The Seattle City Council, in a 6-3 vote today, repealed regulations it approved just months ago for app-dispatched ride services like uberX and Lyft.
With hopes of ending a year-and-a-half-long debate over how to fairly and safely regulate all ride services, including taxis and for-hire vehicles, most if not all council members hinted they were ready to approve another set of carefully negotiated rules as soon as next Monday.
Mayor Ed Murray drafted the proposal the council is expected to vote on next week. The threat of a fall referendum or initiative destroying the council’s legislation motivated the mayor’s office to spend almost two months negotiating among representatives of Uber, which operates uberX, Lyft, taxis, and for-hire companies.
The new rules would still increase insurance requirements for uberX and Lyft — legally referred to as transportation network companies (TNCs). But, unlike the old City Council regulations approved March 17, the new ordinance would allow the services to put as many drivers on the road at a time as they want. The regulations repealed today would have limited each of the services to 150 drivers on the road at a time.
Councilmember Sally Clark thanked Murray for pushing negotiations with Uber and Lyft farther than the council was able to before March 17. Clark said that when the council sought more information and compromise, on insurance policies in particular, “nobody blinked.”
“We passed the best legislation that the council was able to put together at the time,” Clark said at Monday’s council meeting.
Several members of the for-hire and taxi industry supported a repeal and approval of the new ordinance, as much as some aspects of the new rules pain them. The City of Seattle would still limit how many taxis and for-hire vehicles can be on the road, but release another 200 taxi licenses over the next four years. The city has not released any new taxi licenses since at least 1990.
For-hire companies would be allowed to pick up street-hailed rides everywhere except designated downtown taxi stands.
“It’s been a long process, and it’s time to move along,” said Eastside for Hire general manager Samatar Guled during the meeting’s public comment period. “I think we can live with it.”
Three council members — Mike O’Brien, Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant — voted to delay the repeal for another week pending an expected Tuesday court decision that could render the threat of a referendum or initiative moot: Other council members, eager to at least temporarily end deliberation on the issue for the first time since March 2013, voted against that motion.
“I would like to signal to the industry that we are serious about a solution,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw.
King County is expected to discuss and move forward with similar rules later this year.