Lyft founder on proposed ride-sharing rules: ‘I thought Seattle wanted innovation’

Lyft co-founder John Zimmer.

Lyft co-founder John Zimmer.

Lyft co-founder John Zimmer picked Seattle as his company’s third market — Lyft is now in 20 cities — because he thought the area seemed like a leader of innovation and a place that embraced technology.

But after seeing the City of Seattle’s proposed regulations for ride-sharing startups, he isn’t too sure.

“We picked Seattle third because we thought it was such an innovative and leading city,” Zimmer said during a telephone interview this morning. “But I think others will reconsider that when they see overstepping and over-reaching by the City Council.”

The Seattle City Council Committee on Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine is meeting in just a few minutes to discuss the new draft ordinance, which would require ride-sharing companies 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, among a bevy of other rules.

[Follow-up: Here's what happened at Friday's City Council meeting]

lyft-pinkZimmer said that he’s “never seen anything like this,” in the other cities his company operates in. He said that the proposals would effectively shut down Lyft in Seattle.

Zimmer added that the city would be taking a big risk by implementing the proposed regulations and setting such a precedent.

“Technology companies won’t want to come there,” he said.

The Lyft co-founder said that the language in the proposal makes it seem like the City wants to protect existing transportation companies, which befuddles him.

“There’s no justification for the protectionism,” he said. “Taxi revenue has been growing every year and in 2013 it hit its highest level ever according to Seattle.”

We’ll have more from the City Council meeting on GeekWire today.

  • DJO

    Companies that offer services that others must pay taxes to offer (like Lyft, Uber, AirBnB) aren’t so much innovating as they are operating with an artificial and unfair subsidy. Mediallion fees, hotel taxes, etc are a fact of life for their competitors. Take those away and there goes the “innovation”. Real innovation is providing a better offering without needing to dodge taxes.

    • go ride sharing

      getting a car on-demand using your mobile phone in minutes and reducing the friction of payment (via the in-app payment) and receiving excellent/responsive customer service from uber/lyft, to me, is innovation over the status quo of the taxi industry. it is definitely a better offering.

      • That Guy

        As long as they follow the same rules as everyone else, fine. At the moment, they don’t.

      • Nick A

        Taxi cabs overcharge, people can’t afford them. Sorry if you are a Taxi driver just become a Lyft or Uber driver, stop trying to stay in the past. The worst part of america are people who try to fight for how things have always been, constant change is the only thing that is best for everyone.

        • ClaimsAdjuster

          UberX charges the same rates as taxis.

          • That Guy

            Actually, in New York City they charge “time of day” rates that are 8 times as high during rush hour.

        • That Guy

          @NickA, do you feel the same way about the NSA looking at every e-mail you send? Constant change is best, buddy! Never question it!

          • Nick A

            I dont like surge pricing at all the rates should be fixed like cabs thats the only thigs cabs do right. But you know what annoys me more is the amount of times Ive gotten in a cab only to find out that its cash only and waste my time and.drive me to an atm or bank to pay them because they dont want to accept cards.

            Sure cab companies are getting shafted by these startups that dont want to play by the rules. But lets be honest these rules were set up so that only a select few could run services to drive others around in a semi affordable fashion (cost of licensing/Insurance). Public transportation in most cities is lacking and this is a great filler until such time we dont all drive cars anymore.

          • That Guy

            Then ask the cab driver before you get in. If he won’t take plastic, don’t get in. As for not driving cars anymore, good luck with that. You wouldn’t be one of these whackjobs who has declared war on the privately-owned automobile, would you?

    • Justin Graham

      The ways Lyft, Uber, Sidecar are innovating

      1. On-Demand booking through a mobile device with reliable ETA
      2. Automatic payment of fare+tip, electronically, with a credit card of my choosing (Visa, MC, AMEX)
      3. Providing an easier way for people to get into the business of providing transportation services by using their own vehicle and setting up as a 1099 contractor
      4. Providing a cleaner, safer, and more enjoyable ride experience for their customers that is consistent and enforced through ratings (when was the last time you could easily rate your taxi driver)
      5. Speed of egress from ride. Riders no longer have to take out their wallet, hand a card, sign a receipt, argue with driver over paying with a credit card vs. cash, wait for transaction to clear, tip, etc etc.
      6. Solving a clear issue in Seattle with lack of reliable taxi type transportation, especially on evenings with large events.

