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lyft-pinkMembers of a Seattle City Council committee will meet Friday morning to discuss a draft ordinance to regulate ride-sharing companies such as Lyft, Sidecar and Uberx in the city— proposing a two-year pilot program designed to ensure public safety and a create a more level playing field with taxicab companies.

The draft ordinance would require drivers to get a special permit and submit their vehicles for inspections, with a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy and other requirements. It would also mandate that ride-sharing companies obtain a $50,000 annual license to operate as a transportation network company, with no more than 100 vehicles.

[Follow-up: Sidecar, Uber not happy with Seattle’s ‘anti-competitive proposed ride-sharing regulations]

And in an example of how far the city is prepared to go in regulating ride-sharing companies, the ordinance outlines guidelines for “trade dress” — defined as “the unique visual element associated with a transportation network company that is attached to a vehicle affiliated with a TNC so the public and passengers can identify the vehicle as being associated with that particular TNC.”

Yes, even the pink Lyft mustache would be regulated. Specifically, the draft ordinance says, “The trade dress may be placed on the vehicle body, but not on the roof or covering any windows, vehicle lights, or obscuring the view of any mirrors, and cannot exceed 4 square feet.”

The discussion tomorrow by the Seattle City Council Committee on Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations follows earlier rumblings about the city potentially shutting down the ride-sharing services, which ultimately didn’t happen.

There won’t be a vote on Friday. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the ordinance and the new approach, and gather feedback in advance of a vote next month.

We’ve contacted Lyft for comment on the proposed regulations, which are available in full in this PDF. Also see this summary, below, from city staff.

Summary of Draft Taxicab and For-hire Legislation 

Transportation Network Companies (TNC) 

  • Purpose – To address public safety and consumer protection issues associated with mobile “app” dispatch companies using unlicensed for-hire drivers to provide transportation services.
  • Entire “program” is a pilot. Licenses will expire on Dec 31, 2015 unless Council acts to extend.
  • Maximum of 100 vehicles per TNC (minimum of 15).
  • Can only dispatch through an individual, exclusive mobile “app”, with all payments via credit/debit card (no cash).
  • May not dispatch Taxis, but can dispatch licensed For-hire Vehicles.
  • All drivers must have a TNC Driver’s Permit (see below) or a For-hire Driver’s License.
  • Must enforce a “zero-tolerance” drug/alcohol policy for drivers.


  • Must have an “umbrella” $1 million policy – per incident, with City as a named insured.
  • Copy of policy must be submitted to the FAS Director.
  • Must include underinsured motorist coverage.
  • Must be in effect while vehicle is “active” on system. This includes times when the driver is waiting for a call, but has not yet been dispatched.
  • Policy must meet State requirements and FAS Director will determine whether policy provides adequate coverage to protect public.


Must arrange for third party to conduct a 19-point safety inspection of all vehicles.

Vehicles not subject to more complete inspection by City (e.g. For-hire Vehicles), are restricted to 16 hours per week. (Limits use of vehicles that are not subject to City’s full inspection regime. Commercial Taxis and For-hire Vehicles accumulate many more miles than a typical private vehicle.)

Rates – different possible structures: 

  • Distance charge based on zones, which can vary by time of day.
  • Any distance/time rates measured by smart phone GPS must be cleared through the State.
  • Rate structures must be clear to customers (transparency) and description of rate structure must be filed with the City.

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.

Records – TNCs shall maintain driver and vehicle records and collect data such as dispatch and revenue records, vehicle collision reports, and passenger complaints. The City has the right to inspect TNC records at any time.

Transportation Network Drivers 

  • Must be 21 and must obtain a TNC Driver’s Permit or a For-hire Driver’s License. Providing services without a permit or license results in a $1,000 civil penalty for first violation, criminal misdemeanor for second.
  • TNC Driver’s Permit will require taking a course, including instruction in defensive driving and driver safety, and passing an associated test. Process will be less extensive than that for a For-hire Driver’s License, but with emphasis on safety issues.
  • Permittee applicants will be subject to a criminal background check and a driving record review – same as current requirements for a For-hire Driver’s License.
  • RenewalCity /County will determine initial eligibility and issue permit. TNCs have an ongoing obligation to review driver’s DOL and criminal records and arrange vehicle inspections. Prior to annual renewal, TNCs shall certify the eligibility of drivers and vehicles.
  • Will be limited to 16 hours per week active on the system, unless they have a For-hire Driver’s License. (With “lighter” training not appropriate to be a full-time driver; and restricted hours will help address peak time demand without flooding market with vehicles during off-peak hours.) $1,000 civil penalty for exceeding 16 hour requirement.
  • Can only affiliate with one TNC.
  • May not pick up hails – $1,000 civil penalty and revocation of permit or license for violation.
  • May only provide services when active on the system.
  • Must maintain personal auto insurance.


Authorize up to 50 new licenses to be issued by lottery, under rules set by FAS.

For-Hire Vehicles 

  • Clarify that any trip booked through an “app” is prearranged, regardless of timing.
  • Per above, For-hire Vehicles and For-hire Drivers may operate on a TNC without the hours limit imposed on other drivers and vehicles.
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