Representatives from the taxi and for-hire industries speak with Councilmember Bruce Harrell after Friday's meeting.
Representatives from the taxi and for-hire industries speak with Councilmember Bruce Harrell after the last ride-sharing meeting in December.

The ride-sharing debate in Seattle kicks into gear again this week, as the City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday for another discussion on regulating transportation companies like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX.

The Council last met on Dec. 13 to talk about a new draft ordinance that would require ride-sharing companies, among a bevy of other rules, to obtain a $50,000 annual license to operate as a transportation network company, and have no more than 100 vehicles driving a maximum of 16 hours per week.

Companies like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX — which allow people to use their own car to shuttle passengers around town — are operating illegally in Seatle since they’re not yet regulated by government. This has angered taxi companies, who are regulated and are losing business.

Thursday’s meeting will again revisit a number of topics related to the ordinance, from controlling total driver hours to capping the number of ride-sharing companies to increasing taxi licenses.

lyft-pinkThe committee is also setting aside 30 minutes to hear a presentation from Property Casualty Insurers Association of America representatives. The goal is to help the committee understand the relationship between insurance coverage and transportation network companies.

It’s certainly a tricky one, especially with the lawsuit Uber now finds itself in after one of its drivers allegedly struck and killed a six-year-old girl. The girl’s family is suing Uber for wrongful death, but Uber argues that the driver wasn’t technically working during the time of the accident, so the company shouldn’t be held responsible.

That, and other related issues, is exactly what the committee will be discussing: Should startups like Lyft and Sidecar provide insurance coverage when its drivers are “live” on the systems looking to pick up a passenger, or rather only when a trip has been engaged?

Here’s what Seattle’s current draft ordinance calls for in terms of the Transportation Network Companies (the Council’s official name for startups like Lyft and Sidecar) and their insurance policies:

  • Must have an “umbrella” $1 million policy – per incident, with City as a named insured.
  • Copy of policy must be submitted to the FAS Director.
  • Must include underinsured motorist coverage.
  • Must be in effect while vehicle is “active” on system. This includes times when the driver is waiting for a call, but has not yet been dispatched.
  • Policy must meet State requirements and FAS Director will determine whether policy provides adequate coverage to protect public.

Sidecar, Lyft and UberX all expressed dismay with the proposed regulations in December. Lyft co-founder John Zimmer even told us that the City Council was “overstepping and over-reaching.”

There will be an additional committee meeting on Thursday, February 13 at 2 p.m., so no final decisions will be made this Thursday.

We’ll be at City Hall tomorrow covering all the action — as will taxi cab company reps and Lyft members — so check back at 2 p.m. for more.

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  • Yuppie Snob

    I think what you need to say is the Seattle GOVERNMENT is losing money via the taxi companies and now they want to put their hand out. The taxi companies petitioned cities to enact defacto monopolies through “regulation” as many industries do and municipalities benefited greatly. Now a disruptor has come along and all of the entrenched entities that benefited are crying foul to which I say Boo Hoo.
    One clown always comments that Uber is a “yuppie taxi.” If that’s their target market, and it works, great for them! All of the people that aren’t yuppies can continue to take slow, unresponsive, smelly taxis and enjoy the sound of the cab driver bantering nonstop on his cell phone the entire ride. Have fun!

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Explain how “the Seattle GOVERNMENT is losing money via the taxi companies and now they want to put their hand out.”

      • Yuppie Snob

        The value of a taxi license is plummeting in every market that Uber operates. Lots of people like Uber better.

        • ClaimsAdjuster

          If the taxi license is plummeting in value that only effects the owner of the license. The City of Seattle does not auction off taxi licenses.

    • That Guy

      If your yuppie taxi company can’t play by the rules, you’ll be in a smelly cab too. Or maybe you can take yourself and your techie arrogance out of Seattle and move to California where you belong.

  • friendofjobs

    Not sure I understand why the public should be less safe, insurance-wise, just because they used an app to get a ride. The Uber driver has a reckless driving conviction on his record that wasn’t picked up by more lenient background checks for TNCs. Not good.

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    Taylor Soper writes “that the draft states that the TNC insurance policy “must be in effect while vehicle is “active” on system. This includes times when the driver is waiting for a call, but has not yet been dispatched.”
    Actually what “active” means is not defined in the draft. We know that the TNCs interpret this to mean that their policy kicks in when the driver hits the accept button on his smart phone and reverts back to the vehicle’s policy when the driver pushes the “drop off” button at the end of the ride. So the insurance gap that the incompetent CPUC allowed in California is still there.

    The only sure way to get out of the TNCs gaming the system is for the Seattle City Council to mandate that the TNC vehicles carry commercial insurance.

  • Cliff Rudolph

    Claim Adjuster, I’ve read your comments and I appreciate your perspective. I’m not sure that I would agree that City, State, or Federal legislation is necessary. The use of personal autos for non personal use is not new- in fact it is prevalent. Forgive me, but it feels like the council is being pushed in a direction as a result of lobbyist for insurance and taxi organizations.

    • Asbestosfiber

      It seems quite reasonable that they should be on TNC insurance when they are on shift, not just actually have a rider. That is just foolishness. I say this as a Lyft user and supporter.

      • Cliff Rudolph

        Asbestosfinder, I imagine we agree more than we disagree. But I’m concerned with the city, county, state, or federal government enforcing/regulating. While lobbyist would have you believe that this is an auto liability or taxi issue, consider the implication for any airbnb model. Will the city start regulating the level of homeowners insurance you carry should you offer your apartment for rent? How will this effect the folks at rover, will the city council require dog sitters on rover have pet insurance?

        Let the courts work this out. Not city councils.

        • That Guy

          The question at issue is taxi insurance. If you think being dilatory is cute or persuasive, you are wrong.

          • Cliff Rudolph

            Sorry “That Guy” if I’m overlooking the issue- it is not intentional. I see the insurance issue that you reference as pretty simple and not that unique. Most personal auto policies do not intend to cover livery. Those that engage in livery should seek coverage for this exposure. The TNC should have non owned and hired auto liability. The liability issues are complex, but I believe those issues are better left to the courts than a city council.
            Not trying to be cute, nor dilatory. Thanks.

          • That Guy

            You want the new taxi operators to get a regulatory exemption. This is the way many so-called “entrepreneurs” work: by obtaining and then exploiting special favors. Or do you think that none of the taxicabs on the street should be required to carry insurance?

  • John

    Can I finally call this country anything other then a free market?

  • Check ur stuff
  • Lara

    Wow delete my comment when it contradicts what your post is!!

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