Lyft supporters gather at a City Hall rally in February.
Lyft supporters gather at a City Hall rally in February.

The fate of app-based transportation companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar may soon be decided by the people of Seattle.

A coalition group that is collecting petition signatures to suspend a newly-passed ordinance regulating those companies tells GeekWire that it expects to easily surpass the number of signatures required for a city-wide vote.

Photo by Frank Catalano.
A ride-sharing coalition group has hired people to stand outside of grocery stores in Seattle and collect petition signatures. Photo by Frank Catalano.

“We’re very pleased with how the signature effort is going,” said Brad Harwood, spokesperson for the coalition. “We believe voters are eager to put this issue to a vote.”

But there is a potential bump in the road.

The City of Seattle has a referendum process in place for citizens that want to petition an ordinance. If the coalition, named “Keep Seattle’s Ride Options,” can get at least 16,510 valid signatures of registered Seattle voters — eight percent of the total number of votes cast for mayor in the last mayoral election (206,377) — the ordinance will be put on hold and then voted on by Seattle residents.

However, it’s unclear as to whether or not this particular ordinance, which caps the number of vehicles each company can have on the road to 150, is a legislative or administrative ordinance. As detailed here, it’s an important distinction: Washington does not allow people to petition ordinances that are administrative in nature.

Here’s how the state’s Municipal Research and Services Center describes the difference:

First, actions relating to subjects of a permanent and general character are usually regarded as legislative matters, and actions taken on subjects of a temporary and special character are usually regarded as administrative matters. Second, the power to be exercised is legislative in nature if it prescribes a new policy or plan, whereas it is administrative in its nature if it merely pursues a plan already adopted by the legislative body or some power superior to it.

We contacted the City of Seattle for clarification, but a spokesperson told us that “any matters that may be the subject of litigation aren’t ones on which staff can comment.”

The coalition group believes that the ordinance is a legislative matter.

uberx“Ordinance 124441 creates a number of policies designed to regulate mobile app ride services,” Harwood said. “The ordinance is a legislative action and therefore subject to the citizens’ referendum process.”

If the City deems the petition legitimate and the coalition group collects enough signatures, any laws relating to the ordinance would be suspended — that includes the 150-cap, which UberX and Lyft have complained about.

From there, City Council must pass legislation authorizing King County Elections to place the qualifying referendum measure matter on the ballot, either at the next regularly-scheduled election, or at an earlier special election. Once it qualifies for the ballot, the law won’t take effect until after the election, when voters will either approve or reject the ordinance.

Signatures can be gathered once the Mayor has approved the ordinance — which happened on March 19 — and must be submitted before an ordinance goes into effect, which is generally 30 days after approval the Mayor. So, the coalition has until April 18 to collect and submit enough signatures.

UberX supporters wave posters during last week's City Council meeting.
UberX supporters wave posters during last month’s City Council meeting.

In addition to the 150-cap on active vehicles, the ordinance contains a bevy of other rules and regulations for these transportation companies, which allow everyday drivers to shuttle passengers around town and were previously operating in Seattle illegally prior to the legislation passed by City Council in March. There are insurance, safety and licensing requirements that would be put on hold, among other rules, if this coalition can garner enough support.

People have voiced strong opinions on this issue, mainly from two sides: One group supports the companies and says the City Council is limiting innovation with the 150-cap; others say that the startups need to follow the law and stop avoiding regulation and taxation.

Both UberX and Lyft voiced disdain for the City Council’s decision and vowed to fight Seattle’s leaders for their right to operate with a limit in the city. Some taxi drivers, meanwhile, have sued Uber for engaging in deceptive business practices and say they want a “level-playing field.”

See all of our coverage on this issue here.

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  • Roy Leban

    Who’s actually backing this petition? It seems to me that its supporters must oppose these new taxi companies. The ordinance creates a pilot program that allows these previously unlicensed and illegal companies to operate in Seattle — essentially creating two classes of taxi companies, those that have to follow regulations, and those that don’t. If the pilot program goes away, Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, etc. will have to shut down their Seattle operations.

    • Guest

      These TNCs operated without even being accused of violating any laws* before this unacceptable legislation was introduced. They will continue to do so after this law limiting them is repealed.

      If you would like to legislate TNCs, you are free to circulate a petition. We the people will do the right thing.

