City Council passes ride-sharing regulations. Again.

A new set of rules without limits on the number of ride-sharing vehicles on the city's streets appeases companies like Lyft and Uber.
Rideshare companies catch a break with Mayor Murray's new plan.

Rideshare companies catch a break with Mayor Murray's new plan. Credit: Raido Kaldma

The months-long saga surrounding ride-sharing regulations in Seattle finally neared an end Monday, as the City Council approved legislation that would allow services like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX to operate legally within the city limits.

The council voted 8-1 to approve a bill based on a compromise recently brokered by Mayor Ed Murray's Office between ride-sharing companies and members of the traditional taxi and for-hire vehicle industry. Councilmember Mike O'Brien cast the lone no-vote, expressing concerns over ride-sharing insurance standards and saying that the council had taken too little time to thoroughly vet the bill.

"It's great," said Uber's Seattle general manager, Brooke Steger. "It's been a year-and-a-half of so much work."

Murray issued a statement applauding the council action, and he is expected to sign the measure into law.

The newly approved legislation outlines requirements for ride-sharing auto insurance, driver licensing and vehicles. It also calls for the city to issue 200 more taxicab vehicle licenses over the next four years and allows flat-rate for-hire drivers to pick up passengers who hail them on the streets. Under current rules, there are 688 taxicab licenses available in Seattle and flat-rate drivers can only pick up passengers who have called to arrange rides in advance.

Taxicab licenses will also be converted to a medallion system, which will allow owners to use them as collateral for bank loans. And a 10-cent surcharge will be added to fares in for-hire and ride-sharing vehicles that are not equipped for riders with wheelchairs. The money will go to a fund that helps support wheelchair-accessible taxi service.

Ride-sharing, taxi and for-hire representatives involved in the discussions arranged by the Mayor's Office had urged the council to approve the bill. Monday's vote was the second time in recent months that the council has passed an ordinance with ride-sharing rules.

The council approved legislation in March, which capped the number of vehicles each ride-sharing service would have been allowed to have on the city's streets at any one time at 150. Ride-sharing companies objected to that rule, saying that the vehicle caps would make their business model untenable in Seattle. Although Mayor Murray did not support the caps, he signed the ordinance into law.

Uber and Lyft then contributed just over $1 million to a referendum campaign that would have repealed the ordinance, according to the most recent Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission figures.  

Once the campaign had collected enough signatures to get the referendum on the ballot, the ordinance was suspended until a vote could take place. After that, the mayor initiated a mediation process that led to the compromise legislation. The referendum effort was called off as a part of the mediation process. But if the council did not act to swiftly approve the compromise bill, Lyft and Uber said they would move forward with a separate ballot initiative, which included the companies' own preferred set of ride-sharing regulations.

"The time frame under which we're doing this is not ideal," Sally Clark said during Monday's meeting, alluding to the pressure created by the initiative.

Clark chaired a committee that did the bulk of the work on the original set of regulations, which the council voted to repeal last week. The committee process involved a series of meetings that began in the spring of 2013 and featured consistently packed council chambers, and public comments sessions marked by furious debate between backers of the traditional taxi and for-hire industry and proponents of ride-sharing.

"This landscape will continue to change, this landscape will continue to move based on the economics, based on the technology, based on some of the cultural shifts about where drivers want to work," Clark said shortly before casting her vote in favor of the new bill.

Insurance requirements remained a thorny issue on Monday, as they have throughout much of the discussion about how to regulate the new car services, which allow passengers to request rides using a smartphone app from drivers piloting personal vehicles. The city refers to the ride-sharing services as Transportation Network Companies, or TNCs. 


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Comments:

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 11:15 p.m. Inappropriate

O'Brien has a point -- why not allow a week or two to READ the whole ordinance? Imagine if he had been in Congress when Obamacare was being considered.

simorgh

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 10:39 a.m. Inappropriate

This isn't so much a regulation as it is a complete capitulation to the whole "TNC" group.

They got their way via threat of lawsuit and initiative.

Now, we learn the Council is even further eroding driver and rider safety by doing away with the requirement of cabs to have video cameras, so the TNC's don't have to follow suit.

This will just hasten the eventuality of another driver murder, or rider rape, which was the reason for the video systems in the first place.

They've already rolled over on proper insurance coverage.

We all lose!

elbowman

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 5:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Washington has one of the highest percentages of uninsured drivers of any state -- 16%, among the top ten. So Why is all the indignation about uninsured drivers aimed at TNC's?

Anyone else smell astroturf lobbying here?

simorgh

Posted Wed, Jul 16, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

If Washington has one of the highest percentages of uninsured drivers of any state I would definitely be worried about the TNC's. When I read the comments about their Insurance, all I can do is fear the potential consequences.

Taximan

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 1:49 p.m. Inappropriate

It was all about real or imagined pressure from the TNC's in the end. Not "innovation" Not a "transportation network." The Council would not have caved (sans O'Brien), if not for that.

It's all about the money, not the service.

It does not really address the needs or the issues with TNC's that ARE Taxi's. It's now a convienent distraction from establishing a real transportation network. After all, you supposedly ditch owning a car, for a low-rent TNC chauffeurred one? Still using a car, and contributing to congestion...

BTW, You think Crosscut could establish a ReCaptcha that is actually readable by a human without dozens of tries?

Marksp

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