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councilrideshare1212We’ve settled in here at City Hall, where the Seattle City Council is expected to place a cap on the number of vehicles that companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar can each have on the roads at one time at 150.

debate has been raging in the city in recent weeks over whether the new breed of companies like UberX and Lyft — which allow customers to request a ride via a smartphone and automatically pay for fares without using cash — should be able to operate in the city.

Many, including those in the tech industry, argue that these companies offer a more innovative and convenient alternative to traditional taxi cabs, and that the city should not regulate them. Others, especially those in the taxi and for-hire industry, say that the new services should be regulated or curtailed, and that they should not get a free pass on regulations simply because they utilize new methods for attracting riders.

uberxBack on Feb. 27, the Council voted 5-4 to approve the 150 cap — other options, like removing a cap, were voted down — and is expected to make that decision official this afternoon. However, I won’t be surprised if one or two councilmembers have changed their minds over the past few weeks.

Check out all of our coverage on this topic here. You can see today’s meeting agenda here. See the newest version of the proposed ordinance here. And here are the new amendments that will be discussed, among other topics, today.

If you have questions, feel free to ping us on Twitter @geekwire or @Taylor_Soper.


Taylor Soper 03/17/20141:58 pm

OK, let’s get ready to rumble. I’m told that a vote won’t actually happen until 4 p.m., so feel free to come back then. Or, if you’re bored, just sit back and enjoy some play-by-play of the cookie-eating Seattle City Council here.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20141:59 pm

Also, the City hasn’t provided any cookies here for everyone like they did last time. That was kind of a nice touch, so a little disappointed there.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:03 pm

It is again standing-room only. Again, a large contingent of UberX supporters with their “Save uberX” signs. Uber’s petition has garnered nearly 15,000 signatures today alone:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:03 pm

I don’t see many pink mustaches. Nor anyone from Sidecar.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:04 pm

Apparently Brooke Steger, Uber’s Seattle general manager, is supposed to speak during public comment time and call out the city for not following its own rules:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:07 pm

Brooke is up first for public comment.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:09 pm

Steger: “New insurance policy removes ambiguity. Please delay the vote. Ordinance draft posted late Friday night, not proper time for us to review.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:10 pm

Dawn Gearhart, rep for taxi industry: “If you can break the law long enough, you can get what you want in this city.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:11 pm

Gearhart: “Just because you don’t have smartphone or a credit card doesn’t mean you don’t deserve on demand transportation. Give the licenses to drivers. Stand up to corporate greed. Don’t let Seattle set the stage of new generation of poverty wage jobs.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:14 pm

Mike Judd drives wheelchair-enabled taxi. He says none of the ride-shares can take his passengers. “Private citizens should not be allowed to use their vehicles for commercial purposes,” he says.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:14 pm

For reference: Here’s today’s agenda:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:14 pm

Most updated ordinance:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:15 pm

New amendments to be discussed today:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:18 pm

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:22 pm

“If we limit number of drivers, we limit public safety,” says an UberX driver who was a former bar owner.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:26 pm

Samatar Guled, Eastside for Hire GM: “Uber, show us your insurance policy right now if you want a level playing field. Stop making false claims.”

“This is a fake cap. How is the city going to monitor how many cars are on the road?”

He tells Council: “it’s your responsibility to level the playing field today. No delays, no excuses.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:27 pm

Deaf, blind Uber rider is last speaker. He prefers UberX because of superior customer service. He supports other cab services, but says UberX has better service for him. Says Council should lift cap.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:30 pm

Sally Clark, who chairs the Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations, stands up to talk about today’s plan. Says that each councilmember has agenda on their iPads. So I guess each councilmember has an iPad. They also appear to have stationary desktops, too. Probably running Windows 98.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:32 pm

Clark is reading off written statement she prepared. “Can’t dodge this problem any longer,” she says. “What we decide today isn’t a complete fix, but it is a start,” she says. Notes how the first meeting for her committee was almost exactly one year ago.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:33 pm

Clark dings Uber for using robo-calling to drum up support. “That’s a bit of a new thing we can probably do without of in Seattle. Not sure it’s money well spent. “

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:36 pm

Clark clears up definitions. “UberX, Lyft are not ride-sharing companies. They are for-hire.”