      * According to Seattle prosecutors, who failed to file any charges

      • Roy Leban

        You clearly haven’t been following things. There was a decision made to not ticket, arrest, or file any charges while the Seattle city council was thinking things over. The fact that they reached the wrong conclusion — that taxi companies with apps are magically different from taxi companies without apps — is irrelevant. Sans any ordinance, these new taxi companies will have two choices: follow the same laws as other taxi companies, or stop operating. It’s pretty clear they don’t want to follow the laws, so the conclusion is obvious. The fact that you might like them, or other people might like them, or that they might be cleaner or more convenient, or that you’re allergic to yellow, is irrelevant.

        • Guest

          Actually, absent any laws prohibiting their operation, TNCs are legal. The reason why Seattle didn’t prosecute these TNCs is because they couldn’t.

          We, the people, tell our City Council what the laws should be when City Council gets things wrong. Don’t cite empty threats to me as a reason why I can’t have a cheap taxi ride.

          • Roy Leban

            Repeating the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it true.

            1) 2) A small vocal minority is not “We, the people”.

            2) The “absent any laws” argument falls flat on its face. There are many things that are illegal despite there not being an explicit law. There is no law that specifically says I can’t sneak up behind you and pour red paint on your head. But that is an assault. The fact that the laws about assault do not discuss paint, let alone red paint, does not change that fact.

            3) Even if that wasn’t the case, in this case there are laws. Under chapter 6.310 of the Seattle Municipal Code all vehicles in use by Lyft, Uber, are either “for hire” vehicles or “taxicab” vehicles. Take your pick :) For example, take 6.310.130, which requires licenses that these new taxi companies think they don’t need.

            6.310.130 Licenses required

            A. It is unlawful to own, lease, drive or otherwise operate within the City of Seattle any taxicab or for-hire vehicle within the scope of this chapter, unless:

            (1) The for-hire driver has a valid license issued under this chapter;

            (2) The for-hire vehicle or taxicab has a valid license issued under this chapter; and

            (3) If the vehicle is a taxicab, the taxicab is affiliated with a taxicab association licensed under this chapter.

            B. It is unlawful to operate a taxicab association within the City without a valid license issued pursuant to this chapter.

            Repeal ordinance 124441 and these new taxi companies are illegal, plain and simple.

          • Guest

            Roy, repeating the same arguments over and over don’t make them right — it just makes you sound angry and petulant. I have chosen to ignore point #1, which you will learn more about on Election Day, and point #2, in which you compare a convenient TNC to a malicious attack on a man who has chosen to wear fur.

            3. Cite as many laws as you want to me, Roy. Whether TNCs are “unlawful” are up to the courts, and you are neither an attorney nor a judge nor a legislator. In fact, before the aforementioned restrictions were enabled, I checked the 911 records: you never once asked police to arrest a TNC man for having violated SMC 6.310, nor did any other citizen. The police did nothing to stop TNCs because they were not illegal. They weren’t then, and they aren’t now, and they will not be until the courts say they are. (You and I could serve on a jury in such a case, but do you really want to sit in a room with 11 men who might disagree with you and without Internet access?)

            Roy, with all due respect, the TNCs are providing a service that we the customers demand. It’s not harming you and it’s not harming any other men in our city. Your fear of a new service should not result in my being deprived of its value. If you don’t like TNCs, my recommendation is that you continue not to be a customer of them.

          • scott

            So sorry for your anger and petulance, guest.
            Your arguments are what we would call irrelevant.
            You set yourself up as the most self-righteous little idiot who ‘demands’ things.
            Get over your big bad self, and cut it out with the bs.
            That ain’t how your ‘petition’ will win.

          • John Kane

            You sound angry and petulant when you call others angry and petulant. Please stop. You’re making Uber and Lyft look worse when I didn’t think that was possible.

          • scott

            Well, not exactly…as they say a fool who hires himself as a lawyer is still a fool.
            ‘we the people’–uh huh, you mean ‘you’–don’t get to tell the City Council that the rest of the people elected what to do.
            You know what’s really funny, that you don’t know?
            Even if your little petition passes, the City Council can nullify it after two years. Check out Washington State law on that point.
            Get a bike or walk or take a legal ride, little boy.
            And lose the sneering, holier-than-thou attitude.

          • John Kane

            You’re confused. Cab company: a fee for ride service.

