councilrideshare1212We’ve settled in here at City Hall, where the Seattle City Council is expected to place a cap on the number of vehicles that companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar can each have on the roads at one time at 150.

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.

uberxBack on Feb. 27, the Council voted 5-4 to approve the 150 cap — other options, like removing a cap, were voted down — and is expected to make that decision official this afternoon. However, I won’t be surprised if one or two councilmembers have changed their minds over the past few weeks.

Check out all of our coverage on this topic here. You can see today’s meeting agenda here. See the newest version of the proposed ordinance here. And here are the new amendments that will be discussed, among other topics, today.

If you have questions, feel free to ping us on Twitter @geekwire or @Taylor_Soper.


Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:58 pm

I’ll try to get some reaction now, but nothing really changed from what was approved last month:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:57 pm

Story here:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:50 pm

No reaction from crowd, really. It’s the same resolution the Council voted 5-4 to approve in February.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:49 pm

There ya go, peeps. Bill passes unanimously.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:46 pm

Councilmember Swant plugs her support for higher minimum wage.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:45 pm

Harrell: “The headline should not read City Council capped anything. It should read that it allowed rideshares to come into industry.”

Noted, Harrell.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:42 pm

Harrell: “We’re still missing the mark on a few key issues. This is about as good as it’s going to get.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:38 pm

“This is a wake-up call for taxi industry. It has to change in order to thrive. Now you have time to do that.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:38 pm

Rasmussen: “This is a wake-up call for the city in terms of how transportation system is changing.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:37 pm

Rasmussen, who wanted no caps: “This bill is not perfect, but now TNCs can operate legally.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:36 pm

Godden thanks Clark, Harrell, O’Brien for taking on this committee.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:35 pm

Thanking assistants, city staff for all the work.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:33 pm

Done with amendments. Clark now thanking O’Brien, Harrell for work on the subcommittee for this. They’ve all put a lot into this decision, that’s for sure.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:28 pm

“Can’t have one TNC company funding another TNC company,” says Godden.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:27 pm

Godden vs. Bagshaw now. Oh, man. They are discussing Amendment 9. Bagshaw wonders if a group of taxi drivers wanted to start a TNC, could they do it with this amendment?

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:26 pm

Amendment 9, sponsored by Godden, would prevent Uber and Lyft from making several spinoffs to escape the cap — like UberX, UberY, UberZ.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:24 pm

Amendment 8 passes.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:22 pm

Amendment 7 passes 7-2.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:21 pm

Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:20 pm

Clark is against Amendment 7.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:18 pm

Again, amendments here:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:18 pm

Amendment 7 up now. Allows TNCs to use insurance providers that have lower grades. Current ordinance requires a very high grade. O’Brien wants to allow a larger pool of qualified insurers.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:16 pm

Amendment 6 passes.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:15 pm

Amendment 6 up now. Clark — who sponsored Amendment 5 — now says she supports 6. Wut.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:15 pm

Amendment 5 fails.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:14 pm

Harrell: “We are in politics and we want to avoid political process? This is political and we should step up and embrace it. How often do we have a room packed like this? Not very much. We should have this process where we make this process. And yes, it should be data driven. That’s one reason why I don’t understand how you support no caps.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:10 pm

Rasmussen supports Amendment 5. “This process of not setting limits should be data driven, objective and not political as it has been.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:09 pm

Harrell supports Amendment 6. I am surprised Clark wants Amendment 5, which would delegate a very important decision to one person instead of the Council.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:07 pm

Amendment 6, sponsored by O’Brien, would give that responsibility to City Council instead of one person (Director of FAS).

By the way, this is FAS:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:06 pm

Amendment 5 is a little more important here. It delegates authority to adjust/lift caps on TNCs to Director of FAS.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:05 pm

Amendment 4 is adopted unanimously. It clarifies reporting requirements for Director of FAS.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:04 pm

Amendment 3 unanimously adopted.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:02 pm

Here are all the amendments for reference:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:01 pm

Mike O’Brien getting into insurance. “Haven’t seen any insurance policies, we don’t know what’s being covered.” His proposed amendment 3, requires TNCs to follow state rules for commercial insurance.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:00 pm

Unsurprisingly, Amendment 2, to remove caps, fails. Bagshaw, Burgess, Rasmussen voted in favor, but it fails 6-3. Big applause from taxi peeps here.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:59 pm