She is now talking about what other cities are doing. Says San Francisco city regulators considering a cap now.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:37 pm

Ordinance will release 200 taxi licenses for next two years, Clark says.

Also, seems a phone ring goes off every 10 minutes. Vibrate setting, people.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:38 pm

Super packed in here now. Like, no places to even stand in here. Everybody engaged, listening closely to Clark.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:41 pm

Now she’s detailing the logic behind 150 cap. Says it minimizes possible rush to drive for TNC drivers, which she says San Francisco is facing.

By the way, TNC is “transportation network companies,” which is the city’s definition for companies like Lyft, UberX, Sidecar.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:45 pm

Clark notes how much money each TNC has raised in last year: Sidecar ($10M), Uber ($237M), Lyft ($83M). “Congratulations to them for making a great pitch to venture capitalists.”

“It begs questions,” Clark said. “You are doing so many things right, but if you would only communicate and collaborate better with regulators … How you raised this much money and not had a better plan to engage with regulators is amazing. How many wars can you wage simultaneously in cities and states in the U.S.? It’s incredible.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:45 pm

For taxi companies, Clark says that this is a “wake-up call, a warning shot.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:46 pm

OK, Clark monologue over. Now we go into amendments.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:47 pm

Council adopts all of these minor amendments:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:47 pm

Now moving to these more important ones:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:47 pm

Councilmember Tim Rasmussen’s amendment up first, which is to remove caps. If this passes …

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:48 pm

So, each councilmember stands up with the microphone when they want to speak at these full Council meetings.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:49 pm

Rasmussen: “No compelling data that we should limit the TNCs. Seattle needs more transportation options.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:50 pm

Rasmussen said he’s heard from 12,000 supporters of UberX, Lyft, etc.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:50 pm

“Let’s listen to what public is saying. Let’s not cut supply when demand is so high.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:51 pm

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw is “fully in support” of Rasmussen’s amendment. She’s standing up, speaking with mic. “No caps is the only way to have fair transportation,” she says.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:52 pm

Nick Licata asks, “How do you see the industry developing and avoiding what we see in San Fran where we have 4,000 for-hire vehicles and the impact it’s had on ability to make living, and the public safety.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:54 pm

Bagshaw: “Pie is growing. Data shows that more and more people are choosing to use somebody else to drive them.

If we can get the right insurance, make sure cars are safe, what will happen in our city is that we’ll give it a real valid test. We’ll see increase in demands, and more drivers to address demand.”

Bagshaw repeats that public safety is important here.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:55 pm

Licata asks insurance question to Rasmussen. Rasmussen doesn’t know the answer and tries to defer to Clark, who he says knows more about it. Lol.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:56 pm

The insurance question is very complex — who is responsible for what coverage, and when? — and I’m surprised the Council didn’t discuss this more last time. We’ll see if we get into it here.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:58 pm

Bruce Harrell speaking now. He is really against removing a cap. He wonders how you can regulate one side (taxis) and let the others (TNCs) operate freely.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:59 pm

Tim Burgess approves the amendment. “Someone told me that trying to limit TNC would be like prohibiting Netflix because we wanted to protect Blockbuster.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20142:59 pm

That’s three…

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:00 pm

Unsurprisingly, Amendment 2, to remove caps, fails. Bagshaw, Burgess, Rasmussen voted in favor, but it fails 6-3. Big applause from taxi peeps here.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:01 pm

Mike O’Brien getting into insurance. “Haven’t seen any insurance policies, we don’t know what’s being covered.” His proposed amendment 3, requires TNCs to follow state rules for commercial insurance.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:02 pm

