lyft-pinkA new ordinance from Seattle’s City Council Committee for Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations proposes to cap the number of Lyft, Sidecar and UberX drivers while increasing the number of taxicabs in Seattle.

The committee, which is set to vote on the two-year pilot program Friday, just updated its ordinance and it includes a few minor changes from the original draft proposed in December.

The first draft limited the “transportation network companies” — Sidecar, Lyft, UberX — to no more than 100 vehicles each. Now, the updated draft states that the city will issue 300 total TNC driver permits by lottery.

So, instead of capping the number of drivers each company may have, the city wants to cap the overall number of TNC drivers. That means, for example, Seattle could end up with just 300 Lyft drivers, which would exclude Sidecar and UberX from having any drivers. In the original ordinance, each company was allowed up to 100 drivers each — now, however, one company could have more or less than 100 drivers depending on the lottery winners.

The new ordinance keeps the original 16-hour per week limit for each driver. However, here’s a new addition:

TNC drivers shall not be in control of a for-hire vehicle for more than 12 hours spread over a total of 15 hours in any 24-hour period. Thereafter, such TNC driver shall not drive any for-hire vehicle until 10 consecutive hours have elapsed.

The new ordinance also requires TNC vehicles to be no more than seven years old; the original ordinance had a 10-year requirement.

There are also new insurance regulations that have been added:

Transportation network companies shall provide a written insurance disclosure to TNC drivers. The written insurance disclosure must include the following: A personal auto insurance policy may not provide any insurance coverage when one is driving for a commercial purpose; in the event of an accident the insurance provided by the transportation network company may not provide sufficient insurance coverage, such as coverage for the TNC driver’s bodily injuries or damage to the TNC driver’s vehicle; and the TNC driver may need to consider buying a commercial auto policy. The written insurance disclosure must be signed by the TNC driver.

Aside from slight changes to the wording, this insurance rule has remained the same:

In the event the TNC driver fails to maintain personal or commercial auto insurance or the TNC driver’s insurer denies coverage for the claim, the Transportation Network Company’s auto insurance shall be primary. In the event the limits of liability provided by the TNC driver’s personal or commercial auto insurance are exhausted due to claim payment and/or settlement, the transportation network company’s auto insurance will drop down over exhausted limits.

The city also wants to add 75 taxicab licenses in 2014, and 75 more in 2015.

[Related: As Seattle decides fate of ride-sharing startups, Washington state gets involved]

If approved by the committee this Friday and then by the Full Council and Mayor next week, the regulations will take effect 30 days later. The original ordinance called for the pilot program to end on December 31, 2015; the new ordinance calls for a June 30, 2016 sunset.

For comparison, Seattle’s proposed regulations are far more stiff than that of California’s, which do not have caps on drivers or the number of hours they are allowed to drive.

New Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.
New Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

We sat down with Mayor Ed Murray just a few minutes ago and he offered his perspective on this issue. First and foremost, Murray said he’s concerned with the TNCs and their insurance policies, particularly in light of the lawsuit Uber is fighting in San Francisco.

“They’re not covering the level of insurance that I believe they should cover,” he said.

The new ordinance requires the TNCs to have auto liability insurance that provides a minimum of $1,000,000 per accident coverage for accidents involving a TNC driver and vehicle while active on an app’s dispatch system.


Lyft, which just updated its insurance policy, has had a $1,000,000 excess liability policy in place. Sidecar has a similar $1,000,000 policy, as does Uber.

However, Murray said that if the TNCs “commit to a level insurance that the Council wants and that I want,” he’s in favor of removing any sort of caps for the TNCs and adding more taxi licenses in Seattle.

“I’m very concerned about caps,” Murray said. “I’m very concerned that the ridesharing companies are actually assisting us in getting people to not buy cars or drive cars. But you have to balance it out with the safety issue.”

