Sidecar introduced a unique pricing structure earlier this week that allows drivers to set their own prices for rides. Now, one taxi organization is voicing opposition to the new feature.
The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA), a Maryland-based non-profit trade association of the private passenger transportation industry, issued a response that compares the pricing model to Uber’s surge-pricing strategy, which raises the cost of a ride when demand increases.
“If Sidecar drivers can set their own price, would taxi drivers also be allowed to do this?” TLPA CEO Alfred LaGasse said in a statement. “It’s one thing to shop for the best price for a pair of shoes, but should you have to bargain and haggle when you need a trip to the doctor, airport, in a snowstorm or during a natural disaster?”
LaGasse noted that taxicab rates are regulated by government while prices set by startups like Sidecar have no bounds.
“Sidecar drivers will gouge passengers at will, violating local laws against this that have been in place and protecting citizens for decades,” he said.
San Francisco-based Sidecar, which launched its app-based service in Seattle 15 months ago and enables everyday drivers to shuttle people around town, has nearly 1,000 drivers in Seattle.
The new pricing model come as city governments around the country try to figure out how to regulate companies like Sidecar, Lyft and UberX. The debate is particularly rabid here in Seattle, where a Sidecar spokesperson tells us that there are nearly 1,000 Sidecar drivers making money from the service.
The Seattle City Council’s Committee for Taxi, For-hire, and Limousine Regulations has been going back-and-forth on this issue for several months now. Many in the tech industry have argued that the ride-sharing 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.
The Committee originally planned to vote this past Friday on a proposed ordinance that would cap the number of UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers in the city to 300, but delayed the vote to Feb. 27.
See all of our coverage on the ride-sharing issue here.