Here are all the amendments for reference:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:04 pm

Amendment 3 unanimously adopted.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:05 pm

Amendment 4 is adopted unanimously. It clarifies reporting requirements for Director of FAS.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:05 pm

Amendment 4 is adopted unanimously. It clarifies reporting requirements for Director of FAS. Fairly minor.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:06 pm

Amendment 5 is a little more important here. It delegates authority to adjust/lift caps on TNCs to Director of FAS.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:06 pm

Amendment 5, sponsored by Clark and Godden, is a little more important here. It delegates authority to adjust/lift caps on TNCs to Director of FAS.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:07 pm

Amendment 6, sponsored by O’Brien, would give that responsibility to City Council instead of one person (Director of FAS).

By the way, this is FAS:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:09 pm

Harrell supports Amendment 6. I am surprised Clark wants Amendment 5, which would delegate a very important decision to one person instead of the Council.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:10 pm

Rasmussen supports Amendment 5. “This process of not setting limits should be data driven, objective and not political as it has been.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:14 pm

Harrell: “We are in politics and we want to avoid political process? This is political and we should step up and embrace it. How often do we have a room packed like this? Not very much. We should have this process where we make this process. And yes, it should be data driven. That’s one reason why I don’t understand how you support no caps.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:14 pm

Harrell: “We are in politics and we want to avoid political process? This is political and we should step up and embrace it. How often do we have a room packed like this? Not very much. We should have this process. And yes, it should be data driven. That’s one reason why I don’t understand how you support no caps.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:15 pm

Amendment 5 fails.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:15 pm

Amendment 6 up now. Clark — who sponsored Amendment 5 — now says she supports 6. Wut.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:16 pm

Amendment 6 passes.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:18 pm

Amendment 7 up now. Allows TNCs to use insurance providers that have lower grades. Current ordinance requires a very high grade. O’Brien wants to allow a larger pool of qualified insurers.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:18 pm

Again, amendments here:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:20 pm

Clark is against Amendment 7.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:21 pm

Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:22 pm

Amendment 7 passes 7-2.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:24 pm

Amendment 8 passes.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:26 pm

Amendment 9, sponsored by Godden, would prevent Uber and Lyft from making several spinoffs to escape the cap — like UberX, UberY, UberZ.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:27 pm

Godden vs. Bagshaw now. Oh, man. They are discussing Amendment 9. Bagshaw wonders if a group of taxi drivers wanted to start a TNC, could they do it with this amendment?

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:28 pm

“Can’t have one TNC company funding another TNC company,” says Godden.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:33 pm

Done with amendments. Clark now thanking O’Brien, Harrell for work on the subcommittee for this. They’ve all put a lot into this decision, that’s for sure.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:35 pm

Thanking assistants, city staff for all the work.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:36 pm

Godden thanks Clark, Harrell, O’Brien for taking on this committee.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:37 pm

Rasmussen, who wanted no caps: “This bill is not perfect, but now TNCs can operate legally.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:38 pm

Rasmussen: “This is a wake-up call for the city in terms of how transportation system is changing.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:38 pm

“This is a wake-up call for taxi industry. It has to change in order to thrive. Now you have time to do that.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:42 pm

Harrell: “We’re still missing the mark on a few key issues. This is about as good as it’s going to get.”

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:45 pm

Harrell: “The headline should not read City Council capped anything. It should read that it allowed rideshares to come into industry.”

Noted, Harrell.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:46 pm

Councilmember Swant plugs her support for higher minimum wage.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:46 pm

Councilmember Sawant plugs her support for higher minimum wage.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:49 pm

There ya go, peeps. Bill passes unanimously.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:50 pm

No reaction from crowd, really. It’s the same resolution the Council voted 5-4 to approve in February.

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:57 pm

Story here:

Taylor Soper 03/17/20143:58 pm

I’ll try to get some reaction now, but nothing really changed from what was approved last month:

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