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IMG_4462We’re settled in here at City Hall as members of the Seattle City Council prepare to discuss proposed regulations for ride-sharing startups, which have angered companies like Sidecar, Lyft and Uber.

Representatives from the taxi and for-hire industries speak with Councilmember Bruce Harrell after Friday's meeting.
Representatives from the taxi and for-hire industries speak with Councilmember Bruce Harrell after Friday’s meeting.

The draft ordinance would require ride-sharing companies, among a bevy of other rules, to obtain a $50,000 annual license to operate as a transportation network company, and have no more than 100 vehicles driving a maximum of 16 hours per week — limits that Uber says “hurts all Seattleites.”

California dealt with the same issue a few month ago, when the California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to legalize ride-sharing. The state did not enforce limits on number of vehicles or hours driven ultimately allowing the startups to operate.

Currently, the ride-sharing companies are driving around Seattle illegally since they’re not yet regulated by government. This has angered taxi companies, who are losing business.

Follow along with our live updates below, and feel free to comment with your thoughts:

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:33 am

OK, Taylor here, Just about ready to go. Pretty packed here. TONS of people signing up to speak. I’ll try to update as much as I can.

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:34 am

30 minutes of public comment at the end of the meeting. No way everyone gets to speak, but Sally Clark says this is just the “initial walkthrough.”

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:39 am

Follow along with the livestream here: http://www.seattle.gov/council/councillive.htm

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:40 am

A Lyft rep is handing out small mustaches to people here while the Council speaks.

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:41 am

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:42 am

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:42 am

Clark says there’s some misinformation about the draft regulations that she hopes can be cleared up in the hearing.

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:43 am

Here’s the draft ordinance: http://clerk.seattle.gov/public/meetingrecords/2013/taxi20131213_1a.pdf

Todd Bishop 12/13/20139:46 am

For more perspective from the ride-sharing companies, see Taylor’s interview this morning with the co-founder of Lyft: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/lyft-zimmer/

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:47 am

The 100 car limit was put in place “to begin in a guarded way.”

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:50 am

Now talking about keeping companies from “gaming” the system with multiple apps for one company. Ex: “Lyft 1,” “Lyft 2,” “Lyft 3,” etc.

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:51 am

Harrell talking about limiting not only the # of cars, but how many TNCs are allowed in Seattle.

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:52 am

“It’s all about the number of cars out there” — Harrell

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:55 am

Clark; “The deterioration of the taxi world is something that I don’t think we’re interested in.”

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:55 am

Harrell: “Are we limiting supply? We are. That’s the policy choice we’ve made.”

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:57 am

They’re talking about limiting the number of TNCs and entrants into the market. Harrell seems to want to have a set # allowed.

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:58 am

Talking about not having cash in taxis (no cash transactions for Lyft, Sidecar, Uber) and potential robberies that can occur. Draws chuckles from taxi drivers here.

Taylor Soper 12/13/20139:59 am

Talking about having cash in taxis (no cash transactions for Lyft, Sidecar, Uber) and potential robberies that can occur. Draws chuckles from taxi drivers here.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:04 am

Council will bring insurance experts next month to discuss how insurance requirements will work with ride-sharing companies.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:08 am

“Insurance structure from ride-sharing companies is very different. They are bringing to the market a different approach to insurance. Maybe it’s more efficient, maybe it works better.”

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:10 am

The insurance topic is very important to the Council. It’s complicated.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:13 am

City staffer Ben Noble jumps in, asks about TNCs and how they have individual drivers with different driving histories. TNCs are more individual-based vs. taxi companies, which have dictated insurance for each car.

Todd Bishop 12/13/201310:15 am

Watching on the live stream, it’s easy to see why this discussion is frustrating to the ride-sharing companies.

The council committee’s discussion of the nuances of the proposed regulations seems to be missing the larger question of the proper role of government in these types of industries. Is the city truly protecting its citizens and its own legal liability with these rules, or is it protecting the interests of an established industry that would otherwise be disrupted by new technology?

Todd Bishop 12/13/201310:18 am

Does Sally Clark get all of her information on industry trends from an unnamed reporter? Weird how often she is citing this person, whoever it is. (Not us!)

