Despite reaching an agreement to allow Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to operate in Seattle legally, a coalition group is still collecting signatures from citizens — just in case the city’s lawmakers don’t approve the new set of rules.
Earlier this month, the San Francisco-based startups — also known as transportation network companies (TNCs) — reached a new deal with taxi drivers and the city to legalize the TNCs and introduce other changes for taxis and for-hire vehicles.
But the Seattle City Council still must vote to approve the agreement before it actually becomes law. In the case that councilmembers reject the deal, a coalition group that has received more than $600,000 from Lyft and Uber — including $200,000 from Lyft alone this month — are gathering signatures to put an initiative on the ballot later this year.
If the coalition group, named “Seattle Citizens to Repeal Ordinance 12444,” can get at least 20,638 valid signatures of registered Seattle voters — ten percent of the total number of votes cast for mayor in the last mayoral election (206,377) — the initiative would qualify for the ballot.
Back in April, the same coalition collected more than 36,000 signatures to suspend the original TNC ordinance that was approved by City Council one month before. The ordinance would have legalized the TNCs, but also included a controversial cap on active TNC vehicles (150 per company).
The initiative would go beyond just repealing the law, laying out an alternative proposal that would establish insurance requirements, safety regulations and license fees for the TNCs.
For now, the ball is in the City Council’s court. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who oversaw the recent negotiation process, has asked the City Council to approve the agreement and repeal the original ordinance that set the limits, which would also end the coalition’s efforts to hold a public referendum on the ordinance. The City Council would then replace the old law with the new deal, and the referendum would not appear on the ballot.
Brad Harwood, spokesperson for the coalition, told GeekWire that there is a chance the referendum and initiative could both appear on the ballot later this year.
“We hope the City Council will act quickly to avoid the need for an initiative or referendum campaign,” Harwood said.
Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger also wants councilmembers to approve the new deal.
“While we are hopeful that the Council repeals the old ordinance and passes a new one based on the agreement announced last week, we have to continue supporting the Coalition’s efforts until the new ordinance is actually passed,” Steger said.
City officials have yet to announce when the City Council will meet to accept or reject the new agreement. Meanwhile, as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar continue to operate in Seattle without regulation, representatives from the taxi industry are suing the City of Seattle and the coalition group, alleging that the referendum would be invalid.