From an Uber general manager to representatives for the taxi industry, it seems no one is happy with Seattle’s decision to cap number of drivers that companies like UberX, SideCar and Lyft can have on the road..
The City Council today voted 5-4 to cap the number of drivers active at any given time on each system to 150. That means Lyft would be allowed 150 drivers at one time during the day or night — same goes for Sidecar and UberX, or any other similar “transportation network company” (TNC) that decides to set up shop in Seattle. If Lyft had 151 drivers on the streets, for example, it would be illegal.
While this isn’t quite set in stone yet — the full Council will meet again March 10 and make an official vote — every councilmember participated at today’s committee meeting and the decision isn’t expected to change.
Uber Seattle general manager Brooke Steger was “very disappointed,” with the 150 cap and said it will effectively shut down UberX in Seattle.
“They are doing a huge disservice to the people of Seattle,” she said of the city’s leaders. “They had an opportunity to really change the face of transportation and innovation here in Seattle, and so far, they haven’t done that.”
Dawn Gearhart, who represents the Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association, said the general reaction from her camp was mixed. She was especially concerned with the fact that the council decided not to limit the number of TNC companies.
With the current proposals, the city would cap the number of TNC drivers from each company — but there’s no limit on the total number of drivers in general, nor rules for how many companies can exist. Previous drafts of the legislation included such regulations, but the council decided to move away from that today.
“The companies will get to choose who is going to drive,” Gearhart explained. “It’s not based on safety, qualifications or experience as a driver, but simply who the company prefers and who is willing to take the least amount of money. It will just facilitate a race to the bottom.”
Eastside For-Hire manager Samatar Guled shared similar feelings and called the 150 limit a “fake cap” since there could technically be 1,000 TNC drivers out on the road, but from several different companies.
“It’s a tricky, nasty way of making people feel like there’s a cap, but there’s not,” Guled said. “This is bad on so many levels. It’s absolutely worse than a 300 or even 600 cap on the total number of drivers. ”
Amendeep Singh, a Yellow Cab driver for the past 12 years, said he would have been happy with the council’s original proposal coming into Thursday’s meeting, which limited the number of overall TNC drivers to 300, active or not. But with today’s vote, Singh said it would make it even more difficult for taxi drivers to find passengers.
“Right now, with the 150 cap, there could be an unlimited amount of companies like UberX,” he said. “Uber could make Uber White, Uber Red, Uber Black.”
It’s unclear how exactly the city will monitor how many cars each company has active on its system. For example, if UberX has 151 drivers active, how will the city know?
The council discussed a bevy of other options, from allowing 400 total TNC drivers altogether to removing any sort of cap. Councilmembers Mike O’Brien, Kshama Sawant, Nick Licata and Bruce Harrell were in favor of the limit of 400 drivers, but needed one more vote for approval.
Instead, councilmembers Tom Rassmussen, Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess, Jean Godden and Sally Clark voted for the 150 cap — a decision that’s left nearly everyone scratching their head.
“Our next step is focused on next week to make sure the City Council hears from even more people and realizes that it’s their responsibility and duty to represent the people of Seattle,” said Steger, Uber’s Seattle general manger. “They can ignore me, they can ignore Uber, they can ignore the taxi industry — really, they should be looking to the people and representing them.”
Here’s a statement from Lyft:
By passing an ordinance that does not prioritize public safety or support consumer choice, members of Seattle’s City Council have shown that their sole intent is to eliminate competition and protect existing industries in Seattle. This ordinance will eliminate Lyft in Seattle; local residents who drive for Lyft on their way to work, while they are running errands, or on the weekends to make ends meet will no longer be able to act as drivers, especially when passengers who have chosen to live car-free in Seattle need them most. While safety is often brought up as a reason to apply an old regulatory model to an innovative transportation solution, the truth is that new technology provides an opportunity to increase safety above and beyond what has been done previously. In comparison to existing requirements, Lyft’s $1M commercial liability policy is more than three times the $300,000 requirement of Seattle taxis. Despite today’s disappointing decision, we will continue to stand strong as a community and do everything possible to ensure a path forward that allows ridesharing to thrive in Seattle.
And here’s a statement from the Washington Technology Industry Association:
“This vote goes against everything we stand for in this city. It is decidedly un-Seattle,” said Michael Schutzler, CEO of WTIA. “We boast of our progressive tech scene yet when push comes to shove, the city slams the door in the face of innovators with unreasonable regulations. We hope this vote will be overturned and we can get back to making the lives of Washingtonians easier through technological advancements including ride share services.”