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February 27, 2014 at 7:43 PM

Seattle City Council members approve driver cap on rideshare services

A majority of Seattle City Council members approved a driver cap on Lyft, uberX and Sidecar at a taxi committee meeting Thursday night, but not the kind they had discussed before.

Five members–Sally Clark, Tim Burgess, Tom Rasmussen, Sally Bagshaw and Jean Godden–voted in favor of a proposal that would limit the number of drivers who could work for Lyft, uberX and Sidecar at any given point in the day.

If that proposal passes a full council vote next month, a maximum of 150 drivers would be able to be working at the same time of day for each company. The law would then go into effect a month after Mayor Ed Murray signs it.

Before the meeting, the Seattle City Council’s taxi committee had proposed a cap of 300 drivers who could contract with Lyft, uberX and Sidecar–also known as transportation network companies (TNCs)–without acquiring a for-hire driving license. Mike O’Brien amended that proposal to lift the cap on TNC permits to 400 at the meeting.

O’Brien, Nick Licata, Kshama Sawant and Bruce Harrell supported that proposal because they said that giving TNC permits directly to drivers gives drivers the power to choose who they want to work with and keep the market from being flooded with so many drivers that each of them can’t earn a living wage.

Lyft, uberX and Sidecar had said before the meeting that if the caps on TNC permit drivers were approved, their operations in Seattle would end as soon as they go into effect. When asked for comment Thursday night whether the proposal that passed would still kill operations, Uber said it would.

“This will put hundreds of drivers out of business and the uberX that people know and rely on will be gone,”  said Brooke Steger, Seattle general manager of Uber.

Lyft and Sidecar did not confirm either way but still described the proposal as something that put too strict of regulations on them.

“This decision will put hundreds of small businesses out of work and leave them without an opportunity to earn a living,” Steger said. “The Committee has sent a strong message that they support the status quo over opportunity, transportation choices and safety. We hope when these regulations come to the full Council that innovation and safety win the day.”

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