That’s three…

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:59 pm

Tim Burgess approves the amendment. “Someone told me that trying to limit TNC would be like prohibiting Netflix because we wanted to protect Blockbuster.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:58 pm

Bruce Harrell speaking now. He is really against removing a cap. He wonders how you can regulate one side (taxis) and let the others (TNCs) operate freely.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:56 pm

The insurance question is very complex — who is responsible for what coverage, and when? — and I’m surprised the Council didn’t discuss this more last time. We’ll see if we get into it here.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:55 pm

Licata asks insurance question to Rasmussen. Rasmussen doesn’t know the answer and tries to defer to Clark, who he says knows more about it. Lol.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:54 pm

Bagshaw: “Pie is growing. Data shows that more and more people are choosing to use somebody else to drive them.

If we can get the right insurance, make sure cars are safe, what will happen in our city is that we’ll give it a real valid test. We’ll see increase in demands, and more drivers to address demand.”

Bagshaw repeats that public safety is important here.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:52 pm

Nick Licata asks, “How do you see the industry developing and avoiding what we see in San Fran where we have 4,000 for-hire vehicles and the impact it’s had on ability to make living, and the public safety.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:51 pm

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw is “fully in support” of Rasmussen’s amendment. She’s standing up, speaking with mic. “No caps is the only way to have fair transportation,” she says.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:50 pm

“Let’s listen to what public is saying. Let’s not cut supply when demand is so high.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:50 pm

Rasmussen said he’s heard from 12,000 supporters of UberX, Lyft, etc.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:49 pm

Rasmussen: “No compelling data that we should limit the TNCs. Seattle needs more transportation options.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:48 pm

So, each councilmember stands up with the microphone when they want to speak at these full Council meetings.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:47 pm

Councilmember Tim Rasmussen’s amendment up first, which is to remove caps. If this passes …

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:47 pm

Now moving to these more important ones:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:47 pm

Council adopts all of these minor amendments:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:46 pm

OK, Clark monologue over. Now we go into amendments.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:45 pm

For taxi companies, Clark says that this is a “wake-up call, a warning shot.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:45 pm

Clark notes how much money each TNC has raised in last year: Sidecar ($10M), Uber ($237M), Lyft ($83M). “Congratulations to them for making a great pitch to venture capitalists.”

“It begs questions,” Clark said. “You are doing so many things right, but if you would only communicate and collaborate better with regulators … How you raised this much money and not had a better plan to engage with regulators is amazing. How many wars can you wage simultaneously in cities and states in the U.S.? It’s incredible.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:41 pm

Now she’s detailing the logic behind 150 cap. Says it minimizes possible rush to drive for TNC drivers, which she says San Francisco is facing.

By the way, TNC is “transportation network companies,” which is the city’s definition for companies like Lyft, UberX, Sidecar.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:38 pm

Super packed in here now. Like, no places to even stand in here. Everybody engaged, listening closely to Clark.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:37 pm

Ordinance will release 200 taxi licenses for next two years, Clark says.

Also, seems a phone ring goes off every 10 minutes. Vibrate setting, people.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:36 pm

Clark clears up definitions. “UberX, Lyft are not ride-sharing companies. They are for-hire.”

She is now talking about what other cities are doing. Says San Francisco city regulators considering a cap now.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:33 pm

Clark dings Uber for using robo-calling to drum up support. “That’s a bit of a new thing we can probably do without of in Seattle. Not sure it’s money well spent. “

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:32 pm

Clark is reading off written statement she prepared. “Can’t dodge this problem any longer,” she says. “What we decide today isn’t a complete fix, but it is a start,” she says. Notes how the first meeting for her committee was almost exactly one year ago.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:30 pm

Sally Clark, who chairs the Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations, stands up to talk about today’s plan. Says that each councilmember has agenda on their iPads. So I guess each councilmember has an iPad. They also appear to have stationary desktops, too. Probably running Windows 98.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:27 pm

Deaf, blind Uber rider is last speaker. He prefers UberX because of superior customer service. He supports other cab services, but says UberX has better service for him. Says Council should lift cap.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:26 pm

Samatar Guled, Eastside for Hire GM: “Uber, show us your insurance policy right now if you want a level playing field. Stop making false claims.”

