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.
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.
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.