        • Dan

          Roy – this laserlike focus you have on the technical letter of the law, which apparently comes at the expense of being unable to recognize what’s actually happening in the real world, would make you a perfect fit for those out of touch clods on our city council. Congratulations.

          Seattle’s cab system is an unmitigated failure. Surly, overpriced, rarely available and hardly safe. And this is despite all the safety rules you apparently hold so dear. The market’s responded overwhelmingly in favor of what appears to be a fundamentally superior approach to private transportation in this city. Perhaps instead of trying to kill it using legalese that was crafted a generation or two ago, we try to grow as a city and rewrite the rulebook to everyone’s benefit?

          • Roy Leban

            Dan, why is it that supporters of these taxi companies like to insult people? I’m very aware of what’s happening in the real world. A bunch of incredibly well-funded companies from California are trying to destroy some local industries in a number of cities, including Seattle. Hey, it’s happened before and will happen again. The difference here is that the companies started out by willfully breaking the law. This is not a movement of the people or a case where better technology or better service will win out. This is, plain and simple, a bunch of companies that know they cannot win in a fair marketplace. So they’re cheating.

            If what these companies offer is so superior, why can’t they follow the law? Is it only superior because they act like they don’t have to follow the law? And why on earth are they complaining that the City Council created a pilot program so they wouldn’t be illegal?!

            If you are so concerned about improving transportation in the Seattle area, you’ve had many years to work on it, and it’s been a year since these companies showed up. What have you been doing?

    • Guest500

      The people that use this services are the ones signing the petitions, moron. What you refer to as “illegal” is more like negligent and irresponsible by the Seattle City Counsil. It should be obvious that when not a single new taxi license is granted in over 20 years while the population more than doubles that maybe, just maybe, at best the our city government is not doing their job.

      I could go on but I sense that you won’t get the point no matter what evidence is offered.

      • Roy Leban

        Why is it that the anonymous people who are overly enamored of these new taxi companies are so rude? I don’t call you a moron, even though it’s apparent you don’t read.

        The Seattle City Council may or or may not have problems. The laws, including Chapter 6.310 of the Seattle Municipal Code, might have problems. Or maybe not. I’ll bet you haven’t done any research into it. You’ve just decided that these pre-existing laws don’t apply to these California taxi companies because they built an app. Woohoo!

        If you have been so concerned over the last 20 years, why didn’t you go to the City Council and complain? Why didn’t you try to get the laws changed? Why is there suddenly a transportation crisis in Seattle when a bunch of California companies show up?

        I don’t care who’s signing the petitions. I know the effect because I’ve read the law. Repeal the pilot program and these taxi companies can either follow the existing laws, or they can go back to California.

        • Guest500

          Typical, that’s what you don’t understand. I didn’t have to complain, I voted with my wallet.

          • Roy Leban

            Ah, I thought you could only break the law if you built an app. Now I understand you can break the law if you have a wallet. Good to know.

            (and what did you do for the previous 19 years before these California taxi companies came to town?)

          • Guest

            Hey, Roy.

            I just took an UberX home last night. If you think I broke the law, you have the DUTY (not the right) to call the police.

            Call the police and report me for having broken the law, Roy. They’ll set you right.

          • scott

            Not exactly. Your histrionics undermine any real cause you may have.
            ‘DUTY’….LOL,..funniest thing I’ve read in months.
            I guess your parents always let you have your own way, but in the big, bad world things don’t work that way.
            No matter how many stupid irrelevant stormy arguments you make.
            The issue is not what you do, little man, but whether the Uber drivers should be regulated by the City just like every other business is.
            Contrary to your experience, the rule of law makes things work.
            Sorry if that gets your panties in a bunch.

          • scott

            Gee, corporations are people, and now wallets are people.
            That’s the saddest misapplication of ‘voting with your wallet’ I’ve seen in a long time.
            Nobody gives a damn what you spend your money on.
            And claiming that what you spend your money on is a vote?

      • scott

        Hmmm….population more than doubled? Citation please.
        Someday when you grow up you might learn that we need city laws to protect your pretty ass (since you have been so nasty, expect the same back).
        I find it amusing that you throw around a lot of big words like ‘negligent’ and ‘irresponsible’ you can’t even spell ‘Council’.
        Most people don’t give a damn about your cute little app, but the City has an interest in making sure that when some unsuspecting citizen gets in a ‘uber’ cab and gets paralyzed for life, they have some recourse.

