With ride-sharing regulations, Lyft president says Seattle’s leaders will look bad on national stage

As Lyft co-founder John Zimmer speaks at a rally, representatives from the for-hire industry show a picture of the six-year-old who was killed by an Uber driver in San Francisco.

As Lyft co-founder John Zimmer speaks at Wednesday’s rally, representatives from the for-hire industry show a picture of the six-year-old who was killed by an Uber driver in San Francisco.

Seattle’s reputation as a leading city for innovation is about to take a hit.

At least that’s what Lyft co-founder John Zimmer thinks. Speaking at Wednesday’s rally for supporters of the ride-sharing movement, Zimmer cautioned that if Seattle approves proposed regulations — which would cap the number of UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers to 300 and limit drivers to 16 hours of work per week — it will make the city’s leaders look bad.

Eastside For-Hire manager Samatar Guled speaks to Mayor Ed Murray during Wednesday's rally in support of ride-sharing startups.

Eastside For-Hire manager Samatar Guled speaks to Mayor Ed Murray during Wednesday’s rally in support of ride-sharing startups.

“Seattle unfortunately will be making national news that puts Seattle’s leaders of this great city in a bad light on a national stage,” Zimmer told the crowd at City Hall.

Seattle’s City Council Committee for Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations will vote on the two-year pilot program Friday, and if approved, the Full Council will vote to approve it next week.

Zimmer’s big problem with the city’s proposed ordinance is the cap on UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers. Much like he’s said in previous interviews, Zimmer has trouble understanding why Seattle doesn’t follow the lead of California and its regulations, which do not have caps on drivers or the number of hours they are allowed to drive.

Zimmer also addressed insurance and safety issues, which the committee has made a priority in its discussions for the past several months. He said that Lyft already has more strict criminal background and driving record checks than what the city requires (see below for more details). Zimmer noted Lyft’s recent improvements to its insurance coverage, in addition to a new Peer-to-Peer Rideshare Insurance Coalition it has started.

“We are 100 percent supportive of safety regulations that fully understand the model,” he said.

IMG_7010Zimmer added that companies like Lyft and Sidecar will actually help the taxi business, not hurt it.

“This is not a zero-sum game,” he said. “All the services are very important. When we have all of these services, it makes it easier to not own a car. When you don’t own a car, you have to use all these services — including existing industries — more and more.”

Eastside For-Hire manager Samatar Guled was also at the rally and caused a bit of drama when he stood near each speaker and held a photo of the six-year-old girl who was killed by an Uber driver in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve. It appeared he was trying to make a point about the ride-sharing companies and safety issues.

“This is not about fun, or giving fist bumps and having pink mustaches and pink balloons,” Guled told us. “This is serious stuff. This is fairness.”

Guled is frustrated that his for-hire company, which is regulated by the city, is forced to abide by Seattle’s rules while the ride-sharing startups have operated without any oversight. He said that he understands why the city wants to limit the number of transportation providers — “if you flood the market, no one is going to make a living and service levels will go down,” he said — but noted that there has to be a balance between innovation and fairness.

IMG_7050“I hope on Friday that they will make the right choice and make everyone compete on the same level playing field,” Guled said.

If the city does indeed go forth with its proposed regulations, it will certainly put a large number of Lyft, Sidecar and UberX drivers out of work. Derrin Harvey, one of the original Lyft drivers in Seattle, spends 40 hours per week shuttling passengers around town and said he can’t live off 16 hours of work every week.

“This cap of 100 drivers and 16 hours per week is ridiculous,” he said. “They may as well just ban us all together.”

We’ll be at the committee meeting Friday, so check back on GeekWire for more coverage. In the meantime, here’s a table Lyft just created to show its safety and insurance rules already in place:

  • elbowman

    Weren’t Lyft’s criminal background checks just instituted today? Sorry! My bad! It was Uber that just today instituted driver criminal background checks.

    • yourestalkingme

      A little too late on the background checks that Uber has always said “we do background checks on all our drivers”. I assume they would have never moved to a new background check system if they weren’t catching so much flack. They don’t care. They’re a terrible company with a douche bag as a CEO. Screw Uber and this other illegal taxi companies.

      • jharp105

        You cannot be serious. You must have meant Lyft when you wrote “Uber”. Lyft is a joke and they are ruining our business in Seattle. They are the reason the city council does not take TNC’s seriously. But whatever, keep driver for Lyft. I make more money than you can imagine as an Uber driver and you are not even competition.

  • Stop the intitlement mentality

    Ridesharing is a misnomer, the users of these services are driving routes they would not otherwise be driving if it were not for being paid. That, my friend, is called a taxi and therefore should be regulated as such.

    • balls187

      entitlement

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    Sloppy reporting. The city’s draft proposal does not limit TNC drivers to 16 hours per week. If the TNCers obtain the same license that cab drivers have, they can work as many hours as they want.

    The 16 hour license is special permit geared to the part timers. It is less costly in money and time to get. The City Council should just realize that you can’t do favors for dishonest people. So they should just get rid of the part timers license and make the TNC drivers get a full blown for hire license.