You can read the new ordinance here. Here’s the agenda for Friday’s meeting:

NOTICE: Public comment sheets will be available for sign up at 9:00 a.m. in front of Council Chambers. There will be four lines and four comment sheets available: “from or supporting the taxi industry,” “from or supporting the for-hire industry,” “from or supporting the transportation network companies,” and “other interested parties.” Please only stand in the line and sign up on the comment sheet most relevant to you. You may only sign up on one sheet. As we are anticipating a large crowd, we ask that you please be patient with the process and with each other.
Please Note: Times listed are estimated.
A. Call to Order
B. Public Comment
(10 minutes)
C. Items of Business
Transportation Network Company, Taxi, and For-Hire Vehicle Regulations— Relating to companies and drivers of a new type of for-hire vehicle in order to create a pilot program for transportation network companies and affiliated drivers and vehicles: establishing minimum operating requirements for transportation network companies and affiliated drivers; creating a permit system; imposing vehicle inspections; imposing a zero tolerance drug use policy for affiliated drivers; imposing minimum insurance requirements for transportation network companies and affiliated vehicles; requiring rate transparency for transportation network companies; and establishing licensing fees; raising the maximum number of taxicab licenses issued by the City; revising terminology; adding new sections and amending various Sections of Chapter 6.310 of the Seattle Municipal Code.
Presenter: Tony Kilduff, Council Central Staff
Continuing Workplan for Taxi, For-Hire, Limousine, and Transportation Company Regulations—Requesting that the Department of Finance and Administrative Services implement a work plan to further resolve and clarify issues relating to taxi, for-hire, limousine, and transportation network company regulations.
Presenter: Tony Kilduff, Council Central Staff
D. Public Comment (10 minutes)
E. Adjournment
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  • Guest

    Perfect. The government knows best how many cars to allocate and soon, at what price.
    Seattle really isn’t a very progressive or open town, turns out it is just like a lot of other places (besides Texas).

  • Ed O

    Why 300? Why not 30? Or 30,000?

    The best way to determine how many UberX drivers there should be is by letting people pay for as many UberX cars as they need.

  • Taxi Crap

    Taxi A-holes: you just lost my business forever. Btw, even if this passes it doesn’t matter, your days as a monopoly are over.

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      Oh please! You Lyft drivers never take cabs.

  • Guest500

    So… The city had determined the exact number of dirty, filthy, never-on-time cabs, but after an influx of alternatives the city has now determined that we need 75 more?

  • Guest

    Dear Mayor and City Council,

    I demand a high quality of car for hire, and I vote.

    Your kowtowing to the taxi industry does a disservice to the citizens who elected you. By putting business before consumers, you represent a force that is not representative of the people’s will.

    I do not work for any of the firms mentioned in this article. I am a voter, which makes me more influential than any of your corporate donors.

    Your votes and testimony will be used in advertisements to elect your pro-citizen opponents in the next elections. Your actions and my words will determine your political future.

    Choose wisely, my representatives, if you want to represent me again.

  • SnarkyOne

    “I demand a high quality of car for hire, and I vote.”

    I really get a kick out of the Seattle voter .. the stomping of little feat and that oh so righteous tone. In reality you’ll vote for the incumbents or some bumbler on Council … and most likely Murray. Hey, it was Tim Eyman fault!

    Once the City got involved I figured ride-share was in for a bumpy ride. Like the mayor, I also share the concern that drivers have adequate coverage in case of mishap to their vehicle, passengers, or themselves.

    • Guest


  • ClaimsAdjuster

    Soper: “That means, for example, Seattle could end up with just 300 Lyft drivers, which would exclude Sidecar and UberX from having any drivers.”

    Wrong, the TNCs can dispatch to For Hire vehicles and taxis.

    Soper: “The new ordinance keeps the original 16-hour per week limit for each driver.”

    Wrong. The driver is limited to 16 hours on his own ride but can work as many hours as he wants for the same TNC in a taxi or a For-Hire.

    Soper: “Lyft, which just updated its insurance policy, has had a $1,000,000 excess liability policy in place. Sidecar has a similar $1,000,000 policy, as does Uber.”

    Those policies only are in effect when the driver is in transit to a fare or has a passenger in his car. They still do not cover the circumstances seen in the SF fatality accident on New Year’s eve involving an UberX driver.

