despite growing ridership? Or convince voters to raise taxes and car tab fees? If the Legislature doesn’t pass a transportation package that lets them do this, will they have to resort to an old law that allows them to go it alone, but raise less revenue?
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom outlines the region’s pending bus funding crisis in this news side story. Here’s one of the big reasons folks are so wary of inching toward 10 percent sales tax per $100 spent by consumers:
According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), the poorest fifth of Washington state households pay 17 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest fifth pay less than 7 percent. Those are statewide averages, so the disparity grows in urban Puget Sound, where transit sales taxes are higher.
“(In) a state that is already clearly the most regressive in the nation, amazingly you’d have localities where it is more regressive,” said Matt Gardner, ITEP executive director.
“In fairness, there aren’t a lot of other choices available to lawmakers in Washington,” said Gardner.
Lawmakers appear no closer to a transportation deal, so it’s understandable why officials are antsy to get something before voters in 2014. Cuts are slated to begin next summer. By the time the next legislative session begins in January, the political waters may be too charged for lawmakers to vote on increasing taxes and fees. And even if the state legislature does pass a transportation package that includes local options for counties, a possible referendum may delay implementation of the law till after the November 2014 elections — a less-than-ideal scenario for transit planners.
So let’s get a sense of what readers think about the county’s Plan A and Plan B. Click below the jump to vote in our poll. As first reported in Lindblom’s story, here is The Seattle Times’ description of those two options:More