The Seattle City Council is expected today to place a cap on the number of vehicles that companies like Lyft and UberX can each have on the roads at one time.
Up for vote at today’s 2 p.m. meeting — which we’ll be live-blogging from — is a regulation that would limit that number to 150 for each transportation company. At a Feb. 27 meeting, the Council voted 5-4 to approve that rule and should make it official this afternoon. If Mayor Ed Murray gives his thumbs up, the law would go into effect 30 days later.
However, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see a few councilmembers change their mind after today’s discussion given how close the vote was last month and what has happened in the past three weeks.
The app-based companies, which allow everyday drivers to shuttle people around town, have updated their insurance policies and revealed driver data that address two issues —among many others — that the City Council has discussed in-depth for the past year.
But the companies have still not shared exactly how many drivers they have, on average, on Seattle’s roads at one time. There’s also been a constant concern over their insurance policies, which are not quite up to the city’s proposed standards and despite the improved coverage announced last week, are still raising eyebrows from insurance experts.
So what’s this all mean for the people of Seattle? If the 150-cap is approved, passengers will likely see a decrease in available Lyft, Sidecar and UberX drivers during busy times. I live just north of downtown Seattle and it can be a little difficult finding a ride on a Friday or Saturday night into the city — that will become even tougher with the cap. The companies all say that they’ll essentially shut down operations in Seattle if the cap is enforced, though given how much marketing and community outreach they’ve done in the past few months, that could be a slow process.
But for those that enjoy the smartphone-booking technology, there are other options. Flywheel is another San Francisco-based company that has partnered with Eastside For Hire to provide its app for booking, tracking and payment. Other cab companies in Seattle also use apps like Taxi Magic.
There is a bevy of new amendments to the existing proposed ordinance on the table for discussion today, including one from councilmember Tim Rasmussen that eliminates caps altogether (three of nine councilmembers voted for that option at the last meeting).
If Rasmussen’s amendment is approved, Seattle would follow in the footsteps of California, which enacted state law this past September that does not include a cap but requires companies to obtain a license, conduct criminal background checks, establish a driver training program, and hold a commercial insurance policy with a minimum of $1 million per-incident coverage (all of which is included in Seattle’s proposal). Leaders in Olympia has not been involved on this topic quite yet, though the state does have power to overrule anything Seattle implements.
Other proposed changes include determining who dictates the adjustment of a cap after one year — the Director of FAS or the Council itself — and changing certain language to force the companies to meet state insurance requirements. Another amendment would prevent Uber, Lyft, Sidecar or any similar company from replicating businesses under a different name since the proposal only limits the number of active drivers per company and not overall drivers.
We’ll be reporting live from City Hall later today at 2 p.m., so check back on GeekWire for that.