      • That Guy

        Lyft and Uber rely upon uninsured drivers. It’s a scam. I rarely find much to support when it comes to the Seattle city council, but this time they did it right.

        • disqus_Xx0Y3HsNsJ

          Lyft drivers are required to have insurance just like any other driver on the road, and they are subject to feedback and constant ratings that keep them acting and behaving professionally….unlike taxis. IF a Lyft driver does a bad job, they won’t have a job for long, period.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Insurance like “any other driver on the road” does not cover businesses that transport passengers. That is why cabs in Seattle are paying $6,500 to $13,500 a year for insurance.

          • Nick A

            Great and if they have a problem with paying that much they should stop owning taxis and invent a ridesharing app. There’s way too much regulation on cab companies which limits competition.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Irrelevant response. The price of insurance has nothing to do with regulation or apps. It has to do with the risk of that comes with operating a cab business, which the TNC drivers are avoiding through insurance fraud.

          • That Guy

            A Lyft driver’s insurance does not cover his passenger if the Lyft driver gets in an accident.

          • Nick A

            Also I’d like to add more people in rideshares equals less people driving solo less cars on the road better for the environment. Every taxi cab group is run by a bunch of greedy people afraid of competition, competition in this system of goverment is good.

          • RileyDeWiley

            I feel the need to pick a nit: one passenger in the back of an Uber car is still one car on the road. In fact, when the Uber is traveling empty to pick up another passenger it is actually adding to congestion. The hidden benefit to Uber vs. SOVs is that Uber cars do not tie up parking, which is a big plus. The same of course can be said for cabs and Lyft and all the rest.

          • That Guy

            @Nick A, these are not “ride shares.” They are taxicabs.

      • DJO

        All that, and if they have to pay the same fees everyone else pays – they threaten to run scurrying out of the market. I could offer customers plenty more if I didn’t have to pay those pesky taxes too! I’d be like a business GOD!!!

    • Taxis Suck

      Yeah….I’m sure those “medallion fees” offer nothing in return like an exclusive deal to be the only out bound taxi provider at Sea-Tac (oh wait, that doesn’t sound like unfair behavior). Yeah, in case you didn’t know Stita (now Yellow) is the sole provider of service. Please, it’s a rigged table all the way around

      • DJO

        Outbound taxi service at sea-tac is regulated by the airport commission, not the city of seattle. Helps if you understand how the industry works before you decide on relative fairness.

    • disqus_Xx0Y3HsNsJ

      DJO, you have no idea what you’re talking about. People should have the ability to choose what they want. If they want typical taxis, then they can choose them. If they want ride-sharing transportation, like Lyft, then they should be free to choose that too. If the taxi people are complaining about lost revenue, what they are really saying is that most people prefer Lyft and that Lyft drivers are doing a better job than they are. If taxis were doing a better job, people would choose them more often and they would have nothing to worry about. This action by the Seattle City Council is disgraceful and possibly illegal. How can they make rules governing private companies like this? dictating the number of employees they can have? How many hours they can work? That’s insane! And I think they would lose in a legal challenge. Aside from all of this, these companies provide jobs–hundreds of jobs–and meet a growing demand presented by consumers.

      • That Guy

        Well, then left Lyft go to court and try to argue that cities have no authority to regulate taxi companies. Good luck with that one, techno geeks.

      • Seattlite

        I agree on that Lyft drivers are doing a better job in the Customer Service realm. I have yet to meet a friendly cab driver, yet every time I have used Lyft the driver has been exceedingly pleasant. I took a Lyft ride to an appointment yesterday and attempted to take a cab back, cab driver rolled up his window in my face because I was not the person he was waiting on AND refused to let me share the cab with them when we found out we were going to the same location anyway. If Lyft went away, I would probably be more likely to take a bus than to call a cab.

