Fighting Seattle City Council: Coalition group aims to suspend ride-sharing legislation

Lyft supporters gather at a City Hall rally in February.

Lyft supporters gather at a City Hall rally in February.

A new coalition group in Seattle wants to collect enough petition signatures in hopes of suspending a newly-passed ordinance that regulates app-based transportation companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar.

The coalition, named “Keep Seattle’s Ride Options,” was formed by Seattle residents and has the support of UberX, Lyft and Sidecar. The goal is to override legislation passed by City Council last week that limits the number of active drivers that each transportation company can have on the road to 150.

The City of Seattle has a referendum process in place for situations like this. If the coalition can get at least 16,510 valid signatures of registered Seattle voters — eight percent of the total number of votes cast for mayor in the last mayoral election (206,377) — the ordinance will be put on hold.

From there, City Council must pass legislation authorizing King County Elections to place the qualifying referendum measure matter on the ballot, either at the next regularly-scheduled election, or at an earlier special election. Once it qualifies for the ballot, the law won’t take effect until after the election, when voters will either approve or reject the ordinance.

Photo via Uber.

Photo via Uber.

Signatures can be gathered once the Mayor has approved the ordinance — which happened on March 19 — and must be submitted before an ordinance goes into effect, which is generally 30 days after approval the Mayor. So, the coalition has until April 18 to collect enough signatures.

Brad Harwood, spokesperson for the coalition, told us that he expects much more than 16,510 signatures on the petition and said “we’re already seeing tremendous support out there from voters.” A separate petition posted online earlier this month by Uber has attracted more than 30,000 votes.

“The point of this referendum is to overturn the City of Seattle’s March 17th ordinance, which severely limits transportation options for Seattle residents and visitors alike by making it extremely difficult if not impossible for services like Lyft, Sidecar and uberX to continue serving the city,” Harwood said.

UberX supporters hold signs at a City Council meeting on March 17.

UberX supporters hold signs at a City Council meeting on March 17.

In addition to the 150-cap, the ordinance contains a bevy of other rules and regulations for these transportation companies, which allow everyday drivers to shuttle passengers around town. There are insurance, safety and licensing requirements that would be put on hold, among other rules, if this coalition can garner enough support.

People have voiced strong opinions on this issue, mainly from two sides: One group supports the companies and says the City Council is limiting innovation with the 150-cap; others say that the startups need to follow the law and stop avoiding regulation and taxation.

Both UberX and Lyft voiced disdain for the City Council’s decision last week and vowed to fight Seattle’s leaders for their right to operate with a limit in the city. Some taxi drivers, meanwhile, have sued Uber for engaging in deceptive business practices and say they want a “level-playing field.”

See all of our coverage on this issue here.

  • Guest

    Be careful what you wish for. Putting the ordinance “on hold” would mean that these out-of-state taxi companies are once again illegal. Is that what they want?

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      The City could just enforce the existing for hire statutes by issuing a Cease and Desist order against the TNCs and fining drivers who are operating without a for hire license $1,000.

    • tryingtocalmdown

      if the referendum passes and overturns or negates the new law, then the council will have to start over–which is the better alternative. the limitation of drivers is what the problem is now. for taxis to want a “level playing field” would also mean that the ride sharing could pick up hails–I doubt the cabbies want it that level…

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    The law just passed by the City Council on TNC regulation cannot be overturned by a referendum. That is because for-hire vehicle regulation is a power specifically delegated to local jurisdictions by the state under RCW 46.72.001. According to an opinion by the City Attorney:

    “Local governments only have the powers delegated to them by the State. Most of those powers are delegated to local governments generally, but some are delegated specifically to the “governing body,” “legislative body,” or “legislative authority” of a local jurisdiction. Under state law, powers delegated like this may only be exercised by the City Council (subject to a veto and override) and are not subject to the initiative or referendum powers even if our charter or city law says they are.”