If you’re looking for a ride in Seattle these days, waiting for an Uber vehicle will likely not take more than 10 minutes.
That’s because there are more Uber drivers on the city’s roads than ever. This is particularly true for UberX, Uber’s cheaper service that allows everyday people to use their own vehicles to transport people around town.
I took a couple UberX rides in Seattle this weekend, and both of my drivers said that there are now more than 2,000 UberX drivers.
Back in March, Uber said it had 900 UberX drivers in Seattle. That means in just four months, that number has more than doubled.
The influx of new drivers comes as Seattle prepares to enforce new regulations for services like UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar — also known as transportation network companies (TNCs). The City Council last week approved new legislation that will create a regulatory framework for the companies to operate in.
That law, which will require TNC drivers to pay for licenses, will be enforced some time in the next 90 days. How many drivers decide to pay licensing fees in order to continue driving remains to be seen.
But it’s clear that the TNCs are outnumbering taxi and for-hire vehicles by wide margins. In March, there were about 2,000 combined Lyft and Sidecar drivers — that number has likely increased since then and there very well could be more than 4,000 TNC drivers in Seattle.
For context, there are just 688 taxi licenses and about 200 for-hire vehicles in Seattle. While the new legislation will add 200 taxi licenses over the next four years — the first time the city has increased taxi licenses in more than two decades — the TNCs appear to be taking over the market.
Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger wouldn’t specify how many drivers Uber now has, but noted that “we partner with thousands of drivers in the Western Washington region.”
Meanwhile, while taxis and for-hire vehicles must adhere to rates set by the City, the TNCs have continuously dropped their prices. In June, UberX slashed its prices by 25 percent in Seattle, while Lyft did something similar in April.
It will be interesting to see if Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar continue to add drivers to their platforms, and whether or not more customers start using their services. It’s a transportation supply and demand experiment that would have never happened had the City Council decided to cap each company’s active driver count to 150, like it had originally decided.
The growing demand for TNC services is not all that surprising given a study that the City of Seattle conducted last September, which noted that the market for taxi alternatives was “growing rapidly.”
But unlike Seattle, some cities have kept companies like Uber and Lyft out of its cities. For example, today Seoul began banning Uber and said it would create its own app dispatch system.