“This is a fake cap. How is the city going to monitor how many cars are on the road?”

He tells Council: “it’s your responsibility to level the playing field today. No delays, no excuses.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:22 pm

“If we limit number of drivers, we limit public safety,” says an UberX driver who was a former bar owner.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:18 pm

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:15 pm

New amendments to be discussed today:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:14 pm

Most updated ordinance:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:14 pm

For reference: Here’s today’s agenda:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:14 pm

Mike Judd drives wheelchair-enabled taxi. He says none of the ride-shares can take his passengers. “Private citizens should not be allowed to use their vehicles for commercial purposes,” he says.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:11 pm

Gearhart: “Just because you don’t have smartphone or a credit card doesn’t mean you don’t deserve on demand transportation. Give the licenses to drivers. Stand up to corporate greed. Don’t let Seattle set the stage of new generation of poverty wage jobs.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:10 pm

Dawn Gearhart, rep for taxi industry: “If you can break the law long enough, you can get what you want in this city.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:09 pm

Steger: “New insurance policy removes ambiguity. Please delay the vote. Ordinance draft posted late Friday night, not proper time for us to review.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:07 pm

Brooke is up first for public comment.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:04 pm

Apparently Brooke Steger, Uber’s Seattle general manager, is supposed to speak during public comment time and call out the city for not following its own rules:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:03 pm

I don’t see many pink mustaches. Nor anyone from Sidecar.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:03 pm

It is again standing-room only. Again, a large contingent of UberX supporters with their “Save uberX” signs. Uber’s petition has garnered nearly 15,000 signatures today alone:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20141:59 pm

Also, the City hasn’t provided any cookies here for everyone like they did last time. That was kind of a nice touch, so a little disappointed there.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20141:58 pm

OK, let’s get ready to rumble. I’m told that a vote won’t actually happen until 4 p.m., so feel free to come back then. Or, if you’re bored, just sit back and enjoy some play-by-play of the cookie-eating Seattle City Council here.


  • Taxpayer

    “It begs questions,” Clark said. “You are doing so many things right, but if you would only communicate and collaborate better with regulators … How you raised this much money and not had a better plan to engage with regulators is amazing.”
    So translation: you didn’t come and kiss my ass so I’m going to punish you. Thanks Sally!! You lost my vote.

    • another_taxpayer

      Sally just wanted her cut. Wonder how much it cost the taxi companies to buy her vote.

      • ClaimsAdjuster

        Ha-ha. Sockpuppet. UberX/Lyft/Sidecar are the ones with the big pockets.

    • Constituent

      Next election, Sally’s gotta go. Where do I donate?

      • ClaimsAdjuster

        Yeah, Sally Bagshaw is toast.

    • TheBrett

      It means they needed to make some type of concession to the city, which gets revenue from taxi licenses and hadn’t seen fit to raise the number of taxi licenses in the city for 24 years before today (despite the city growing by 20% over that time).

      They do need to get commercial drivers’ insurance, though.

  • Justin Graham

    Taylor – could you point us to a record of the votes for each amendment and the bill itself? Would like to know exactly who voted which way to inform which way I vote in the next election :)

    • Seattle Resident

      I second this. Nobody who voted for the cap will be getting my vote.

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    The Seattle City Council leads the way on regulating TNCS. UberX and Lyft only announced their expansion of their insurance to cover their vehicles from log in to sign out last Friday only because of the upcoming City Council vote. The San Francisco Board Of Supervisors are now looking a the Seattle approach to control the fee-for-all in their downtown from 4,000 TNCs flooding their streets.

    • U R a Loser

      Seattle- leading the way BACK in time.

      • ClaimsAdjuster

        Yeah, running over little girls and refusing to pay up is such an advance.

        • No Cabs Ever

          Uh huh. Here’s a few stats to “help” you out.

          Law firm that sues taxi drives and describes getting money out of them as “extremely difficult.”

          I’ve read your comments and they remind me of someone who might work at a record label or typewriter company. Blah, blah, blah out of your mouth doesn’t take away from the fact that your service sucks and your days are numbered. Now you’ve created an entire category of consumers who, while they probably hadn’t thought about taking a cab in the last few years, absolutely will not take one now and in fact hate your guts.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Is your link supposed to be relevant, Uber-troll? The point is that UberX/Lyft cars are running around with invalid non-commercial insurance. While your insurance is still bogus, the only reason that Uber and Lyft expanded their insurance coverage is because of The Seattle City Council.