  • SnarkyOne

    Ah …. don’t you just luvvvv that Seattle aroma …

  • Guest

    Excellent. I can think of 16,510 people who want better service, lower prices, and more options than what our taxi companies provide. I for one look forward to this sensible legislation making it onto the ballot, where it will certainly win in November.

    • scott

      Hmmmm… about better service and lower prices by doing away with the health department? Food might be cheaper….
      Why not have unregulated everything?
      Oh, if there’s an app for that, must be good.
      Seems to me your main objection is that if you’re clever enough to find a way around any existing business model, you’re entitled to it.
      Unfortunately, while that may have worked for awhile, that business model must be consistent with existing safety laws and regulations.
      If you’d calm down and figure out how to make it work rather than sneak in and then get all outraged when you’re caught, things might have gone better.
      I guess it’s always better to sin and ask forgiveness later.
      But I wouldn’t be quite so cocky about how well this will go at the polls.

      • balls187

        Logic Fail.

    • John Kane

      This is one of the biggest lies of the whole thing: the service is necessarily and always better than cabs– and cheaper.

      It’s just not true.

      Go on Twitter, for example, and look at all the people complaining about Uber and Lyft’s crappy service. Do a search for “Uber sucks” or “Lyft sucks” or something similar on Twtter. From people being overcharged, to being charged the incorrect rates, to not being able to even get a vehicle, to creepy drivers– JUST LIKE THE SUPPOSED CREEPY CABBIES– to drivers not knowing where they are going, the list goes on and on.

      Here’s the biggest Lyft, Uber lie: they give better service. That’s just not true and I’l tell you why. If they don;t have an immediate vehicle for you, know what they do? The app tells you “No Driver Available” or “No Vehicle Available.”

      So Über and Lyft make it SEEM like they give really awesome and fast service. But you won’t hear from the hundreds of people who don’t even get to place an order in the first place. Cab companies will at last take your information, give you a rough time estimate, then do their best to get you a cab. Uber and Lyft just give you the back of the hand: NO VEHICLE AVAILABLE. They never even take your order. You have to try over and over again. Those people are the same as people who place orders with a cab company and have to wait for a cab. Uber and Lyft aren’t any better. It’s all a huge lie and total hype.

      • Guest

        So when no cabs are available, you’d like to be lied to instead of being told the truth?

        When Yellow Cab tells you a cab will be at your door in 20 minutes, do you have any reason to believe them? When Uber and Lyft say they have no cars available, they’re right to tell you to try again later or to use another TNC.

        Lying is not a feature, John. Honesty and transparency are. That’s why our TNCs are winning the War on Taxis.

        • John Kane

          You’re basically confused about how cabs actually work. You’re also confused about the quality of service Uber/Lyft deliver.

          If you call a cab company, they’ll give you a time estimate– If they don’t offer one, ask and they’ll probably give you one. In other words, the cab company will at least take your info and put you into a queue. Uber/Lyft won;t even do that. They’ll give you the back of the hand. You have to keep trying over and over, hoping you hit at just the right time when a vehicle is free in the area. But with Uber/Lyft you may NEVER get a cab. But they’ll never TELL YOU THAT.

          So who’s lying, the cab company who takes your info, gives you a time estimate, and puts you into a queue, or Uber and Lyft who make it sound like they’re faster than cabs when it’s basically a lottery to get one in the first place?

          Who’s really lying here? The cabs? Or the hyped up Uber and Lyft investment fund driven cab companies that never even take your info but still claim they’re always better than a regular cab?

  • Givemeabreak

    Man, these supporters are straight outta the cuckoos nest. Ride share has been called illegal from day one by the city. It still is until the new pilot program which makes them legal goes into effect. This “Election” is being bought, so I know how I’m voting already with a large group of like minded. Where is the fight for Metro? This core of entitlement needs to stop. Really? Save these multibillion dollar companies? Are they starving babies? The city is making them legal, and the cap is only a pilot program. That’s not good enough for these companies, because they want their way NOW! They know if they wait too long to dominate, their ill planned model isn’t sustainable. They need to dominate while they don’t need to pay for insurance, workers comp, and proper licensing. Otherwise their very thin margins will yield no profit. Save Uber x, give me an effing break. Haha