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:19 am

Still on insurance. Council is discussing when TNC drivers should be insured — when they’re driving people around, when they’re driving to pick someone up, or when they’re driving around looking for business. Three different scenarios.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:21 am

Council keeps referencing California’s rules, which are less restrictive than Seattle’s proposed ordinance. Interesting to see how much they’ve differed from that, even though it seems to be working fine in California.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:25 am

Sally Clark has made a few “funny” comments already. Seems like she wants to keep the mood light.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:27 am

This room is super packed. No open seats. I can sense the emotions of these people…very strong feelings about this. We’ll hear from the public soon.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:27 am

You can watch the Council live here: http://www.seattle.gov/council/councillive.htm

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:28 am

We also spoke with Lyft co-founder John Zimmer this morning: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/lyft-zimmer/

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:29 am

Clark again talks about the balloons in the room, makes joke.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:30 am

Someone just brought in a big poster with a bunch of signatures. Looks like this petition: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/ridesharing-fans-petition-seattle-council-reconsider-proposed-regulations/

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:31 am

Now talking about TNC fees: $50,000 per year for TNC license (or 0.35% of revenue, whichever is higher) to offset the anticipated 2-3 FTEs required to administer and oversee program.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:32 am

So, city needs that $50K from each startup to cover costs of people to manage this new regulatory system.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:39 am

Council running through bullet points that you can see at the bottom of this story: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/sidecar-uber-express-disappointment-seattles-proposed-ridesharing-regulations/

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:40 am

Noble: “We are offering a financial incentive to focus on busy times.” Remember, Council proposed a 16-hour per week limit for TNCs.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:44 am

Council talking about other cities and what they’ve done. Again, California led the way here with fewer regulations than proposed by Seattle.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:46 am

Now talking about lotteries and extra taxi licenses. Current law states that the city can only issue 35 taxi licenses in a single year. Proposed ordinance recommends issuing 50 licenses by lottery.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201310:54 am

We’re hearing about additional proposals not on current ordinance. First: allowing for-hire vehicles to pick up hailing passengers. Currently, only a “taxi” can pick someone up on the street who waves them down. Changing this would mean 200 more for-hire vehicles could now pick up anyone on the street, increasing options for customers, Council says.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201311:02 am

Sally Clark reminds everyone here that the Council is trying to figure out how to support innovation. But, she notes, the TNCs are illegal, despite being popular with consumers. “We’re trying to figure out how to make this work,” she says.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201311:05 am

Time to hear from the public. Oh boy.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201311:09 am

First speaker, who says she’t get a license and relies on ride-sharing to get around, brings poster with 1,700 signature petitioning regulations: http://www.geekwire.com/2013/ridesharing-fans-petition-seattle-council-reconsider-proposed-regulations/

Taylor Soper 12/13/201311:17 am

Steve Humphreys, CEO of FlyWheel, which works with Eastside For-Hire, talks in support of technology, but for “professional drivers.” He agrees with limited time and duration for TNCs.

Taylor Soper 12/13/201311:18 am

Henry Yates, who represents for-hire companies, just said Uber is the “Wal-Mart of the professional transportation system.” Really?

Taylor Soper 12/13/201311:23 am

Cab driver: “Let’s just level the playing field.”

Todd Bishop 12/13/201311:25 am

Next speaker identifies himself as founder and chairman of Somali-American Public Affairs Council, speaks in defense of immigrants who work in the taxi industry, and the need to protect them from ‘unfair competition.’

Todd Bishop 12/13/201311:27 am

I’m jumping in for Taylor — his battery is running low. Next speaker asks council to stop deregulating for-hire vehicles, saying it will create more problems for the taxi industry.

Todd Bishop 12/13/201311:32 am

The next speaker is one of the owners of CNG For Hire. These TNC companies come from out of state, come to this state, and have been operating for close to two year illegally, he says. The city has looked the other way, and has done nothing about it, and is now entertaining the idea of legalizing them. That is going to put for-hire companies out of business and the public at risk.

A U.S. Army veteran, he says this doesn’t represent what he fought for. Giving these companies a business opportunity is immoral, he says, to loud cheers from the audience.

Todd Bishop 12/13/201311:35 am

The next speaker says the transportation network companies (Lyft, Sidecar, Uberx) need to increase their transparency dramatically, on questions such as how many drivers they currently have. Says it’s unwise to introduce “part-time, casual drivers” into the market, and that we need professional drivers.

Todd Bishop 12/13/201311:37 am

The next speaker speaks out against the city supporting “San Francisco-based, Wall Street-supported entities” and asks for a cease-and-desist order to be sent today.

Todd Bishop 12/13/201311:42 am

That’s a wrap. Thanks for tuning in. We’ll continue to follow this issue closely on GeekWire.

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