Just a 45-minute drive down from Seattle on Interstate-5 is where the Tacoma City Council will meet this afternoon to discuss ways to regulate the app-based transportation startups.
All three companies recently started offering their services in Tacoma, home to just over 200,000 residents. The city does not have any additional regulatory requirements for UberX, Lyft and Sidecar other than a general City business license for transportation services.
However, Tacoma does have a full list of requirements for anyone who wants to drive a taxi in its city, including proper licensing, criminal background checks and training programs.
The meeting today will address five strategies that city staff have come up with to address this issue. They range from creating special laws for the companies — which allow everyday drivers to use their own cars to shuttle people around town — to prohibiting them from operating in the city at all:
Regulate Non-Taxi Services as Taxis: Regulate non-taxi transportation services the same as the City currently regulates taxi services. This would require an amendment to TMC to clarify in the definitions in the Taxi code to include other types of transportation services and subject the for-hire vehicles and drivers to the same requirements as the taxi cabs and taxi drivers.
Create Modified Non-Taxi Services Regulations: Regulate non-taxi transportation services with a modified version of the City’s current Taxi Code. Modifications could include requiring non-taxi services to have annual vehicle inspections, safety inspections, video cameras, andlor driver training. This would require an amendment to the Taxi Code to create a new regulatory scheme specifically for types of for-hire vehicles that are not taxis.
Modify the Regulations on Taxis: Reduce the current regulatory requirements on taxis by removing certain requirements. This list could potentially include removal of requirements for dispatch services and being in constant contact with a dispatcher, uniforms, monitored silent alarms, age requirements on vehicles, vehicle inspections requirements, to have maps and complaint forms available in the taxi, andlor the requirement to provide a printed receipt.
No Regulations for Non-Taxi Services: Do not create new regulations for non-taxi transportation services and allow them to operate their business with a general City business license and verification that the vehicles have received the appropriate for-hire state licenses.
Prohibit Non-Taxi Services: Do not allow non-taxi transportation services to operate in the City. This would require a change to the Taxi code specifically prohibiting these types of services.
In an interview on the Jason Rantz Show last month, Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello expressed optimism for services like Uber in his city.
“I really want Uber to come to town,” Mello said. “I’m excited about it because as someone who likes to get around town as conveniently as possible, I want as many options as possible.”
Meanwhile in Seattle, the City Council passed an ordinance to legalize and regulate these companies in March. Those rules included a cap of 150 on the amount of “active” drivers each company could have on the roads.
In response to that decision, Uber and Lyft poured in more than $400,000 to a coalition that garnered enough petitions to suspend the newly-passed ordinance regulating their companies. Mayor Ed Murray is now trying to reach a new agreement between the startups and taxi drivers, but if nothing is on the table by the end May, Murray said he’ll issue a cease-and-desist letter to Lyft, UberX and Sidecar.