    • scott

      Exactly on point. The primary reason taxis are regulated and limited is to prevent anyone owning a car from deciding they’re a taxi driver.
      This is the real point at issue here, app enabled or not.
      If we allow any business to circumvent reasonable regulation in order to undercut other businesses, we go back to the early 20th century, when you ate a hot dog at serious risk to your health.
      I personally think our ‘guests’ are paid trolls.
      I’d like to see any of them post exactly how much they’ve saved by using Uber.
      I’d also like to see them justify Uber’s ‘demand based pricing’ that means your New Year’s Eve taxi might cost you $200.
      There’s a word for that: price gouging.
      Taxis can’t do that.
      So trolls, explain why ‘demand based pricing’ doesn’t violate the law.
      Plenty of published examples. May go dig up a couple to show you.

      • Sotirios Rebelos

        Agreed with the 2 previous comments. Buying an election, and IF it even makes it to a vote, and IF it even was to pass, this terminates any safety provisions that these companies at MINIMUM must meet. Including insurance to protect the driver, passenger and pedestrians. Also, they would be voting themselves once again into an illegal operation if it was to pass since they are now legalized by the council.

  • margaret Bartley

    This is an unusually vitriolic discussion. It’s hard to believe that passive-aggressive Seattlites are doing this.

    I wish the article had said more about what was in the intiative, how it handled insurance and accountability.

    What i don’t get is the automatic assumption that limiting the number of taxis is good. It seems like a market-place issue, like the number of grocery stores. If there are too many cabs, the price will go down to the point where people won’t find it worthwhile to drive, and the price will then steady out.

    Insurance should be not only for liability, but also as a stiff penalty if the cab doesn’t get you there because of maintenance issues or driver-ignorance issues. Other than that, what else is there to rule on?

    Whether or not the car looks pretty is irrelevant to me, although I recognize other people have other standards, but that’s what branding is for. People who only want to drive in new cars can use a cab company that only dispatches new cars. Or they can request and pay more for it.

    The only reason I can see for adminstratively limiting the number of vehicles is because someone is getting rich off graft. I’ve never seen anyone explain how they decide who gets the licenses. That area is very susceptible to corruption, and I think it is up to the supporters of the current regime to be more transparent about how it works. I can’t believe South Asians are the only people who want to be taxi drivers. How come they are the majority of drivers? That seems highly suspicious. Let’s get some sunshine in this discussion.

  • ClaimsAdjuster

    In about eight days, a new UberX customer will press a button on his app to get aride. He will direct the driver to take him to downtown. When they get to the destination, the passenger will tip the driver and give him a four star rating. Before he gets out of the vehicle, the passenger will show the driver his Seattle taxi inspector ID. The inspector will ask the driver to produce his for-hire license. When the driver responds that he does not have a For Hire license, the inspector will write the driver a $1,000 ticket.

    The inspector will then get out of the UberX vehicle. He will then press the button on his newly downloaded Lyft app. This will happen either under the new For Hire legislation set to go into effect on April 19th or it will happen under the current law.

    • Guest

      No! Don’t fine my UberX drivers. Any service this convenient must be legal.

  • John Kane

    GeekWire’s coverage on issues surrounding these hedge fund-fueled cab services, although informative at times, definitely slants hard on the pro-ride sharing, pro-Uber, pro-Lyft side of the ledger.

    Just a small example: these companies are powered by huge amounts of hedge fund investment money. They have lots of money to throw around too– as reported on GeekWire and elsewhere.

    But this article actually makes little mention of it. For example, the caption on the photo of the guy seeking petition signatures says “A ride-sharing coalition group has hired…” I mean that actually makes it seem so innocuous and so very democratic. Who knew that hedge fund investors pumping millions of dollars into communities to destroy decent, well-paying jobs was simply an ordinary, run of the mill “Coalition of groups” just innocently seeking your signatures?

    Or look at all the photos of the Uber and Lyft “supporters” exercising their democratic rights. No sign of hedge fund dollars there.

    Or even look at how the whole story is written. It really emphasizes the alleged democratic nature of the Uber, Lyft, Sidecar supporters as if we’re really expected to believe they are all just ordinary mom and pop, grass roots supporters…. Nope, no sign of hedge fund dollars there! just ordinary citizens organizing.