    • Taylor Soper

      The ordinance states that “the driver shall not be active on any TNC dispatch system for more than an aggregate of 16 hours per week.”

      • pitbullstew

        http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/219417/lyft-sued-for-violating-california-privacy-law.html

        what timing huh bub? not lookin so wholesome yet again for the NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME? (pun intended here)

      • ClaimsAdjuster

        Your excerpt is from p.29 TNC Vehicle Endorsement. Look at p28-29 under section “Vehicles affiliated with a Transportataion Network company – vehicle operating requirements.
        section F “The vehicle, except for for-hire vehicles and taxicabs licensed under this chapter, cannot be driven for more than 16 hours per week while active on the TNC dispatch.”

        P.10 “Transportation Network Company Driver” means a licensed for-hire driver or transportation network company driver permitee affiliated with and accepting dispatched trips from a licensed transportation network comapny, using a for-hire vehicle or taxicab licensed under this chapter or a vehicle with a TNC vehicle permit.”

        Thus the same driver, who works 16 hours on his own TNC vehicle, could also be dispatched by the same TNC company in a For Hire vehicle or a taxi without any time limitation. This would be similar to the arrangement that the Flywheel app has with Eastside For Hire.

  • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

    The Zimmer doth protest too much. “If we have to follow the laws, we can’t make it.” So?

    Their comparison is a joke. Take the first row. They effectively say “we do this voluntarily but the law (irony there!) doesn’t require it of our competitors.” With an apples-to-apples comparison, the green dot should be red. When you do a proper comparison, they have zero green dots and the middle two columns have three. And what’s missing from the chart? A lot! Vehicle registration and inspections, full details on insurance, record keeping, many more reasons to disqualify drivers, training, reporting unfit drivers, and the definition of what it means to be “operating,” something Uber wants to avoid after one of their drivers killed a 6-year-old.

    Lyft is fighting against the very sort of laws that they are saying make the Black Car and Limo, and Taxi & For-Hire companies safer. They want an unfair advantage. Why?

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Yes, why can’t the TNCs make money if they have to follow the rules? Unlike taxi companies, their employees are not answering phones and dispatching. Their main expense seems to be astro turf internet and twitter campaigns to convince politicians to allow them to cut corners.

      Their app gives them a low cost operation. They can make money but not the kind of profits that their deep pocketed investors (Jeff Bezos, Google, Marc Andreesen, David Horowitz) expect.

    • Tyler Szabo

      Taxis kill people, too – driving is dangerous. No amount of insurance can prevent that and driver training and vehicle safety will mitigate it to a point. If we’re going to choose a specific incident and make a scapegoat out of the industry for the fact that cars are dangerous equipment then we should also include the cases where people were killed by Taxis.

      Here’s one from 3 years ago http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Airport-taxi-driver-charged-in-deadly-crash-885013.php – differences from the Uber case: the driver was on the clock and this occurred in Seattle. It was 3 years ago, but under the same regulatory system we have now. I don’t think driving like this is likely from a Lyft driver – as the passenger could just donate less, or contact support for a refund on the missed exit so the driver would never take that risk. In addition, the trip data would show such a risky merge and it could cost the driver their ability to participate.

      Full disclosure: I’m a frequent Lyft passenger – I use them to avoid owning a car.

      • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

        Yes, accident’s happen and, yes, however you check drivers, there will sometimes be problems. Your statement that a “driver would never take that risk” is ridiculous on its face. Taxi drivers face a suspension (or time in prison) in similar cases and that is every bit as much of an incentive as losing a fair.

        The big difference here is that the Taxi company (Uber) is claiming that their insurance doesn’t apply when the law requires it, leaving both the driver and the victim’s family in the cold.

        Lyft says they have $1M in liability insurance, and they give themselves a nice green dot. But their insurance doesn’t meet the legal requirements and it doesn’t fully protect either customers or bystanders, so it should be a red dot.

        • Tyler Szabo

          Agreed the statement that a Lyft driver might not do that is at best wild speculation (I regret not being clearer about that) – the fact remains that the GPS tracking of the trip brings greater accountability.

          I think the insurance issue is one that deserves attention and regulation – specifically for the reason that even if it turns out that Lyft insurance is sufficient for the way they operate a new rideshare service should be required to also be safe in the way they operate.

          My major frustration is 2 fold:
          1. The “they aren’t insured” / “they are insured” argument – if it’s nuanced then we should discuss the important differences rather than just arguing who’s a liar.
          2. Many of the proposed regulations have nothing to do with insurance or safety in that regard and appear to be about protecting income and business models rather than safety.

      • ClaimsAdjuster

        The big difference in the Seattle taxi accident from what happened in San Francisco is that the taxi actually had insurance. In the San Francisco incident, the UberX vehicle was uninsured because it was operating with a non-commercial insurance.

        The UberX vehicle was also on the clock at the time. He didn’t have a passenger in his cab but his icon was shown as available on the customer’s UberX app.

