Even though the Seattle City Council already voted to enact laws that will regulate app-based transportation companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar, the California-based startups are still letting their displeasure be heard.
Today, Lyft sent out an email to customers with a subject line titled, “Defending your right to Lyft.” In the letter, Lyft employee Emily Castor lambasts Seattle’s city leaders for their decision to cap the number of active drivers that a company like Lyft can have on the road to 150.
“Ride-sharing has become wildly popular in Seattle, but City Council doesn’t get it,” Castor wrote. “Last week, they voted for barriers and caps that would crush ride-sharing just as it is beginning to blossom.”
Castor wonders “why would City Council try to stop a service people love,” and notes that the city’s decision is not about “passenger safety” nor is it about “helping taxi drivers.” She links to Lyft’s safety protocols, which “beat those required for taxis,” and said that Lyft offers its drivers higher earnings and more flexibility than those in the taxi industry.
Rather, she accused the Council of protectionism.
“The real motivation behind this law is protecting wealthy taxi companies from competition, favoring one industry over another,” she wrote. “Council is ignoring the will of the people, but we will not. We’re prepared to fight for your right to share rides.”
The email includes a link to claim a 10-pack of #SaveLyftSeattle stickers, which you can see above.
“Let’s show City Council that they can’t stop innovation any more than railroads could stop Henry Ford or Blockbuster could slow the growth of Netflix,” Castor wrote, using the Netflix analogy noted by councilmember Tim Burgess last week. “Together, we are unstoppable, and this is only the beginning of our battle to protect your freedom to ride. We’ll be in touch again soon with more news about how you can help.”
At least a few councilmembers will undoubtedly have issue with claims made in the letter. For starters, Sally Clark, who chaired the Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations, made it clear at the last meeting that UberX, Lyft and Sidecar do not fall into the state’s definition of “ride-sharing.”
“UberX and Lyft are not ride-sharing companies,” she said last week. “They are for-hire.”
And councilmember Bruce Harrell, who also sat on the committee, probably wouldn’t agree with the notion that the Council “crushed” ride-sharing.
“The headline should not read that the City Council capped anything. It should read as the City Council allowed ride-shares to come into an industry,” Harrell said last week. “The bill sets up a conceptual framework for us to start stepping out of the regulatory arc and let technology and consumer choice dictate what we’re about to do. But we are not there yet.”
Despite the new legislation, Lyft recently announced plans to expand its service across the greater Seattle area. It also ditched its donation-based payment system in the city and has moved to mandatory pricing requirements.
Uber has also expressed frustration with the Council’s decision and said it will “absolutely keep fighting” the approved ordinance.
Meanwhile, on Monday The Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association filed a lawsuit against Uber, claiming that the service has violated city, county and state laws, and “engages in an unlawful and deceptive business practice which harms the economic interests of taxicab drivers.”