    But then what about the cab drivers, their families, their supporters? Aren’t they, too, just regular ordinary citizens organizing for democratic action, seeking their rights within the system? Aren’t they also using the democratic process to urge the city of Seattle to enforce the rules of a clearly regulated market? It’s not really democratic and fair for Uber, Lyft, Sidecar to simply leap over those rules, now is it? Isn’t seeking enforcement of those rules also a pro-people democratic process?

    Well, if you believed GeekWire’s presentation, no, those are just smelly, old cab drivers, and cab drivers aren’t really cute and cuddly like the Lyft, Uber, Sidecar supporters.

    GeekWire is clearly biased.

    • Guest

      Hedge funds are good, John, not bad. Pouring billions of dollars into helping me get home cheaply and safely means that you and I should be thanking hedge funds, not slandering them.

      Hedge funds are good. If you disagree, you’ll need to explain why. Please don’t resort to prejudice and hatred, like those assholes in San Francisco do all the time. God, do I despite those assholes.

  • Slaggggg

    > “these transportation companies … were previously operating in Seattle illegally”
    How many times do we have to educate GW on this? It is not illegal do so something just because you didn’t ask permission from the government first. The services are not “illegal” just because mommy government hasn’t said yes.
    Remember: Things are legal to do, unless the government has specifically outlawed it. Not the other way around.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      It is not even debatable that what Lyft, UberX and Sidecar are doing is illegal:

      RCW 46.72.010

      “(1) The term “for hire vehicle” includes all vehicles used for the transportation of passengers for compensation,”

      RCW 46.72.020

      “No for hire operator shall cause operation of a for hire vehicle upon any highway of this state without first obtaining a permit from the director of licensing”

  • Dave McLauchlan

    Wow – what a horribly vitriolic dialog I’m seeing here. Frankly, it’s hard to understand – unless the parties have some kind of interest in either side. If that’s the case – it’d be helpful, and ethical, to declare it. FWIW, I don’t – I’m simply a VERY satisfied Uber customer (and a pretty consistently dissatisfied taxi customer).

    Here’s the thing, guys – you’re all missing the point. It doesn’t matter whether TNCs were, are or will be illegal – the point is that we should have laws that provide for safe, efficient, modern, cheap and competitive transportation options. If Uber, Lyft and Sidecar have broken the current model – and customers/voters want this model as an option – then we need to change the laws.

    To be clear – that doesn’t mean a free-for-all, and it doesn’t mean no laws. But if the TNCs have demonstrated a new model that works (and I strongly believe they have), then let’s make laws that allow TNCs to thrive, while ensuring the safety of their customers.

    The fact remains that the taxi industry was caught flat-footed by the success of the TNCs, and as old-market companies are wont to do, they’ve dug in their heels and fought disruption with the wrong weapon. One is reminded of the music industry’s response to the advent of MP3s…

    So let’s create laws that protect public safety, but otherwise get out of the way of competition and allow the best provider to win. It’s a big market – there’s room for many players, but there should no longer be any room for protectionism.

    • Sotirios Rebelos

      Well spoken. But I have to disagree on some level. The city council is doing exactly what you’re suggesting.They have allowed these services to operate legally. The issue is, now they want special treatment, AGAIN. The cap is temporary just to provide a study. You can’t just open up the flood gates on a “new” model that is uninsured and call it good. These cars are literally uninsured in most cases, and best cases only partially. And I also dis-agree with the protectionism. There is a cap on taxis as well. If this was protectionism, the new model would have been shut down a year ago. It’s not the taxi industry that has the money here. Full disclosure; I own and operate a car service, and I am huge on innovation and the use of technology. But, we do it legal, licensed and insured. It can be done. The Flywheel and Taxi Magic are other apps with another perfect example of legal innovation. It just seems the picture isn’t what it really is from these services, and that’s very alarming. With that being said, yes, the city needs safe and reliable ways to get around. Companies that choose to do this need to a) Work with the city and not hide their data b) Focus on insurance, and fully insure their drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. c) Treat their drivers with respect and make sure that both the passengers and drivers get equal service. Personally I feel each of these companies miss that mark. They are onto something in some regards, but there’s still tons of room for improvement mainly in the safety department.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      “It doesn’t matter whether TNCs were, are or will be illegal…”

      Of course is matters. Respect for the law is important. Allowing Lyft, Uber and Sidecar to incorporate insurance fraud into their business model is unjust as well as illegal. Also the fraud is a cost that is being passed on to the state’s private auto insurance policyholders.

