- Nobody is happy with Seattle’s cap on ride-sharing drivers
- Seattle set to cap ride-sharing drivers that are ‘active’ at any given time
- Seattle city leaders sound off on ride-sharing dilemma — who do you agree with?
We’re here at City Hall along with hundreds others as the Seattle City Council’s Committee for Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations prepares to vote on regulations that would cap the number of total UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers in the city to 300.
A debate has been raging in the city in recent weeks over whether the new breed of companies like UberX and Lyft — which allow customers to request a ride via a smartphone and automatically pay for fares without using cash — should be able to operate in the city.
Many, including those in the tech industry, argue that these companies offer a more innovative and convenient alternative to traditional taxi cabs, and that the city should not regulate them. Others, especially those in the taxi and for-hire industry, say that the new services should be regulated or curtailed, and that they should not get a free pass on regulations simply because they utilize new methods for attracting riders.
The biggest concern from both Mayor Ed Murray and the committee appears to be uncertainty about insurance coverage. I’m sure we’ll hear discussion on that end today.
The meeting is set to being at 4 p.m. It’s standing room only here in the Council Chamber, evenly split between those supporting the taxi/for-hire industry and the transportation startups. Many from the taxi industry have signs that read “keep the cap,” and simply “300.”
There will be 20 minutes of public comment to start the meeting, followed by 90 minutes of committee discussion.
My gut feeling is that there actually won’t be a vote today. The committee has delayed this process for months now — it was supposed to vote on the ordinance two weeks ago — and now sure if they have enough to make a decision yet.
Follow along with our live blog here and feel free to add your comments below. I’ve also embedded the live stream here:
OK everybody, I’m here in the first row of the Council Chamber. We’ve got about five minutes and this place is packed. We’ll hear 20 minutes of public comment, and then the committee will start its discussion. A “possible vote” could follow all of this.
Earlier today I wrote about Uber’s crazy marketing tactics. Check it out here: http://www.geekwire.com/2014/uber-ramps-marketing-campaign-keep-uberx-alive-seattle/
You can watch the live stream of today’s meeting here: http://www.seattle.gov/council/councillive.htm
Here’s a link to all of our coverage on this issue: http://www.geekwire.com/tag/ride-sharing/
Here’s the most recent draft of the proposals, which include a 300 cap on these transportation companies: http://clerk.seattle.gov/public/meetingrecords/2014/cb_118036.pdf
Good stuff here on the insurance issue: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/26/ridesharing-insurance-uber-idUSL2N0LO1TM20140226
These regulations would move to the full Council on March 10 if committee approves proposed regulations today.
All council members are here except for councilmember Nick Licata.
Jane, a regular bus rider, says she’s concerned about disabled population. Worried that people without smartphones are being left out. “Hang on to taxi cabs now who can take up people with special needs.” Big applause from taxi people.
Michael, UberX driver, was laid off from his job a few months ago. He says UberX is “the best company I’ve worked for, ever. To see it disappear would be a travesty.”
There are actually a ton of UberX drivers here. They are waiving their “Save uberX” signs behind each speaker. Must be at least 50-to-60.
Jagjit Singh, 24-year taxi cab vet, doesn’t like UberX and those “mustache cars.” Heh.
He says he now waits for 2-to-3 hours to pick up a ride. “It’s not fair for me. I’m leasing a cab. I pay $500 per week. How should I survive? How is my owner going to survive? You should put a cap on the TNC licenses.”
Sally Clark, who chairs the committee, always cracks jokes every now and then which gets some people laughing. I guess it keeps the mood light, but it’s kind of weird given how intense this issue is.
Speaking of Clark, here’s her view on the issue: “I support a temporary cap and I need the companies’ help figuring out the right cap. No, I don’t want to “temporarily” kill innovation, but I do want to buy a year for the taxi world to adapt – and they must adapt quickly. UberX and Lyft have changed the game. They’ve elevated the bar for customer service. That’s good for all of us.”
UberX driver, has given 1,400 rides. He says the money he gets from Uber would help him get back to school. This issue is interesting — taxi supporters say they are losing jobs because of TNCs, while UberX/Lyft/Sidecar drivers say they’ll be out of work with the 300 cap.
Dawn Gearhart, who represents cab drivers. “No TNC options for those that cannot afford smartphones.”
“Level the playing field, enforce the law, keep the cap,” says Dawn.
Eastside For-Hire manager Samatar Guled: “Everyone should play on a level playing field. Please do the right thing, even though it’s not popular.”