            Get used to it. What Seattle did is coming to a city and state near you.

          • No Cabs Ever

            You missed my point. My point is with competition, now limited thanks to the fools in the Seattle city government, I don’t ever have to take a cab again and neither will a lot of other people. You just made an enemy out of a consumer.
            I’m sure this is tough to understand when you’ve had a monopoly and you treat people (customers, hard concept to understand I’m sure) like crap but pay close attention to your sinking revenues and you’ll maybe start to get the picture.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            No, I get the point of guys who assume throwaway names such as “No Cabs Ever”, “Seattle_Taxis_suck”, “Taxpayer”, and “Another_Taxpayer”. You are Uber trolls, who are being paid by Uber or maybe you drive for Uber/Lyft. That is the only relevant point.

            Competition? You guys cut corners on insurance and licensing and you have the consumate gall to talk about competition?

          • No Cab Ever

            I’ve never been anything more then an Uber customer. I know that’s hard for you to believe but that’s the truth.

            It is a galvanizing issue to me because:

            A. Your arguments are so obviously ridiculous and just meant to protect your crummy service and

            B. I really like using Uber, it is very convenient and now it has been needlessly restricted.

            You might want to pay attention to the comments about the cab service. Clearly your industry isn’t loved, in fact it’s reviled.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            What part of uninsured and illegal don’t you get, uber troll? I don’t really care about your puffed up claims about how great your service is, it does not exempt you from playing by the rules. There are no doubt many men who are very satisfied with prostitution services as well.

          • Guest

            27,000 people signed the petition today. Are they all working for Uber? Your arrogance is incredible.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            An on-line petition? LOL. Where robots get to make their vote count again and again.

          • Kormi

            You’d deserve a wake-up kick in the b***s, not sure it would help though… Feel free to ignore what people say, it nicely reflects on how you treat your customers in general. Sooner or later this will come back to bite you in the ass.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Sorry, robots and Uber trolls are not my customers or are they “people” that I am obliged to take seriously.

            Uber is real good at the phony social media campaigns. The three tweets with exactly identical wording by the
            three Seahawks was hysterical. The robocalls, facebook postings and the posters glued on walls, utility cabinets and telephone poles backfired.

            It is time for you kids to stop throwing your tantrum. The adults are sick of hearing how your pretensions of being a tech company instead of a taxi service somehow exempts you from the rules.

  • Seattle_Taxi’s_suck

    I really just do not get it, a better product is introduced with strong demand by the consumer, and an opportunity for entrepreneurship for many instead of just a few; isn’t that the type of capitalism that we want more of? A few large Taxi companies who knowingly treat their drivers and their consumers like crap, while charging more money is able to win over the city council? Very disappointed in this decision, not something I would of expected from Seattle politics !

    • Not surprised in Seattle

      Seattle is one of the most liberal cities in the country, how are you surprised by the council’s vote to regulate business and squash entrepreneurial ship in favor of unionized taxi industry??

      • ClaimsAdjuster

        Taxi drivers are independent contractors. They can’t be unionized.

        • Not surprised in Seattle

          ‘For nearly 15 years, taxi workers in New York City—and now in other
          cities—have been building a union…. Last year, the NTWA, based in New
          York and led by Bhairavi Desai, became the latest affiliate union of the
          AFL-CIO, and the first group to receive an organizing committee charter
          from America’s largest labor organization in a half-century.’

          this to an industry already choked with government bureaucracy – how
          antiquated is the medallion system – you get poor quality and service.
          The amazing success of ride-share companies only prove that there is a
          demand for a better product. Without competition, the taxi industry
          does not need to innovate or provide better service. Would be better to
          deregulate the industry and may the best transporters win!

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Cab drivers are independent contractors. They do not get a paycheck or a W-2. They can make less than minimum wage. They do not have an employer and cannot strike or form a collective bargaining unit.

            “Despite being excluded from collective bargaining rights under the National Labor Relations Act, New York Taxi Workers Alliance is one of the biggest independent unions in the US. We are excited to affiliate with the AFL-CIO and to broaden the work of organizing the nation’s taxi workers into the larger labor movement.”

            These are not real unions but groups that represent the industry at hearings such as City Council meetings.