      Then there is the issue of fair competition. Taxi drivers cannot compete with under-the-table businesses that are cutting corners on licensing, taxes and insurance.

      Lyft is now dispatching its calls to its drivers for free. The aim is to just put taxis out of business. In economics, “dumping” is a kind of predatory pricing, especially in the context of international trade. It occurs when manufacturers export a product to another country at a price either below the price charged in its home market or below its cost of production.

      • Dave McLauchlan

        @Rickyracer:disqus – the City Council is not doing as I’m suggesting because they’re putting artificial caps on a service that is overwhelmingly below market demand, in the name of a “study”. What needs to be studied? These services have been operating for 3.5 years in various cities around the world – and I would be shocked if the average collision/passenger injury rate wasn’t substantially below that of the taxi industry. Yes, get these guys insured properly, ensure they offer a safe service, and then get out of the way and let the market decide!

        FWIW – on the safety issue – I’ve never ridden in a TNC vehicle that felt unsafe, because the TNCs have QoS policies covering their vehicles. That absolutely isn’t the case with taxis (although I’m sure they have maintenance requirements), so I do question the notion that TNCs are automatically “more dangerous” because they may have differing (but not zero) insurance.

        To your point – perhaps the TNC model has demonstrated that we need to remove the cap on taxis too? I’m not arguing TNC vs. taxi, I’m arguing against arcane regulation.

        @SnarkArrack:disqus – respect for the law is important, but the law is getting in the way of innovation without offering any demonstrable safety advantages. So let’s change the law, is all I’m asking.

        I would respectfully suggest that the reason taxis can’t compete with the TNCs has nothing to do with licensing, taxes or insurance. The TNCs built a better product, a more convenient product, and one that aligned with how consumers wish to purchase transportation. They saw a legacy model (taxis) and disrupted that industry.

        If it is within Lyft’s business model to dispatch calls to its’ drivers for free, then rock on – free market capitalism at work, baby. If that is unsustainable, then Lyft will go out of business. If it isn’t, then competitors will be forced to adapt, or… you know, compete. That’s a good thing all round.

        To all on this thread – how would you feel if the TNCs, taxis and the City got together and hammered out a deal like this:

        1) TNCs agreed to the same insurance requirements as taxis
        2) Taxis agreed to the same maintenance and vehicle age requirements as the TNCs
        3) Caps on both TNCs and taxis were removed

        Would you feel like we had a fair and competitive marketplace then? What if it was just #1 and #3? Let’s identify where the real barriers to a fair marketplace are, and either make them consistent across TNCs & taxis, or remove them entirely.

        • Sotirios Rebelos

          The cap is temporary. The counsel has repeated themselves like a broken record; “We want to reward innovation, but safety first. We most likely will move to an uncapped model”. Basically these companies have just cut in line. These apps have already existed, and they were making way in a regulated taxi market. The question is this; Why don’t the ride share companies just provide full insurance coverage, use approved vehicles for the taxi & livery industry (By the way Uber Black does), and work with the city? The common sense answer would be they wouldn’t be able to undercut the cabs and profit. The answer is simple. You want to start a taxi company or car service? There’s rules. It can be done legally within the established regulation. It’s not difficult. This “grassroots” campaign is just a race for domination. Just a culling of the competition.

          As far as the safety issue, it’s a new product. Just wait another 2 or 3 years and we will actually see what happens to personal cars used as commercial vehicles maintained by people no knowledgeable with fleet cars. A) The depreciation will kill the owners wallet B) The safety of those vehicles will go out the window. Taxis and car services use cars specifically for the industry. Fleet versions of the Town Car, Crown Victoria etc. They have mechanics readily available, scheduled fleet maintenance, regularly inspected by the city and state etc. There’s been several reports of drivers admitting not one single person from these companies inspected a vehicle mechanically.

          Also keep in mind here, I’m primarily making my opposing view points visible here. Like I said, Seattle needs a safe reliable ride. I just think the consumer is not seeing the whole picture. There is so much behind the scenes to really take into account. It all really comes down to one question; Why the hell don’t these companies just end the drama and get full coverage? I already know the answer.

          • Sotirios Rebelos

            Pardon the careless spelling. Mobile.