  • Willy

    Why does Seattle City Council think they should stick their noses into the transportation business? Because they want to extort more and more money for the “privledge” of driving on the beautifully paved, well maintained Seattle streets, that NEVER have potholes, and NEVER damage our cars. Why should they regulate this business, and protect the crappy service providers called taxis ? A large majority of the taxis are poorly maintained, smell like hell warmed over, and the drivers often do too. They often show up REALLY late, even if you reserve a pickup in advance. If their main beef is that they paid big money for the taxi license, the govt should refund it and level the playing field. I am a photographer, and at one time I made good money when there was little competition, and the Seattle City Council didn’t give a rats butt when big companies came in, and offered a technically advanced photography service, at a lower price…. I didn’t whine and complain, I simply studied up, invested more in my business and got more training, and improved my product too. Now I do well, and it had ZERO to do with the government that didn’t care about me in the least. Let the taxi companies teach their drivers how to take showers, use deodorant and groom themselves correctly, and there is nothing from stopping them from creating their own similar apps to automate their dispatch system. The rideshare companies focus on GOOD SERVICE, and shut down drivers who don’t provide it, while the taxi companies have ZERO feedback tracking and customer service ratings abilities. If the taxi driver provides crappy service, or stinks, tough luck, you gotta live with it or else. If UberX or Lyft drivers don’t deliver, you can use a different service, and if the driver consistently provides bad service, they’re out of business, plain and simple. When new technology arrives that revolutionizes a service or product, government needs to step out of the way and let the customers decide. When the ice delivery service became outdated with the advent of electric refrigerators and freezers, did the Seattle City Council step in and protect the Ice delivery man by extorting money from the refrigerator dealers or manufacturers? Hell no, and they have no business stepping in and telling the technological entrepreneurs and hard working drivers that they can’t provide better service than the dinosaur legacy taxi companies, that have relied on monopolies and payoffs to government to stay in business….. The Seattle City Council is operating like the mafia in this case, and essentially saying, “If you wanna do business here, you gotta do it like we always have, and you’re gonna make a payment to us.”…. It is totally ludicrous, and if they’re going to protect the taxi companies and allow them to run their outdated horrible services for a ridiculous amount of extortion money, then they’d better step in and start protecting EVERY other business out there, and simply say that money trumps customer service, because if they shut down these ride share services, that is EXACTLY what they need to do for every other industry out there…. They prey on these taxi companies, because a lot of them are foreigners who don’t have a command of the English language, and can’t verbally express themselves properly to establish their own defense. The Seattle City council simply forces them to pay up or leave, which is something you’d expect from a country like China, North Korea, or countless other countries where corruption in government trumps the will of the people, and customer service. Let the VOTERS decide this matter, not the people in Government who have their hands in the pockets of business!

  • Steve

    I agree with the city needing to excel, but do you know the taxi cab regulations? The yellow taxi cab lisence fee is $350,000, rising and dropping every year. Just for 1 cab, the owner has paid $350,000 to own that taxi, and then work for the company.They have paid this just to work in either the king county, or city, and have to pay $8,000 annually. The city regulated this, so the city should have a say in this. If each of their drives are willing to pay 300,000 + for their “uber” lisence, I am more tha happy to support them. It is unfair, and unlawful to bring in a competition like uber without having the same regulations throughout the city. Also taxi cabs have a strong foundation with meters, computers in the cars, what does uber have? An app?

  • Willy

    If taxi companies have been extorted to pay 350k just for the license, it’s time they got their money back, and cities like Seattle start earning their money for a change. This is totally outrageous, and unfair unless every other company doing business in Seattle is forced to pay the same amount. Fair is fair, and Seattle is the top city when it comes to being anti business, and pro corruption!

    • ClaimsAdjuster

      The City of Seattle does not sell taxi licenses. It gets $650 a year.

  • Joshua Taj Bozeman

    So, the mayor of seattle is open in his desire that as few people as possible buy cars. Seriously, liberalism is stupid.

    And caps? How about letting…oh, I dunno, the god damned citizens of the city decide how many for hire cars they want to use? Why are these nanny state morons so much smarter than the rest of us, and why can’t they mind their own friggin’ business for once in their lives? I guess when you’re a loser and you have no choice but to enter politics for a living, making dime on the backs of everyone else, you have to make sure you control every aspect of every life in your city.

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