      • Not surprised in Seattle

        ‘For nearly 15 years, taxi workers in New York City—and now in other cities—have been building a union…. Last year, the NTWA, based in New York and led by Bhairavi Desai, became the latest affiliate union of the AFL-CIO, and the first group to receive an organizing committee charter from America’s largest labor organization in a half-century.’!-Taxi!-Cabbies-Form-Unlikely-Union
        Add this to an industry already choked with government bureaucracy – how antiquated is the medallion system – you get poor quality and service. The amazing success of ride-share companies only prove that there is a demand for a better product. Without competition, the taxi industry does not need to innovate or provide better service. Would be better to deregulate the industry and may the best transporters win!

  • Jared

    Haha, what’s with all the Uber trolls? It’s like a Dave Matthews concert in here. Big money finally lost, boo hoo.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Yeah, they are so obvious with names such as “Seattle_Taxis_Suck”, “No Cabs Ever”. Then we have “Another_taxpayer” answering a post by “Taxpayer”.

  • Jac Fitzgerald

    so did amendment 9 pass or not?

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      It did.

    • Taylor Soper

      Sorry for the late reply, yes, it passed 6-3.

  • Easy Answer to this Travesty

    An easy answer to this! Uber Lyft etc ALL please implement this immediately: Add an option to your Uber app, that separates Seattle into 5 zones, ( for ex, South Seattle Georgetown area, Airport connection, far North Seattle, Downtown Seattle South Stadium area, Queen Anne Downtown north area, and CapHill). Then create 5 Uber companies with the same name that correspond to each zone, and direct requests from each zone to that sub company. BOOM 5 sub companies to DIFFERENT companies! 750 possibilities at better transit service than a smelly cab!

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Too bad. Amendment 9 beat you to the punch: “Further, no TNC licensed by the City of Seattle shall own or be owned, in whole or in part, by any other TNC licensed by the City of Seattle…”

  • disqus_SggDwQ1DEK

    Hello from a taxi owner-operator. I pay $600/month for insurance (yes, just for one car) because I’m legally required to use the highest-rated insurance company. This Amendment 7… does this mean I can downgrade too a cheaper insurance, matching that of the TNCs? Somehow I doubt it. But Uber with it’s $250million in startup capital really needs that break. Can you see why we are more than a little bit pissed off about this?
    People who think the taxi biz is buying off politicians must live in an amazing fantasy land where taxi drivers are rich and organized, I wish I could live in that fantasy land too!

    • Not surprised in Seattle

      Better to work together to fight the over bearing government regulations than help it spread – did you notice that 3 more government positions were created to help with new regulation – ingenuity and competition through private business is what made this country so great, and yes it is great, do you see1000’s of Americans migrating to other countries to become taxi drivers or is it the other way around?

      • ClaimsAdjuster

        Yeah, making Uber get insurance and licenses was so overbearing.

  • Kevin

    I’m confused when I see terms like “flooding the market’ and “unfair” advantage. A superior service serves the consumers that fuel its growth. If there are inequities in the rules, apply the rules to everyone who wants to compete. A regulatory failure doesn’t seem like a sound basis for limiting consumer choice. Not one of us in this conversation or any other can possibly say that the Uber experience doesn’t vastly outperform the Seattle cab experience. The latter is insufficient BECAUSE it doesn’t have to compete…Seattle’s City Council is making sure of that. I don’t bother with Seattle cabs because they’re typically terrible, unreliable and inconvenient. The only thing that’s changing for me is a strong desire to oust government that assumes I’m too stupid to choose a service that meets my expectations. If Uber (Lyft, Sidecar) are so horrible, why a limit and not a ban? It’s a clear message that capitalism is frowned upon in Seattle. I hear that Comcast lost year over year subscribers in 2013 because of their inability to compete with video streaming services. Can the City Council “cap” how many Netflix subscribers have access to their better business model as well?

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      You are right. Seattle should have just taken the Minneapolis/Austin,TX/Miami etc route and told UberX/Lyft/Sidecar if their unlicensed, uninsured cabs pick up passengers, they will impound the cars and levy fines.

  • John Watson

    UBER is Seattle’s new bitch rather than taxis.. They have a new punching bag… You think this is he end…. Oh no just the beginning of the regulations that’s what the city does..

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