          • Dave McLauchlan

            I think you’re making a great point – and one that the TNCs themselves have been making for a while. They’re not really running a taxi service in the old-school model. Maybe Uber Black is – as you point out, they use approved vehicles – but we’re talking about ride-sharing, not taxi services. We’re not talking about anywhere near the same kind of mileage or commercial vehicle requirements as a yellow cab, and we’re certainly not talking about fleet maintenance.

            The point is that the TNCs have disrupted the “for hire” transportation industry by allowing individuals to offer rides for compensation. The TNCs impose their own requirements on vehicle maintenance, driver performance and vehicle age. Those are self-imposed, and you better believe that they’ll need to maintain those requirements in order to provide a competitive product vs. taxicabs.

            But here’s the best part – let’s find out who is right! If the taxi industry is so convinced that fleet maintenance, depreciation protection and inspections will let them win out in the long run, then they should stick to that model. The TNCs have presented an alternative product that has proven to be loved by the masses, but it could all fall apart in a few years for the reasons you mentioned. Time will surely tell.

            However, there’s a reason that the taxi industry is currently losing out in the court of public opinion – and it may be just as you say, that the consumer is not seeing the whole picture. If that is the case, then I argue the taxi industry has done a lousy job of highlighting the benefits of their product – maintenance, inspections, etc… I for one, don’t buy it.

            All said and done, taxi hailing apps HAVE existed for a while, and at least in the US, they’re FAR behind the TNCs for adoption and mindshare. Overall, (and in my experience) the TNCs deliver a vastly superior product to the taxi industry, and the market is rewarding them for it. If left “unchecked” by the authorities, the taxi industry may be completely disrupted inside 10 years.

            So, I appreciate the civilized debate – but as a consumer I don’t want my UberX required to be a Crown Victoria, I don’t want my City Council artificially limiting an innovative, successful, and (I believe) safe product, but I do support mandating the right amount of insurance.

            As soon as the taxi industry presents a compelling refresh of their (otherwise largely crummy) service, I’ll be more than happy to review my position. In the meantime, my vote will strongly remain with amending laws/regulations that allow the taxi companies to compete on the TNC’s playing field, not vice versa.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            UberX and Lyft are not “ride-sharing”. They are transporting passengers for compensation and are defined as “for hire” vehicles under state and local laws.

        • ClaimsAdjuster

          You very uninformed on this subject. The taxi regulations require that the automobiles put on the streets of Seattle as cabs be no more than 7 years old. UberX allows cars that are ten years old to work for them.

          You seem to think that TNCs agreeing to commercial insurance is some sort of bargaining chip. It is not. They are legally required to do so. The TNCs are practicing insurance fraud – it is not just “differing” insurance as you put it.

          The TNCs can offer lower prices because they are cutting corners on licensing and insurance. Your quick dismissal of this argument show that you haven’t thought this through either. If taxis have to pay $6,500 to $13,000 for insurance while TNCs are paying $1,000, who has the competitive advantage?

          It is not part of anyone’s business model to provide their product for free. It is a temporary measure designed to put their competitors out of business at which point they can surge prices all they want.

          China also threw around free market rhetoric to justify dumping steel in the US below the cost of production. Fortunately, the US imposed tariffs on Chinese steel, leading to a resurgence in the US steel industry.

          • Dave McLauchlan

            Well, I’m not claiming to be the most informed person on this topic, but I’m yet to get a straight answer to my earlier question. I’m not challenging you on the notion that TLCs are technically operating illegally – I believe that is probably correct. But I also believe that they’re offering a safe and trustworthy service at a competitive price, and I want to keep giving them my business. In other words, as a consumer I’m motivated to help them become legal.

            Here’s the question I can’t seem to get answered:

            If the City Council were to 1) mandate that TNCs & taxis both have to carry the same, appropriate level of insurance (even if that means reducing the insurance taxis are required to have), and 2) eliminate caps on both taxi medallions AND TNCs – would you be happy?

            If the answer to that question is yes, why aren’t you pushing for it? If the answer is no, what changes would you recommend that would deliver a “level playing field” for BOTH taxis and TNCs?

  • Zohaib Butt

    It’s simple if Uberx, uber and lyft wants to be in business why don’t they go and get taxi license and and buy their own cars and be in business. I think this problem will go away. The drivers that represent these companies they are not professional drivers, they are hustlers, criminals and rapists. We already have a rape case in Dc, and many fight cases between the driver and clients. Media is not doing anything about it. Dc commission office is taking bribe from these taxi app companies.

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