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Memo to City Council: Don’t let taxis dictate ridesharing rules

Can't we share? Cabbies circled Seattle City Hall earlier this year to protest ridesharing. Credit: Photo: Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association

I was extremely disappointed to hear that the Seattle City Council is leaning toward protecting an incredibly outdated industry – taxis – that is facing real competition from well-loved technology-backed startups.

Seattle is better than this.

I have lived in Seattle for 35 years. I decided to start my company here because Seattle is smart, innovative and progressive. At its best, Seattle is a city that supports innovative startups. As a result, it has now become a product of them — companies like Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft. Over the years I have admired local leaders who embrace disruptive companies that create jobs and opportunity and make Seattle a better place to live.

The Seattle I grew up in was pragmatic. The city council I grew up with was on the side of the consumer. They were not on the side of the people putting money in their pockets, nor were they on the side of keeping the status quo.

Seattle needs companies like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and other new competitors.

Consumers nationwide have embraced ridesharing and the benefits of competition. Just like forced retailers to improve, transportation competition promotes faster pickup times and newer, cleaner cars. Of course, competition from more drivers and more transportation services also promotes lower prices.

Better yet, reliable transportation options like Uber and Lyft actually result in fewer cars on the road and fewer miles driven because consumers pay for every mile. I know many new Seattleites who use a combination of buses, bikes and the occasional Uber or Lyft so that they can ditch their car — or their family’s second car — entirely. Myself included.

Uber and Lyft provide better service and there’s no cash involved. Riders are billed automatically. They show up on time and drivers are held accountable. Drivers can be requested on your phone, so they’re faster and easier.

So why was the City Council thinking about requiring them to ditch the app and force users to request rideshares by calling? Here’s why: The taxi companies told them that would help keep competition at bay. Why limit the number of vehicles to 100 and limit the drivers to 16 hours a week, as the Council was planning last week? Here’s why: The taxi companies told them to.

This is Seattle politics at it’s worst: Knee-jerk regulation written by big business in the name of the little guy. It’s two faced.

Seattle’s taxi companies made $75 million last year. They want to keep prices up and improve at their own pace — when they feel like it. They don’t want competition.

This is a story that’s playing out across America: In Washington, D.C., the City Council also considered a bogus taxi-company informed proposal. And, as in Seattle, officials seemed to pay a lot of attention to political contributions from taxi companies. But, in the end, enough voters spoke loudly enough that the city listened.

I hope our City Council listens to us and knocks down this bogus, competition-squashing legislation.

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