  • Paul Furio

    I get the fees. Someone has to pay inspectors to ensure they’re meeting regulations. I don’t get the cap on services. At least have a sliding scale on volume & fees. I’ll choose Uber over a Cab every time because I like the convenience and style, but if the limitations mean that there aren’t enough Uber vehicles around, then the customer is suffering. Level the playing field for the customer in terms of what should be regulated: Safety & basic quality of service. Then let the companies complete in the areas where they choose to differentiate: Upscale vs. economy, price, timing, & convenience.

    • That Guy

      The reason to limit the number of licenses is to provide incentive for the cab companies to have cars out there at all times. If they don’t limit cars to make sure that drivers can make money at the peak times, then the operators will eventually be unable to provide service in the middle of the night.

      That much said, there’s always room to argue over what the right numbers of licenses are. What I wouldn’t accept is simply throwing it open without any regulation on the number of licenses. That would work well for a while, at peak times, and then would collapse the whole system.

      • AnnoyedSeattlite

        Based on what evidence? Where is an example of a taxi system and for-hire driver system collapsing due to the alleged problem you describe?

      • go ride sharing

        there’s a reason why lyft/uber exist – because people can’t get cabs! limit licenses so that cabs are incentivized to have more cars out there in the first place? this feels circular to me. this is why people are using uber – because there is demand that cabs are not meeting, even with the incentives you cite. so i’m confused by your logic. wow, much confuse. very unlogic.

        • That Guy

          For starters, if Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are ride-sharing companies, then so are Orange, Yellow, Stita, and the black car services.

          They should all operate under the same rules. We can argue about how many cars ought to be licensed, but not about applying the same rules to all of them.

  • That Guy

    Hey John Zimmer, the message from Seattle is that if you want to go into the taxicab business, you will have to compete on an equal regulatory basis. No special treatment just because you’re a techno-geek who we are all supposed to worship. If you don’t like that, then take yourself, your company, your over-inflated ego, and your demands for special privileges out of my city and don’t come back.

    Thank you. Jerk.

    • sherry

      i like how you signed it “jerk” haha, i was thinking exactly that. ps: lyft carries 1,000,000 insurance on passengers….

  • big will

    The big bummer is the drug & alcohol testing. Who wants to be stuck in a car with some nerd who never even tokes?

    • That Guy

      I do.

  • Buy a car

    Who cares

  • Bill

    Not sure how Zimmer could have been surprised by this… Seattle has a long and proud tradition of talking out of both sides of its mouth about finding progressive, innovative ways to deal with transportation, housing, pollution, and other big-city problems, then promptly squashing any actual progressive, innovative ways that are proposed with conservative or reactionary regulations. Or just talking the whole thing to death.

    In this arena particularly, I would have thought the previous experience of Zipcar and Car2Go trying (unsuccessfully) to deal with the city and state on legacy car rental tax structures would have been a good cautionary tale, if Lyft would have done its homework.

    It’s not just a competitive “fairness” issue, either. You can see the same dynamic play out with entirely public transportation systems. Ours suck, despite some excellent and innovative proposals made over the years to improve them. “Fairness” has nothing to do with it… it’s citizens and politicians who are inherently conservative trying to live up to a progressive and innovative image that was, sadly, largely earned for the region by folks operating outside the Seattle city limits.

    For good reason.

    • That Guy

      The techno-geeks seem to think they are special and above the mere rules that govern everyone else. Guess what? You’re not. Don’t like it? Move to California where you belong. We sure won’t miss you.

      • Nick A

        I live in California. Im from Seattle its city council ideas like this that keep Seattle behind so many other cities on the west coast.

        • That Guy

          Please stay in California. We have too many geeks up here as it is.

          • john

            then why are you reading geekwire?

          • That Guy

            Because the link showed up.

  • Derrin Harvey

    More Bicycle Rickshaws!

  • Rhinestone Housewife

    Many women prefer the use of a rideshare service simply because it’s safer for them. I had a friend who was sexually assaulted in a taxi cab. The responding police officer advised her to take Lyft or UberX from now on. If you want people to choose taxi cabs, the whole system is broken and needs to be revamped. Half the time your cab gets hailed off the street and never shows up. That’s why they choose rideshare instead. It’s flat out safer at this time and frankly, more reliable.

    • That Guy

      Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar are taxicabs, same as the others. There is nothing safer about them. Give it some time, and the rapists will migrate there.

