Seattle on Monday became the first city to limit the number of drivers for so-called rideshare companies such as Lyft, uberX and Sidecar.
The regulations, approved unanimously by the City Council, will limit each company to 150 drivers on the road at the same time, collectively limiting them to 450. UberX, Lyft and Sidecar — which together have more than 2,000 drivers in the city — say the limitation destroys their business model and ability to maintain speedy response times.
Three of the nine council members at the standing-room-only meeting — Tom Rasmussen, Sally Bagshaw and Tim Burgess — attempted to amend the regulations so there would be no caps placed on drivers. Thousands of emails have poured into council members from fans of the companies, which use smart-phone applications to dispatch drivers using their personal vehicles.
All council members approved of an amendment requiring Lyft, uberX and Sidecar to ensure drivers and vehicles meet minimum state insurance requirements for for-hire cars. As of right now, none of the companies have proven that they meet those requirements.
The meeting was attended by drivers and customers of uberX, Lyft and Sidecar. UberX driver Todd Gentry said he’s been relying on his driving job while trying to start up his own business.
“I don’t want to take anyone’s job,” Gentry said of the local taxi industry. ”I want them to do their job better.”
The City Council’s taxi committee deliberated regulations for almost a year before Monday’s vote. Councilmember Sally Clark emphasized that the council has a lot more regulation and deregulation to debate.
“What we’re doing today is not a complete fix,” said Clark at the meeting. “But it’s a start.”
The regulations approved Monday would go into effect 30 days after Mayor Ed Murray signs it into law. Murray’s office did not say before the 2 p.m. regular City Council meeting how soon he may sign it.
Taxi owners and drivers breathed a sigh of relief when the caps, which would last at least another year, were approved.
But in a year, the City Council could change the caps or get rid of them.