The draft ordinance would require ride-sharing companies, among a bevy of other rules, to obtain a $50,000 annual license to operate as a transportation network company, and have no more than 100 vehicles driving a maximum of 16 hours per week — limits that Uber says “hurts all Seattleites.”
California dealt with the same issue a few month ago, when the California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to legalize ride-sharing. The state did not enforce limits on number of vehicles or hours driven ultimately allowing the startups to operate.
Currently, the ride-sharing companies are driving around Seattle illegally since they’re not yet regulated by government. This has angered taxi companies, who are losing business.
Follow along with our live updates below, and feel free to comment with your thoughts:
OK, Taylor here, Just about ready to go. Pretty packed here. TONS of people signing up to speak. I’ll try to update as much as I can.
30 minutes of public comment at the end of the meeting. No way everyone gets to speak, but Sally Clark says this is just the “initial walkthrough.”
Follow along with the livestream here: http://www.seattle.gov/council/councillive.htm
A Lyft rep is handing out small mustaches to people here while the Council speaks.
Clark says there’s some misinformation about the draft regulations that she hopes can be cleared up in the hearing.
Here’s the draft ordinance: http://clerk.seattle.gov/public/meetingrecords/2013/taxi20131213_1a.pdf
For more perspective from the ride-sharing companies, see Taylor’s interview this morning with the co-founder of Lyft: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/lyft-zimmer/
The 100 car limit was put in place “to begin in a guarded way.”
Now talking about keeping companies from “gaming” the system with multiple apps for one company. Ex: “Lyft 1,” “Lyft 2,” “Lyft 3,” etc.
Harrell talking about limiting not only the # of cars, but how many TNCs are allowed in Seattle.
“It’s all about the number of cars out there” — Harrell
Clark; “The deterioration of the taxi world is something that I don’t think we’re interested in.”
Harrell: “Are we limiting supply? We are. That’s the policy choice we’ve made.”
They’re talking about limiting the number of TNCs and entrants into the market. Harrell seems to want to have a set # allowed.
Talking about not having cash in taxis (no cash transactions for Lyft, Sidecar, Uber) and potential robberies that can occur. Draws chuckles from taxi drivers here.
Talking about having cash in taxis (no cash transactions for Lyft, Sidecar, Uber) and potential robberies that can occur. Draws chuckles from taxi drivers here.
Council will bring insurance experts next month to discuss how insurance requirements will work with ride-sharing companies.
“Insurance structure from ride-sharing companies is very different. They are bringing to the market a different approach to insurance. Maybe it’s more efficient, maybe it works better.”
The insurance topic is very important to the Council. It’s complicated.
City staffer Ben Noble jumps in, asks about TNCs and how they have individual drivers with different driving histories. TNCs are more individual-based vs. taxi companies, which have dictated insurance for each car.
Watching on the live stream, it’s easy to see why this discussion is frustrating to the ride-sharing companies.
The council committee’s discussion of the nuances of the proposed regulations seems to be missing the larger question of the proper role of government in these types of industries. Is the city truly protecting its citizens and its own legal liability with these rules, or is it protecting the interests of an established industry that would otherwise be disrupted by new technology?
Does Sally Clark get all of her information on industry trends from an unnamed reporter? Weird how often she is citing this person, whoever it is. (Not us!)
Still on insurance. Council is discussing when TNC drivers should be insured — when they’re driving people around, when they’re driving to pick someone up, or when they’re driving around looking for business. Three different scenarios.
Council keeps referencing California’s rules, which are less restrictive than Seattle’s proposed ordinance. Interesting to see how much they’ve differed from that, even though it seems to be working fine in California.
Sally Clark has made a few “funny” comments already. Seems like she wants to keep the mood light.
This room is super packed. No open seats. I can sense the emotions of these people…very strong feelings about this. We’ll hear from the public soon.
You can watch the Council live here: http://www.seattle.gov/council/councillive.htm
We also spoke with Lyft co-founder John Zimmer this morning: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/lyft-zimmer/
Clark again talks about the balloons in the room, makes joke.
Someone just brought in a big poster with a bunch of signatures. Looks like this petition: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/ridesharing-fans-petition-seattle-council-reconsider-proposed-regulations/
Now talking about TNC fees: $50,000 per year for TNC license (or 0.35% of revenue, whichever is higher) to offset the anticipated 2-3 FTEs required to administer and oversee program.
So, city needs that $50K from each startup to cover costs of people to manage this new regulatory system.
Council running through bullet points that you can see at the bottom of this story: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/sidecar-uber-express-disappointment-seattles-proposed-ridesharing-regulations/
Noble: “We are offering a financial incentive to focus on busy times.” Remember, Council proposed a 16-hour per week limit for TNCs.
Council talking about other cities and what they’ve done. Again, California led the way here with fewer regulations than proposed by Seattle.
Now talking about lotteries and extra taxi licenses. Current law states that the city can only issue 35 taxi licenses in a single year. Proposed ordinance recommends issuing 50 licenses by lottery.
We’re hearing about additional proposals not on current ordinance. First: allowing for-hire vehicles to pick up hailing passengers. Currently, only a “taxi” can pick someone up on the street who waves them down. Changing this would mean 200 more for-hire vehicles could now pick up anyone on the street, increasing options for customers, Council says.
Sally Clark reminds everyone here that the Council is trying to figure out how to support innovation. But, she notes, the TNCs are illegal, despite being popular with consumers. “We’re trying to figure out how to make this work,” she says.
Time to hear from the public. Oh boy.
First speaker, who says she’t get a license and relies on ride-sharing to get around, brings poster with 1,700 signature petitioning regulations: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/ridesharing-fans-petition-seattle-council-reconsider-proposed-regulations/
Steve Humphreys, CEO of FlyWheel, which works with Eastside For-Hire, talks in support of technology, but for “professional drivers.” He agrees with limited time and duration for TNCs.
Henry Yates, who represents for-hire companies, just said Uber is the “Wal-Mart of the professional transportation system.” Really?
Cab driver: “Let’s just level the playing field.”
Next speaker identifies himself as founder and chairman of Somali-American Public Affairs Council, speaks in defense of immigrants who work in the taxi industry, and the need to protect them from ‘unfair competition.’
I’m jumping in for Taylor — his battery is running low. Next speaker asks council to stop deregulating for-hire vehicles, saying it will create more problems for the taxi industry.
The next speaker is one of the owners of CNG For Hire. These TNC companies come from out of state, come to this state, and have been operating for close to two year illegally, he says. The city has looked the other way, and has done nothing about it, and is now entertaining the idea of legalizing them. That is going to put for-hire companies out of business and the public at risk.
A U.S. Army veteran, he says this doesn’t represent what he fought for. Giving these companies a business opportunity is immoral, he says, to loud cheers from the audience.
The next speaker says the transportation network companies (Lyft, Sidecar, Uberx) need to increase their transparency dramatically, on questions such as how many drivers they currently have. Says it’s unwise to introduce “part-time, casual drivers” into the market, and that we need professional drivers.
The next speaker speaks out against the city supporting “San Francisco-based, Wall Street-supported entities” and asks for a cease-and-desist order to be sent today.
That’s a wrap. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll continue to follow this issue closely on GeekWire.