      • Cody

        See. You’re wrong. With lyft no cash is exchanged. You have to have Facebook and a valid credit/debit card to use it. While of course all these things can be “faked” it’s a lot safer than handing cash to some random, grumpy can driver. I’m also happy that you can’t wait for people using Lyft to get raped. Prove your point then, huh?

        • That Guy

          Lyft drivers are no more or less “random” than the incumbent cab drivers. And isn’t it good to know that they have a policy of refusing service to the 25% of Americans who are too poor to have a credit card?

          • Sandy Roberts Russell

            If they have a bank account their “debit” card is a Visa.

          • That Guy

            Sandy, 25% of Americans are “unbanked,” and don’t have a debit card either. But hey, why care? You’re a yuppie, and you wouldn’t want poor people stinking up that Uber car, now would you?

          • Sandy Roberts Russell

            There are ways to become “banked” the federal government has gone to a totally direct deposit system, convert or don’t get paid ssi or ssd. My cousin who is receiving disability had to get a walmart type card to receive the money.
            How nice of you to presume to know me by one statement I have made (yuppie). Good way to try to steer the convo elsewhere.
            I had never heard of uber and the rest until the John Stossel report (waiting for more name calling to be thrown my way). The rest can be left unsaid.

          • That Guy

            Cabs get a lot of use by poor and disabled people, many of whom are unbanked. By redlining them out, Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are cherry picking the population. That’s the revenue side. On the cost side, they seek exemptions from the city taxi regs, including the duty to insure.

            These companies are greedy shysters, and I hope Seattle will stop them.

          • Nick A

            No the cab companies are greedy. Taxi insurance laws, fees to be licensed and any limits were created to keep cab company owners (or their paid lobbying people) without competition and people without a choice. I absolutely have no problem with regulations or limits but these arent regulations or limits that everyone benefits only a select few. Id rather have a future with no traditional cabs then one with no competition that doesnt offer what people want.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            “Taxi insurance laws…were created to keep cab company owners (or their paid lobbying people) without competition and people without a choice. ”

            That is a good one. The taxi industry wrote laws to keep the insurance rates high to keep out competition. And they are willing to pay $6,500 to $13,500 per cab in annual insurance premiums to do that.

      • Rhinestone Housewife

        Except that you can see a photo of the driver and their vehicle, a rating and they have been thoroughly background checked (criminal and DMV) and vetted. Plus, you can watch their progress on the app and know when to expect your ride so no need to stand outside until the last minute. At this point in time, it’s exponentially safer. You seem excited about rapists. Gross.

        • ClaimsAdjuster

          The city of Seattle and King County not only conduct a criminal background check, they also fingerprint drivers who apply for For Hire licenses.

          • Rhinestone Housewife

            Fingerprinting would be fine. Do they also conduct a DMV check?

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            The insurance company requires an MVR before adding the driver to a policy. Unlike UberX /Sidecar/Lyft, this is an insurance policy that actually covers a taxi operation.

        • That Guy

          Actually, you’re the only one who introduced the rape topic in this conversation. Sounds like a personal problem to me — yours. Gross.

          • Rhinestone Housewife

            Actually, I mentioned sexual assault, the rape comment was all you. Gross.

          • That Guy

            @Rhinestone Housewife, you seem to be really obsessed with forced sex. Are you sure this is the right website for you to be talking about this interest of yours?

          • Rhinestone Housewife

            I’m interested in an informative discussion regarding the topic highlighted and I’ve actually learned a couple of things from several comments here. Sadly, your comments have devolved into that of an adolescent boy who when confronted with educated opposing opinions cannot process the information in an adult fashion and decides to lash out in a sad attempt to goad people into likewise trollish behavior. Good luck with that.

          • That Guy

            No, you’re obviously a corporate plant. You introduced this sexual assault topic — accused existing taxi companies of hiring rapists, basically — and when I responded you accused me of being obsessed by rape. That’s YOUR personal problem. You need to go to a porn site if you want to go on and on about forced sex.

          • Rhinestone Housewife

            Wow, no need to be so paranoid but I’m flattered by the accusation. I actually own a small indie web based business called….wait for it….The Rhinestone Housewife. Feel free to look it up if you don’t believe me. Sadly, women and other marginalized members of society *have* to be concerned about sexual assault on a daily basis. It’s sad, but it’s also the real world. The fact that you equate sexual assault with porn just tells everyone how uneducated you really are. The RAINN web site is very informative if you’re interested.

          • That Guy

            You really have this forced sex obsession. You need to get some help for that one, rather than injecting your obsession into every conversation and then getting all weird when someone answers you.

            All I ever did was to reply to your original comment about taxi drivers committing sexual assault by pointing out that if these new entrants get popular, the rapists will migrate there. That’s just common sense, but you jumped in with some bullshit accusation about me having a rape obsession.

            Other way around, lady. I think it’s bullshit to throw that accusation at established taxi companies to begin with. YOU went there, not me.

          • Rhinestone Housewife

            If by ‘getting weird’ you mean countering with actual facts…uh, ok.

          • RileyDeWiley

            Do. Not. Feed. Or. Annoy. The. Troll. Period!

  • Cody

    “That Guy” is either a troll, works for a taxi company, or is just a hoot at parties. Lyft drivers are insured. They must have their own insurance and are covered under a Lyft policy. The drivers are background checked, friendly and usually cool people.

    • Rhinestone Housewife

      Most likely lives under a bridge will all the other trolls. Of course nothing is 100% safe but after a cab driver exposed himself to me, I’ll not be choosing a cab in the future.

      • That Guy

        Then you won’t using Lyft, because they’re a cab company same as the rest.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      The Lyft driver ‘s private insurance policy specifically excludes operating a business picking up passengers. These drivers try to hide what they are doing with their vehicles from their insurance carrier. They are committing insurance fraud.

      • Rhinestone Housewife

        It’s still a safer alternative for women needing a ride. Until they can fix what’s broken with the taxi business (uh, like EVERYTHING is broken) then women are going to choose what’s safer and makes more sense for them. Frankly, taxi’s are NOT safe at this point but they pour so much money into the monopoly that no one cares.

        • That Guy

          Just wait until your Lyft driver gets into an accident and you are seriously injured, and learn that you’re not covered by insurance and that your driver lives in an apartment and has $500 in assets.

          • Rhinestone Housewife

            According to easily obtainable information on the internet each Lyft passenger is covered by a one million dollar umbrella insurance policy while in a Lyft. If we’re going to talk about safety and accidents, I’m more worried about the thousands of drivers that do not have auto insurance out on the roads daily in WA. Honestly, I’m positive we’re all more at risk by drunk drivers and we even had two serious accidents *just last night* in western WA by suspected drunk drivers. I’m ok with some sort of enhanced drivers license for ride share drivers and if you needed to be finger printed along with that, so be it. Let the state/city get their money in permits or licensing fees. But to say that all ride share drivers are losers that live in ghetto apartments with no assets is just uninformed.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            According to easily obtainable information at the Lyft site, Lyft is not responsible for the passenger:

            “LYFT OFFERS INFORMATION AND A METHOD TO CONNECT DRIVERS AND RIDERS WITH EACH OTHER, BUT DOES NOT AND DOES NOT INTEND TO PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION SERVICES OR ACT IN ANY MANNER AS A TRANSPORTATION CARRIER, AND HAS NO RESPONSIBILITY OR LIABILITY FOR ANY TRANSPORTATION SERVICES VOLUNTARILY PROVIDED TO ANY RIDER BY ANY DRIVER USING THE LYFT PLATFORM.”

            http://www.lyft.me/terms

          • That Guy

            That, plus their arrogant refusal to provide a copy of the policy for public inspection, tells me that they don’t really have insurance worthy of the term.

          • Rhinestone Housewife

            Thank you for the clarification, I appreciate it. So the one million dollar policy covers the driver. Would the passenger then not just sue the driver in this case?

          • That Guy

            The driver doesn’t get an automatic million. We don’t know what the insurance policy is, because the greedheads who run these gypsy cab operations won’t make the policies public. The drivers? Good luck suing them. Someone who drives a cab doesn’t have the means to pay someone’s hospital bill and lost wages. That’s what insurance is for, but Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar want to operate their taxi companies without insurance.

          • That Guy

            I never wrote that “all ride share drivers are losers that live in ghetto apartments with no assets.” Those are your words. Like your phony “rape” strawman, you’re good at doing the corporate web attacks, aren’t you. In fact, I wouldn’t doubt that you’re hired for that purpose.

        • That Guy

          Ah, the Rhinestone Housewife. Hey housewife, is this the same liability policy that Lyft’s arrogant CEO refuses to disclose to the city? Think it might be “junk insurance?” I sure do.

    • That Guy

      I drove a taxi to help pay for college. It was a long time ago. I have nothing against the new entrants, as long as they play by the same rules as the incumbents. And I’m always on the side of the drivers, regardless of who they work for.

      Yeah, I’m a hoot at parties. At least the ones I go to.

  • RileyDeWiley

    Some perspective on all this, from someone who has been watching the cab wars for a long time –
    Cabs and the free market are not the best of friends, because the service they provide is (1) largely defined by time [i.e. how slow are they], which is (2) a function of where the cab is, which is (3) changing all the time, because the cab must be moving to be a cab (doh!). The same can be said for cab customers who of course move every time they successfully hail a cab. This means cabbies cannot rely on repeat customers, and customers cannot rely on the same cab to carry them if they like the service. This is unlike other service providers, e.g. barbers.

    In unregulated taxi enviroments (e.g. most US cities back in the 1920s and 1930s) this led to a huge volume of complaints from both cab drivers and customers, because at the end of a ride you have two strangers in a car with no real disincentive to ripping off their counter-party. A lot of taxi regulation (meters, fixed fares, fares posted on the sides of cars, licensing of drivers, testing of drivers on local geography) are attempts to alleviate the problem of ripoffs of the public by cab drivers; others (bullet proof glass) are there to protect drivers from robberies. All of these are motivated by the fact that a cab ride is essentially an encounter between strangers in the city, which can always end badly.

    Another problem with cabs is that they must hunt their customers by sight alone. This means cabs are forever prowling arterials and congregating at points where customers can be found. Hotels, bus depots, train stations, ferry docks, and airports draw cabs like sewer outflows draw carp. Left unregulated, the cabs will choke traffic, fight over customers, and eventually form mafias to control certain lucrative points of trade. The fabled New York City hotel doorman is largely the hotels’ solution to the cab problem (although they do provide other services as well). The doormen have a police-like authority over the cabs, because they can guide lucrative rides into certain cabs, or shut a driver out. They are an absolute necessity in places where cabs are thick on the ground. Seatac Airport also regulates cabs under authority of the Port of Seattle. There is another block of cab regulations that are best understood as a patchwork effort to alleviate these problems, too. Among them are (1) SeaTac only permitting a certain company to pick up at the airport; (2) limited numbers of cab licenses issued to reduce the number of cabs on the streets; (3) numerous rules about how the cabs must behave in queue, and which passengers they must carry and under what circumstances, and on and on.

    My point here is that these rules, odious as they are, exist for mostly good reasons THAT DO NOT APPLY TO UBER, OR LYFT, OR SIDECAR. The TNCs do not hunt by sight, and when a customer steps into an Uber or Lyft car, they generate records which are held by all parties to the transaction: Uber, the passenger, and the driver. They are not really strangers, and the company has the motive and the means to provide oversight. No Uber driver has any motive to hang around the ferry terminal making a pest of himself, and if he does, the company can easily threaten him with sanctions. The rides are dispatched electronically and at a distance, which wipes out a whole herd of the chronic problems with cabs. New York City, for instance, defines a taxi as someone who can legally pick up a “street hail”, which is someone standing on the street yelling, “YO! TAXI!”. They are heavily regulated and must buy a medallion, which costs $1.1 million last time I checked. New York also has what are colloquially called “liveries” and which exist in the regulations as “black cars”. They are regulated by the same Taxi and Limousine Commission, but have an entirely different set of rules: they can’t pick up street hails, the license costs $60 per year per car, and are issued in unlimited numbers, and the “black car base” that dispatches them is subject to a huge number of regulations mostly involving parking around the base itself. The TNCs are legally “black car services” in New York, which IMO is a good call.