Public comment over. Councilmember Nick Licata is now here — we have a full Council now. Grab your popcorn and soda — and maybe a RedBull — 90 minutes of discussion is beginning now.
Councilmember Mike O’Brien typing on a tablet with his pointer fingers. Can’t tell if it’s an iPad, Surface, or what.
Licata using an iPad.
Now voting on amendments. So far went with option B for amendments 1 and 2: http://clerk.seattle.gov/public/meetingrecords/2014/taxi20140227_1a.pdf
Clark just said everyone has to drink every time they say “level-playing ground.” Ha ha.
Clark drinking some type of cold, carmel-colored Starbucks drink. She’s probably tired.
No joke, it looks like the laptop the committee is using to project the documents on the overhead screen is running Windows 98. Mayor Murray told us a few weeks ago that the city’s own technology is old. He isn’t kidding, man.
I guess the Council has a lawyer sitting in the crowd. They just referred to him in regard to a question. He stood up and answered it. Weird.
Committee member Bruce Harrell jokes, “maybe we can make a decision on this amendment so I can take a vacation next week.” Damn these guys are funny!!
Council now discussing whether or not to increase taxi licenses — either 75, or as the amendment proposes, 100.
Clark on why they should increase taxi licenses: “It will wash out an equilibrium.” I don’t know what that means.
Committee member Harrell: “We know people love the UberX and we know there is demand.” Talking about a “robust industry” he wants to see in 5 years.
They approved it from 75 to 100. Remember, all these will be officially approved at the Full Council Meeting March 10.
So that means 100 taxi licenses added in 2014, and 100 more in 2015. Been more than two decades since Seattle added licenses.
Bruce Harrell now educating Nick Licata on amendment 8, which is about allowing King County vehicles picking up fares in Seattle under contract. The problem is that the committee knows a buttload of information, but other councilmembers might not be so knowledgable.
Amendment 8 is about reducing “deadheading.” Background here: http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2014/02/19/effort-to-address-deadheading-spotlights-complexity-of-taxi-industry
Councilmember Bruce Harrell
More importantly, you can see the PC running Windows 98.
OK, here’s the big amendment, No. 8. From the proposal:
CM O’Brien proposes raising the cap to 400.
CM Clark proposes amending the Bill to cap the number of drivers active at any one time
on each TNC network instead of capping the number of endorsements. She proposes
capping the number of drivers active for each TNC at 200 during the first year of the
pilot and providing discretion to the Director to adjust the cap either up or down at the
end of the first year (see next amendment).
Four options for amendment 8:
a)Leave the language as is (cap of 300 TNC endorsements);
b) Amend the language on page 31, line 16 as follows:
“B. Three Four hundred TNC vehicle endorsements …”
c) Amend the language to limit the number of drivers active on a TNC network to
200 and remove the cap on the number of TNC endorsements; or
d) Amend the language to remove the cap on the number of TNC endorsements
and add language to allow the Director to halt the issuance of new
endorsements and/or renewal of expiring endorsements if there are concerns
about public safety or consumer protection.
It’s actually kind of tense in here now. Clark asks everyone to shut up. “The acoustics are really good in here. We can hear what you’re having for dinner.”
From city document:
“Both CMs Rasmussen and Bagshaw propose that there be no cap on the number of TNC
endorsements or the number of drivers active on a TNC network.
Options C and D below would require modifications to the Council Bill. If the Committee
adopts either, Committee Staff suggests that Staff and Law work to develop the
necessary language before the Bill is acted on by the Full Council.”
If they go C or D, it’s a win for ride-sharing fans.
I don’t think Clark’s proposal is very good. How can you monitor how many are ACTIVE at any given time?
Clark just referenced the Mariners going to the playoffs to give an example of a busy time in the city. Wut……
So many options now. So many numbers. I think everyone here is confused now.
Regulating the number of TNCs that are active is ridiculously complicated. Lyft, UberX, Sidecar would need to work together to work that out somehow.
O’Brien — “It’s less about the number of caps — it’s about, who do we give the right to drive: drivers or companies?”
O’Brien is pissed that Sidecar, UberX, Lyft don’t give their data in terms of how many drivers. “Once we have that data, we’ll know about demand.”
Sidecar told us they have about 1,000 drivers here. I’ve heard there are about 600 Lyft drivers. Not sure about UberX.
I expected this discussion to be about insurance and consumer safety — not so much on the cap number.
