Follow-Up Posts 

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.

uberxdebate 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:


Taylor Soper 02/27/20143:56 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20143:57 pm

Earlier today I wrote about Uber’s crazy marketing tactics. Check it out here:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20143:57 pm

You can watch the live stream of today’s meeting here:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20143:59 pm

Here’s a link to all of our coverage on this issue:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:00 pm

Here’s the most recent draft of the proposals, which include a 300 cap on these transportation companies:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:03 pm

Good stuff here on the insurance issue:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:05 pm

These regulations would move to the full Council on March 10 if committee approves proposed regulations today.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:08 pm

All council members are here except for councilmember Nick Licata.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:12 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:14 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:17 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:19 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:22 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:25 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:26 pm

Dawn Gearhart, who represents cab drivers. “No TNC options for those that cannot afford smartphones.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:26 pm

“Level the playing field, enforce the law, keep the cap,” says Dawn.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:28 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:30 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:31 pm

Councilmember Mike O’Brien typing on a tablet with his pointer fingers. Can’t tell if it’s an iPad, Surface, or what.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:36 pm

Licata using an iPad.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:38 pm

Now voting on amendments. So far went with option B for amendments 1 and 2:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:39 pm

Clark just said everyone has to drink every time they say “level-playing ground.” Ha ha.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:39 pm

Clark drinking some type of cold, carmel-colored Starbucks drink. She’s probably tired.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:41 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:43 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:44 pm

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!!

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:47 pm

Council now discussing whether or not to increase taxi licenses — either 75, or as the amendment proposes, 100.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:49 pm

Clark on why they should increase taxi licenses: “It will wash out an equilibrium.” I don’t know what that means.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:51 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:51 pm

They approved it from 75 to 100. Remember, all these will be officially approved at the Full Council Meeting March 10.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:55 pm

So that means 100 taxi licenses added in 2014, and 100 more in 2015. Been more than two decades since Seattle added licenses.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20144:59 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:03 pm

Amendment 8 is about reducing “deadheading.” Background here:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:04 pm

Councilmember Bruce Harrell

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:06 pm

More importantly, you can see the PC running Windows 98.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:07 pm

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:08 pm

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).

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:09 pm

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:10 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:10 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:12 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:12 pm

If they go C or D, it’s a win for ride-sharing fans.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:14 pm

I don’t think Clark’s proposal is very good. How can you monitor how many are ACTIVE at any given time?

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:17 pm

Clark just referenced the Mariners going to the playoffs to give an example of a busy time in the city. Wut……

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:18 pm

So many options now. So many numbers. I think everyone here is confused now.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:19 pm

Regulating the number of TNCs that are active is ridiculously complicated. Lyft, UberX, Sidecar would need to work together to work that out somehow.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:20 pm

O’Brien — “It’s less about the number of caps — it’s about, who do we give the right to drive: drivers or companies?”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:22 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:24 pm

I expected this discussion to be about insurance and consumer safety — not so much on the cap number.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:26 pm

Uber will lock drivers out of system to increase surge pricing, O’Brien says. More background here:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:26 pm

“The TNCs are here to make a profit, not to serve,” says O’Brien.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:28 pm

Tom Rasmussen does not support caps. “We need more transportation options.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:28 pm

Been hearing a cell phone ringer go off every five minutes. Y’all ever heard of vibrate or silent???

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:30 pm

“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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:33 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:33 pm

Rasmussen proceeds to eat his cookie after his little speech. There are lots of cookies here provided by the city.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:34 pm

Bagshaw, who wants to lift cap — “Drivers need power and control, but government needs to get out of the way for setting artificial limits.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:36 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:38 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:40 pm

Wow, Sawant seems to be against these TNCs, man. She wants option B, a cap of 400, with endorsements going to drivers, not companies.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:40 pm

Sawant says she’s in favor for a TNC union.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:42 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:45 pm

Licata wants option B:

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:46 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:47 pm

Harrell: “The fact is, no matter how great, sexy and cool these app services are, they are unlawful in the city of Seattle.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:48 pm

Harrell says, “if this city is all about making decisions off data, we should limit the number of TNC entrants.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:48 pm

“If we are data driven, option B is the only one that makes sense.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:50 pm

Godden supports C.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:51 pm

How the hell do you monitor how many drivers are active across all three companies? HOW???

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:54 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:54 pm

Amendment D is voted down. Burgess, Rasmussen and Bagshaw all voted for it.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:55 pm

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.”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:57 pm

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!”

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:58 pm

Those for the caps are hamstrung on the fact that UberX, Lyft, Sidecar don’t reveal data on driver numbers.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20145:59 pm

Taxi drivers here like what Harrell is saying, clapping for his comments

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:01 pm

Godden wants cap the number of drivers active across a TNC network for each TNC for 100.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:03 pm

Clark asks for a cookie.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:03 pm

Harrell eating a cookie now.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:04 pm

Seems like Bagshaw, Burgess, Rasmussen are strongly against caps. Sawant, O’Brien, Harrell strongly for caps. Godden, Licata, Clark seem in the middle.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:05 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:11 pm

OK, back on.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:12 pm

So, with a 5-4 vote, council approves to a cap of 150 drivers active on each TNC system at a time.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:13 pm

That means: A maximum of 150 drivers can work for each TNC company — Lyft, Sidecar, UberX — at the same time.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:13 pm

So, 150 drivers driving for Lyft at once, 150 driving for UberX at once, 150 driving for Sidecar at once.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:15 pm

I am outside with an outlet. Taxi drivers are huddling here in a circle discussing what happened.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:16 pm

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.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:18 pm

Clark, Godden, Burgess, Rasmussen and Bagshaw voted in favor of the approved proposal.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:19 pm

Very mixed reaction when the committee made its decision.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:24 pm

Taxi drivers are still pissed out here. They don’t think city can monitor the 150 active drivers that each company has.

Taylor Soper 02/27/20146:25 pm

I don’t think anyone is fully happy.

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  • Annoyedcustomer

    I more annoyed that Uber called me with a pre recorded message. I work the night shift so being woken up is more than annoying.

    • Thomas R.

      Not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure you can file a complaint with the FCC/FTC and sue Uber. If you didn’t opt in for robocalls they can’t call you and it’s a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

      “Under FCC rules, consumers who sue will incur no court costs, and telemarketing attorneys generally work on contingency.”

    • Michael Keaton

      So… you work the night shift but you leave your phone on during the day, when you’re sleeping, when most people call? Um, yea, right.

      • frederigoxcz305

        My Uncle James recently got a new black Mazda MAZDASPEED3
        Hatchback by working at home online. you can try here B­u­z­z­3­4­.­ℂ­o­m

      • yourestalkingme

        Is there a rule that you have to turn your phone off when sleeping? I’m sure that most of his friends and family know that he/she works the night shift and is sleeping during those hours. Maybe he/she is on the do not call list and doesn’t get calls from moron companies and the only calls received during the day would be emergency calls. Um, yea, shut up.

        • Michael Keaton

          But you’re able to comment on Geekwire at 2pm, right in the middle of your “night.” Back to um, yea right.

          • yourestalkingme

            Well, your reading comprehension is pretty bad as I’m not the one that works the night shift. Also, when you work a night shift, you probably do wake up around 1pm or 2pm. So yea, back to, um, STFU. Granted, I’m not the person that works a night shift so who knows when this person wakes up.

  • balls187

    What kind of crap–they’re all sitting in Aeron chairs. Tax revenue well spent.

  • Seattle City Council Blows

    …”wants to give the taxi companies a chance to catch up..” WHY? First of all everybody isn’t going to use Uber, there will still be taxi service but more importantly, who are you to protect an outdated industry? Did someone step in to protect the typewriter industry? Government out of control.
    Maybe its time for a republican on the council? There hasn’t been one in over 40 years. So much for diversity.

    • @PeachInSeattle

      Agree! It’s not like Lyft and Uber just sprung up yesterday. The truth is taxi companies are LAZY and don’t want to change for the better to service their customers. Which is, in main part, why they lost us in the first place anyways! If we compared driver quality with each of these categories, taxis would be left in the dust.

  • Thomas R.

    Isn’t it a significant security issue to be running windows 98?

  • AnnoyedWithTaxis

    Seattle taxi cab industry doesn’t want to innovate in addition to their drivers wanting to learn the basics of customer service like NY and SF cabbies have. Since last summer, whenever I get into a cab in Seattle, I always ask “Do you use Square?” and I can only count on two hands the number of times a driver has said yes. For those cab drivers that have Square, I always tip more. As for customer service, a good majority of cab drivers here are assholes who don’t want to have any type of conversation and get pissed off as hell when you tell them how you want to get to your destination. In addition to this, over the last 12 years I’ve always gotten crap for wanting to pay with a credit card. Sometimes I get a sorrowful response like “it takes a while for me to get my cash and I need it to buy groceries for my family or wire money back to my home country” while there were a couple of occasions where drives actually drove to the nearest ATM and refused to let me pay with a CC because of the delay with getting their money (This has usually occurred over long holiday weekends).

    Now, as of lately, I’ve started using Lyft and I’ll say that the drivers are much more friendlier and personable than even the Uber drivers, let alone the cab drivers. The Lyft drivers have interesting stories to tell about their lives and can easily carry conversations with everyone they pick up. If the Seattle Council restricts this then they have no damn balls and are going to subject residents and visitors to Seattle to the shitty taxi cab industry that has no ambition to modernizing and improving.

  • Guest

    Many, including those in the tech industry ==> a very vocal minority

  • Guest

    I really hate that woman Sawant

    • balls187

      “really hate”

      Perhaps it’s time to unplug broski. Life is to short to be so bitter.

  • james

    Thanks for blogging this. Very informative.

    • Taylor Soper

      Glad you liked it. We’ll do it all over again March 10.

  • Guest

    Someone should let Jagjit Singh know he can switch sides. He can lease his own Prius for a lot less than $500/wk and make more than he does now as an UberX driver.

    • yourestalkingme

      Wouldn’t be legal, unless he got the proper insurance. And if he was going to lease the vehicle he would need to be transparent with the company that he is leasing the vehicle from that he is using it for business. All of these UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers that went out and bought a new car, more than likely have taken out a loan from a bank to do so. They’re then paying the bank back. There are certain stipulations when getting a car loan from a bank that must be met. These people do not own these cars, the bank does. If the bank knows that you’re using these vehicles for taxi like services and you are not carrying the proper commercial insurance, they can take that car away.

  • Eli

    Taylor, thank you so much for taking the time to live blog this. Really appreciated your lively take on it and your thoroughness!

    • Taylor Soper

      Glad you enjoyed it, we’ll do it again on March 10.

  • Cameron Plommer

    So Harrell and O’brien, who were for caps didn’t vote for it afterall?

  • Louie Donovan

    for as long as the new method used by uber taxi service is for everyone’s welfare, then there is nothing to worry about that. Maybe it can speed up the delivery of transportation services. taxi cab services brisbane ca

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