        • Tyler Szabo

          I would love any regulation that is created to ensure that a similar situation doesn’t occur in any ridesharing situation – but the SF headline is being used as a straw man for other companies.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            It is not a straw man. That accident exposed a big insurance gap that the incompetent CPUC allowed to continue. They still have not done anything about it. If the Seattle City Council passes this ordinance, it will be the first law that fixes this serious problem.

            Stop using the term “ridesharing” to describe what Lyft/UberX and Sidecar do. They are taxis or for hire services.

          • Tyler Szabo

            You, yourself, argue they are different in their insurance – either they are the same or they are different.

            I believe they are different and I’ll use the term they are using. Call it Xyzzy if you’d like, I think the service is excellent.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Sorry, the customer is not making a “donation” – it is a cab fare. The driver was recruited by the TNC with the promise he was going to be engaged in a profit making enterprise.

            In ridesharing the passenger contributes gas money as a way of reducing costs. A car pool or a bunch of students pitching in to get a ride to Pullman for a football game is a rideshare. It is not a for profit activity.

            The problem with you kool aid drinkers is that you can’t even use plain English – you talk in corportae doublespeak.

          • pitbullstew

            you can nuance it any way you like, the insurance companies maintain that it is NOT LIVERY INSURANCE-PERIOD, ergo there is no covergae, they would cancel any uber/lyft/sidecar operator in a nano second when they find out.
            Dont be fooled, TNC drivers are the fall guys.

          • Tyler Szabo

            Then the solution here seems to be too mandate exactly the what insurance must cover, and when it must apply. City council by all means should make such a mandate.
            My primary complaint with the draft ordinance is the 100 vehicle at 16 hours per week limit. My secondary issue is with the rigid billing (though I understand and respect the intent). Do you feel that it’s necessary to limit the TNCs as defined to 100 vehicles with a maximum of 16 hours per driver (knowing it’s also one driver per vehicle) for safety?

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            The 16 hour limitation, which only applied to the driver’s vehicle, has been dropped from the draft. The TNC driver can work 12X7 in his vehicle.

  • pitbullstew

    speaking about not looking so good national?

    http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/219417/lyft-sued-for-violating-california-privacy-law.html

    ya just cant make this stuff up!

  • Saul_in_Seattle

    Even Taxi’s with their background checks have killed people, both in accidents like the one Mr Guled brought up as well as by knifing them as happened in NYC in July 2013. Part of the problem is the government sanctioned monopoly that the Taxi drivers operate in, they have to pay for their license which initially goes to the government but then it stays private and is a sellable asset, with those licenses/medallions selling for several hundred thousand, the owners of those licenses don’t want the competition. The city should address the safety and let the competition take care of the prices.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      You are talking about New York. It doesn’t apply to Seattle.The City of Seattle and King County did not auction off medallions. All the government gets out of these licenses is $650/year for a Seattle taxicab license and $400 for a KC license.

      • Saul_in_Seattle

        Is the ownership of the renewal automatic or can anyone try and get the license when it comes up for renewal? If the owner of a license gets preference in renewal then it is an asset that he owns and would be at least somewhat similar to NYC, which in the early days sold the licenses rather than auctioned them, making a public asset private.

        • ClaimsAdjuster

          The cab owner can sell the licenses in Seattle/KC. But there is a big difference between New York and Seattle in that the Seattle is not using the licenses as a way to raise revenue. When that happens, not only do the prices balloon but also the municipality is now stakeholder in keeping the value of the licenses high.

          The value of the taxi license is akin to what stock valuations are for internet companies or Krispy Kreme. They bear little relation to the earnings generated by the company.

          Taxi leases anywhere are determined by the demand by cab drivers to rent taxis at certain companies, not by license scarcity. Seattle leases are capped at $75 for a 12 hour shift. But only Yellow Cab can demand those rents because they have the airport contract. At the rest of the companies, many cabs sit without a lease driver.

          Most of the local taxi licenses in the area are held by owner-drivers so a lot of the rhetoric about monopolies and excessive rentals are typical uninformed libertarian bloviating.

          • Saul_in_Seattle

            Thanks for the clarifications, I guess I have more reading to do.

  • henrymart81

    Regulation is how the government kills innovation. The government likes to find the parade then march in front of it as if it was their great idea, yet unsurprisingly, anything they touch turns to garbage.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Yeah, cutting corners on insurance is so innovative.

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    Lyft’s comparison table is invalid because it doesn’t reflect the fact that a driver still has to go through a screening process by the cab company and the insurer before he gets behind the wheel. The insurance company would not accept a driver with a reckless driving conviction on his MVR or an applicant less than 25 years old.

    Lyft’s claim to have a $1mil limit of liability on their insurance is also invalid. Their policy is operative only under certain circumstances. For example, it would not cover the circumstances of the San Francisco fatality accident on Year’s eve involving an UberX driver. A taxi’s insurance, on the other hand, is in force 100% of the time.