    The 800 # gorilla behind all the tussles about insurance is really protectionism of the cab medallion holders, who have an investment in their medallions,which are expensive because they are scarce, and they are scarce because they are limited in issue, and they are limited in issue because hotel owners and ferry operators and the like complained about too damned many cabs on the street in front of their establishments. The protectionism of the cabs by City Hall is a side effect of the city’s attempt to regulate a service that is needed by the downtown business community, but is also at times a nuisance to them. When all is said and done, the big property owners downtown will get what they want from the city government, and what they want is cheap, plentiful transportation.

    Uber for the win, in the long haul. Meantime, it will be interesting.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      They have a name in New York for the type of operation UberX has in Seattle. Thaey are called “gypsy cabs”

      Unlike Seattle, UberX in New York is regulated as a car service. They are required to have licenses and the proper insurance for transporting passengers.

      • RileyDeWiley

        No problem there, as long as the insurance and licensing regs are not just protectionism in disguise.

        • That Guy

          There are plenty of studies about taxi regulation. There is an established consensus that deregulation of taxicabs doesn’t work.

          • RileyDeWiley

            I agree, but for reasons that largely do not apply to TNCs.

          • That Guy

            They are all taxi cabs. There is no fundamental difference between a “TNC” and a “taxi” in a city like Seattle where taxis are legally prohibited from cruising for fares.

          • RileyDeWiley

            Prohibited? This is news. You can’t legally hail a cab in Seattle?

          • That Guy

            I was wrong about that. In practice, though, you don’t hail cabs here. You either call their dispatcher or go to a taxi stand.

    • That Guy

      Cabs hunt by sight, he says, ignoring the Seattle law specifically requiring that all cab rides be pre-arranged. Cabs are not allowed to cruise for fares here because it screws up traffic. We don’t have Manhattan’s wide streets.

      As for “strangers,” Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber drivers are not anyone’s long-lost family or friends. They are “strangers” too. Insurance as “protectionism,” you say? Then you want to end the requirement for insurance for all taxis? I sure as hell don’t. I want all taxi companies to compete equally, including Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber.

      • RileyDeWiley

        Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber drivers know that when they embark a passenger, a record is generated with their name on it and the customer’s name on it. One cash customer can stiff 1,000 cabbies in NYC and still get cab rides, if the cops don’t catch him first(they won’t). One cab driver can rip off 1,000 customers in NYC and still get paying fares, if the taxi inspector doesn’t catch him first(he won’t). The TNCs can and do crack down on people who rip off their counter-parties in what should be an honest transaction. Lyft/Sidecar/Uber customers and drivers are protected by the fact that the company can act as a broker to keep both parties honest.

        Insurance per se is not protectionist, but there are protectionist elements to the proposed law, like a limit on TNC cars to 100 per company. Insurance can be protectionist if it is prohibitively expensive and/or not necessary. I don’t think that is true in this case, but I noticed that many people complaining about the TNCs not having insurance are not very interested in specifying what level of insurance coverage would satisfy them.

  • HoboJake

    The key here is that the council in addition to putting limitations / regulations on Uber / Lyft etc, did not allow traditional cab services to upgrade their technology. For some reason the law prevents the cabs from adapting mobile app technology. Not sure why this is the case or why they would limit them like that.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Taxis can and do use mobile app techology such as TaxiMagic and Flywheel.

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    Jeff Bezos, the primary backer of Uber, has a history of trying to gain competitive advantage by dodging taxes and regulations. His company, Amazon.com, was able to take customers away from brick and mortar stores because Amazon did not charge sales tax. E-Commerce, Bezos argued when internet retailing was getting off the ground, should not be burdened with sales tax because his fledgling industry was special and needed to be nurtured. Governments should be encouraging “innovation”.

    Twenty years later, the muli-billion dollar Amazon is still making the same argument for special treatment while small businesses that have to pay rent and collect sales tax go under and cash strapped states lay off teachers. Amazon took this plea as far as the Supreme Court, which just last week turned down the retail giant’s appeal.

    http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-amazons-20131202,0,7234336.story#axzz2nfxJ3fpp

    Now with UberX and its clones, we see the same tactics being employed. UberX is high tech! Calls to make it play by the same rules as its competitors are nothing more than Luddite resistance to progress and innovation.

    Sorry, there is nothing innovative about businesses cutting corners. There is nothing new about gypsy cabs.