Uber will lock drivers out of system to increase surge pricing, O’Brien says. More background here: http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/26/5445210/in-san-diego-uber-kept-drivers-off-the-road-to-encourage-surge
“The TNCs are here to make a profit, not to serve,” says O’Brien.
Tom Rasmussen does not support caps. “We need more transportation options.”
Been hearing a cell phone ringer go off every five minutes. Y’all ever heard of vibrate or silent???
“Limiting taxi competition by imposing caps goes too far. It eliminates choice for customers and drivers,” Rasmussen said. Taxi driver keeps scoffing at his comments.
Rasmussen: “There are people that are very unhappy with taxi services. Competition will help. What happens when someone complains with Yellow Cab? Nothing. What happens when someone complains about Uber? Something happens.”
Taxi drivers all just booed him, hard. UberX supporters clap.
Rasmussen proceeds to eat his cookie after his little speech. There are lots of cookies here provided by the city.
Bagshaw, who wants to lift cap — “Drivers need power and control, but government needs to get out of the way for setting artificial limits.”
Bagshaw says she wants more women driving, then calls out a woman sitting in the front row. Clark gets pissed at her for talking about people in the crowd, wants to keep discussion at the table. “I’ve been duly chastised,” Bagshaw says.
Kshama Sawant: “I don’t believe TNCs have any interests other than their own profits. Otherwise they would not be taking 20 percent from every fare. They would not be in lawsuits over taking tips.”
Wow, Sawant seems to be against these TNCs, man. She wants option B, a cap of 400, with endorsements going to drivers, not companies.
Sawant says she’s in favor for a TNC union.
Burgess does not believe this is a zero sum game. Lyft co-founder John Zimmer has repeated the same thing. Burgess supports option D. Big applause from ride-sharing supporters.
Licata wants option B:
Licata: “If we are regulating one half of the traditional market, we can’t ignore the new open source market because you create an imbalance between the two. As a result, you will endanger the public safety.”
Harrell: “The fact is, no matter how great, sexy and cool these app services are, they are unlawful in the city of Seattle.”
Harrell says, “if this city is all about making decisions off data, we should limit the number of TNC entrants.”
“If we are data driven, option B is the only one that makes sense.”
Godden supports C.
How the hell do you monitor how many drivers are active across all three companies? HOW???
Sawant is “To those those who say this is a competition, this iis not a competition. It’s a word you can use when different sides are more or less equal. They are not. If there are no caps, TNCs will flood market with their drivers, existing taxi drivers will not get business. TNC drivers will also not have enough drivers. Corporations will still be making money, that’s all they care about.”
Amendment D is voted down. Burgess, Rasmussen and Bagshaw all voted for it.
This was amendment D: “Amend the language to remove the cap on the number of TNC endorsements and add language to allow the Director to halt the issuance of new
endorsements and/or renewal of expiring endorsements if there are concerns
about public safety or consumer protection.”
Bagshaw just owned Harrell. Harrell says “how do we know how to cap the active number of TNCs on the system at any given time if we don’t have data?” Bagshaw responds, “that’s why I didn’t want a cap!”
Those for the caps are hamstrung on the fact that UberX, Lyft, Sidecar don’t reveal data on driver numbers.
Taxi drivers here like what Harrell is saying, clapping for his comments
Godden wants cap the number of drivers active across a TNC network for each TNC for 100.
Clark asks for a cookie.
Harrell eating a cookie now.
Seems like Bagshaw, Burgess, Rasmussen are strongly against caps. Sawant, O’Brien, Harrell strongly for caps. Godden, Licata, Clark seem in the middle.
Guys and gals, my battery is running out my laptop. Trying to find an outlet. I will live-tweet from @Taylor_Soper in the meantime. https://twitter.com/Taylor_Soper
OK, back on.
So, with a 5-4 vote, council approves to a cap of 150 drivers active on each TNC system at a time.
That means: A maximum of 150 drivers can work for each TNC company — Lyft, Sidecar, UberX — at the same time.
So, 150 drivers driving for Lyft at once, 150 driving for UberX at once, 150 driving for Sidecar at once.
I am outside with an outlet. Taxi drivers are huddling here in a circle discussing what happened.
Remember, this is NOT official yet. Full council will vote on March 10. But, full council is already here today so it’s unlikely we see changes in views.
Clark, Godden, Burgess, Rasmussen and Bagshaw voted in favor of the approved proposal.
Very mixed reaction when the committee made its decision.
Taxi drivers are still pissed out here. They don’t think city can monitor the 150 active drivers that each company has.
I don’t think anyone is fully happy.