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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 the last ride-sharing meeting in December.

The ride-sharing debate in Seattle kicks into gear again this week, as the City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday for another discussion on regulating transportation companies like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX.

The Council last met on Dec. 13 to talk about a new draft ordinance that 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.

Companies like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX — which allow people to use their own car to shuttle passengers around town — are operating illegally in Seatle since they’re not yet regulated by government. This has angered taxi companies, who are regulated and are losing business.

Thursday’s meeting will again revisit a number of topics related to the ordinance, from controlling total driver hours to capping the number of ride-sharing companies to increasing taxi licenses.

lyft-pinkThe committee is also setting aside 30 minutes to hear a presentation from Property Casualty Insurers Association of America representatives. The goal is to help the committee understand the relationship between insurance coverage and transportation network companies.

It’s certainly a tricky one, especially with the lawsuit Uber now finds itself in after one of its drivers allegedly struck and killed a six-year-old girl. The girl’s family is suing Uber for wrongful death, but Uber argues that the driver wasn’t technically working during the time of the accident, so the company shouldn’t be held responsible.

That, and other related issues, is exactly what the committee will be discussing: Should startups like Lyft and Sidecar provide insurance coverage when its drivers are “live” on the systems looking to pick up a passenger, or rather only when a trip has been engaged?

Here’s what Seattle’s current draft ordinance calls for in terms of the Transportation Network Companies (the Council’s official name for startups like Lyft and Sidecar) and their insurance policies:

  • 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.

Sidecar, Lyft and UberX all expressed dismay with the proposed regulations in December. Lyft co-founder John Zimmer even told us that the City Council was “overstepping and over-reaching.”

There will be an additional committee meeting on Thursday, February 13 at 2 p.m., so no final decisions will be made this Thursday.

We’ll be at City Hall tomorrow covering all the action — as will taxi cab company reps and Lyft members — so check back at 2 p.m. for more.

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