Seattle’s reputation as a leading city for innovation is about to take a hit.
At least that’s what Lyft co-founder John Zimmer thinks. Speaking at Wednesday’s rally for supporters of the ride-sharing movement, Zimmer cautioned that if Seattle approves proposed regulations — which would cap the number of UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers to 300 and limit drivers to 16 hours of work per week — it will make the city’s leaders look bad.
“Seattle unfortunately will be making national news that puts Seattle’s leaders of this great city in a bad light on a national stage,” Zimmer told the crowd at City Hall.
Seattle’s City Council Committee for Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations will vote on the two-year pilot program Friday, and if approved, the Full Council will vote to approve it next week.
Zimmer’s big problem with the city’s proposed ordinance is the cap on UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers. Much like he’s said in previous interviews, Zimmer has trouble understanding why Seattle doesn’t follow the lead of California and its regulations, which do not have caps on drivers or the number of hours they are allowed to drive.
Zimmer also addressed insurance and safety issues, which the committee has made a priority in its discussions for the past several months. He said that Lyft already has more strict criminal background and driving record checks than what the city requires (see below for more details). Zimmer noted Lyft’s recent improvements to its insurance coverage, in addition to a new Peer-to-Peer Rideshare Insurance Coalition it has started.
“We are 100 percent supportive of safety regulations that fully understand the model,” he said.
Zimmer added that companies like Lyft and Sidecar will actually help the taxi business, not hurt it.
“This is not a zero-sum game,” he said. “All the services are very important. When we have all of these services, it makes it easier to not own a car. When you don’t own a car, you have to use all these services — including existing industries — more and more.”
Eastside For-Hire manager Samatar Guled was also at the rally and caused a bit of drama when he stood near each speaker and held a photo of the six-year-old girl who was killed by an Uber driver in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve. It appeared he was trying to make a point about the ride-sharing companies and safety issues.
“This is not about fun, or giving fist bumps and having pink mustaches and pink balloons,” Guled told us. “This is serious stuff. This is fairness.”
Guled is frustrated that his for-hire company, which is regulated by the city, is forced to abide by Seattle’s rules while the ride-sharing startups have operated without any oversight. He said that he understands why the city wants to limit the number of transportation providers — “if you flood the market, no one is going to make a living and service levels will go down,” he said — but noted that there has to be a balance between innovation and fairness.
“I hope on Friday that they will make the right choice and make everyone compete on the same level playing field,” Guled said.
If the city does indeed go forth with its proposed regulations, it will certainly put a large number of Lyft, Sidecar and UberX drivers out of work. Derrin Harvey, one of the original Lyft drivers in Seattle, spends 40 hours per week shuttling passengers around town and said he can’t live off 16 hours of work every week.
“This cap of 100 drivers and 16 hours per week is ridiculous,” he said. “They may as well just ban us all together.”
We’ll be at the committee meeting Friday, so check back on GeekWire for more coverage. In the meantime, here’s a table Lyft just created to show its safety and insurance rules already in place: