Lyft, Uber and other peer-to-peer ride-sharing start-ups are looking pretty hapless in Seattle. That's because the Emerald City is imposing driver limits on each service in a move that the companies say is geared to protect legacy taxicab companies, Techcrunch reports. In short, the city council said there could be no more than 150 drivers at a time for each service.

The decision highlights the ongoing contention over the rapid growth of such services, which offer customers rides by connecting drivers with passengers using the Uber and Lyft mobile apps (the cars of the latter are of the pink-mustache-on-the-front variety). The question of how these drivers are insured came to light after a San Francisco Uber driver that may have been off duty (he had no passengers at the time) struck a family in a crosswalk on New Year's Eve and killed a six-year-old girl. Last September, the state of California established ride-sharing regulations designed to codify the emerging peer-to-peer transportation networks in the most populous US state.

As for Seattle, Lyft spokeswoman Erin Simpson, in a statement sent to AutoblogGreen, called the decision "a protectionist move that only serves the existing taxi and for-hire industries" and said Seattle's city council "is crushing new economic opportunities for Seattle residents who have chosen to provide rides to their neighbors." On a March 17 blog post written before the vote was finalized, someone at Uber wrote that such a decision would be "a devastating blow" and would make the service "instantly unusable for tens of thousands of riders." The company didn't immediately respond to our request for comment. For now, you can check out Seattle Councilmember Sally J. Clark's statement about the decision below.

*UPDATE: An Uber spokesman wrote to AutoblogGreen that it was "astounding that that the City Council has chosen to ignore the voices of nearly 30,000 constituents and move to put hundreds of drivers out of work" and added that "this fight is not over."
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Councilmember Clark's statement following Full Council Vote on Taxi, For-Hire Legislation

Seattle - Councilmember Sally J. Clark, Chair of the Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations, released a statement today following the final vote on Council Bill 118036, relating to companies and drivers of a new type of for-hire vehicle in order to create a pilot program for transportation network companies (TNCs) and affiliated drivers and vehicles:

"My experience on Council has been that every few years something about taxi regulations gets to the point where something has to be fixed. Realizing that avoiding a comprehensive fix is no longer possible, today my Council colleagues and I took decisive action.

"What we're voting on today isn't a complete fix, but it's a start. The first meeting of the Taxi, Limo, For-Hire Committee (March 14, 2013), started out of a need to resolve conflict between the taxis and the flat-rates and to better fund enforcement of the rules governing the existing, legacy players. The committee was tasked quickly with a different question: how do we bring new players with different business models into a regulatory framework built for a different time?

"Since that time we've heard hours of testimony at the microphone; contracted for a study of the Seattle market to get a better idea of the demand for alternatives to the personal automobile and bus; and, been deluged with calls and emails. Through all of this we've attempted to ground our work in three goals: Safety, consumer protection, and expanded mobility.

"Customers want more choices and better service. TNC vehicles will now become a legal choice with appropriate driver, vehicle and insurance safeguards.

"The limited access to taxi licenses in Seattle and King County coupled with driver and vehicle regulations that haven't kept up with contemporary service expectations and technology, made disruption not only inevitable, but welcomed by many drivers and riders. We'll change that by releasing more taxi licenses and revamping driver training and vehicle checks.

"We have much more work to do with respect to driver training, safety and customer service, vehicle licensing and re-licensing. We will be working with Mayor Murray as we track the impacts on passengers and drivers. I'm glad to see his commitment to quick and focused revamping of the city's for-hire regulations, and I hope King County regulators, our partners in all of this, are as excited as we are to crack open licensing.

"In cities across the United States and other parts of the globe, companies have chosen to launch first, ask questions later. Every city and state looks to be playing out the same debate as we're having here. In Seattle, we've now defined the regulatory framework under which UberX, Lyft, Sidecar and their followers can operate legally in the city. These rules recognize that times are changing - and that safety and consumer protection never go out of style."


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  • 22 Comments
      Level4
      • 9 Months Ago
      app-based ridesharing programs are avoiding a lot of fees local municipalities collect...it aint about protecting Taxi cab companies, it's about city revenue...get it strait..
        Joeviocoe
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Level4
        So why is the vote about limiting the number of ride-sharing vehicles... rather than to collect taxes and fees?
          Dave D
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Funny how he never gets the real point in a discussion!
      • 9 Months Ago
      Another reason why Lyft is awesome. I use it all the time :) Such nice and friendly drivers And if you haven't taken your first ride yet, enter code "PROMO1" for $25 credit. It doesn't expires and I'm almost certain that it can be used in any city Lyft is available.
      SublimeKnight
      • 9 Months Ago
      Every politician has two sets of values. The ones they pitch to voters and the ones their campaign contributors paid for. Successful politicians align these or at least ensure they'll never come in conflict. In this case, who would have ever thought that taxi union support, would ever conflict with environmental campaign promises. No matter, watching politicians squirm is always fun.
      • 9 Months Ago
      You can sign up right now with promo code “ubermeplease” and get $20 off your first UBER ride! http://uber.com/invite/ubermeplease
      Dave D
      • 9 Months Ago
      What is the difference between the Taxi's and their unions/lobbyists than the NADA dealers we've all been so inflamed about lately? It looks to be the same situation folks, just doesn't involve Tesla. So do we all ignore it then???
        JVP
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Good points. Both NADA and the cub unions are antiquated, legacy forms of business that only thrive now because of protectionist laws that their respective industries put in place. Are there any two more despised businesses that auto dealerships and taxi cabs? Innovation and disruption needs to happen with these, and consumers are literally begging for change.
        Dave D
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Dave D
        Yes, I'm an equal opportunity griper LOL I don't care if you're a republican dirt bag or a democratic dirt bag or a union or big oil, or whatever. I'm pro middle class. All of the those groups find ways to put their own interest above those of us who foot the bill: The middle class. Why should NADA be able to tell me who I have to buy a car from? Why should the Taxi unions be able to tell me who I can get a ride from? Screw both of them.
      Actionable Mango
      • 9 Months Ago
      I always know how the Seattle City Council will go on an issue. The taxi medallions get them revenue. Uber does not. It's really as simple as that. And the decision is, as always, marketed under the guise of safety. It's just like Seattle's red-light camera approval in 2008. This was sold to the citizens as a safety measure and not a revenue-generating measure. But a reporter looked at the meeting minutes where they made the decision, and not one council member talked about how much safer their constituents would be. Literally all they actually talked about was how they were going to spend the increased revenue in their districts.
        ClaimsAdjuster
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Actionable Mango
        Mango: "The taxi medallions get them revenue". What revenue? $600 per year which just pays for the regualtory staff. Seattle does not have a taxi medallion system - it does not auction licenses.
      • 9 Months Ago
      Taxi Cab companies in many communities are regulated for various reasons, including public safety, liability, equitable service to all neighborhoods, to prevent discrimination, etc. Saying that Uber and Lyft and other companies have to play by those same rules is not "protecting" the "legacy" cab industry. It's saying that in order to have a functioning market that serves the public good at some minimal level, companies like Uber and Lyft have to play by those same rules because-- whether or not you regard them as a "taxi cab" service or not-- they provide the same basic service and therefor should be held to the same basic standards. A good example of the kind of discrimination that Uber and Lyft engage in is that they do not guarantee rides to people who use wheelchairs. In my city, the cab companies have to provide that service to everyone. And if there is a person in a large electric wheelchair, the cab companies have collectively picked one company that has a ramped vehicle to service those individuals. Lyft and Uber can't be bothered to service everyone in many communities. They don;t want to play by the rules. They just want to skim the most profitable calls off the top and leave the rest of you to only dream about getting a ride from Lyft and Uber. Rememeber that the next time their app says "No Drivers Available."
      • 9 Months Ago
      The whole ride-sharing business model is a power grab played out in slow motion on local government authority and local government revenue. Note that there are (still) no smartphone-hail / e-hail / ride-sharing permits and law-breaking ride-sharers conveniently abuse this regulatory loophole to the fullest. When confronted, these violators deny being in a taxi business yet “forget” the fact that when founded, many even named their companies to include words like "taxi" or "cab". For example, Uber's original name is "Uber Cab". Ride-sharing companies are absolutely in a taxi business, and denying it is laughable. This status quo cannot continue. It lasted far too long. The golden days of Wild West regulatory abuse may soon be over for ride-sharing law-breakers. Regulators all over the world are beginning to grasp that this flawed business model exists only the expense of reduced local revenues to our cities and our local businesses. Some US cities have outlawed ride-sharing companies completely (for non-compliance, bad business ethics, and etc.) or are in the process of outlawing them. On international stage, China has outlawed Uber recently in a few major cities. Others are beginning to sell smartphone-hail permits to put some regulatory cap over ride-sharer's aggressive uncontrolled and frequently manipulative tactics. The fact that we are comparing legitimate small businesses owned by local taxi drivers and local fleets, to few oligarchic multi-billion dollar companies that act as a ride-sharing cartel and that operate all over the world and use technology as an excuse to break laws and regulations is utterly unfair (to say the least).
        Feurig
        • 9 Months Ago
        You bring up some good points, but from the perspective of economics, the reason ride-sharing companies exist is because people want that alternative to taxi cabs. Taxis suck. I don't think anyone will say their experience with taxis are better than with Uber or Lyft. Instead of outlawing Uber and Lyft, revamp the taxi system so that it's more personable, affordable, nicer, easier to use, etc., i.e. incorporate the very qualities that make people deviate from taxis. Until then, I will ALWAYS use a ride-sharing company vs. a taxi.
          Ele Truk
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Feurig
          Actually, in Seattle they passed taxi driver hygiene regulations. They passed requirements that taxis are kept clean, drivers must bathe, wear clean clothes, and must speak English. No guarantee you get any of that in a rideshare.
        Actionable Mango
        • 9 Months Ago
        I've listened to many people on both sides in this debate, including taxi and ride-share drivers, and you are by far the most biased person I've heard. I take it you are a life-long taxi driver being hurt by ride sharing?
      JVP
      • 9 Months Ago
      My wonderful city has horrible leadership and a city council who are incapable of standing up to unions, especially the taxi union. On one hand, we pretend to be a progressive city, trying to reduce car use and encourage alternative forms of getting around. We think we are an innovative city, friendly to technology and venture capital. But then our leaders do things like this that totally go against their stated goals because they are so tightly wedded to unions that they are incapable of doing what is right. Did you that each taxi in service needs a "medallion" from the city, and the number of medallions hasn't been increased in 25 years? As part of this vote they finally increased the number of medallions by 200. But the fact that there's an artificial cap on taxis, supported by survey info from the taxi companies each year - now that couldn't be biased, now could it? Taxi service here is terrible. It's dirty, unreliable, they seemed high half the time, and in many places you couldn't get a cab if you tried. Why on earth is there even this artificial limit on number of taxis? I say this, and I'm a typical coastal liberal, but our anti-business, anti-innovation policies here are getting to be too much. Seattle and San Fran are just out there politically. It sucks. I'm all for good regulation - you know insurance, safety checks, reasonable licensing fees. But the current system is broken and NO ONE likes taxis around here. Let the industry change to this new form that is GREAT for consumers. Ugh, politics. /rant
        ClaimsAdjuster
        • 9 Months Ago
        @JVP
        What taxi union? Cab drivers are independent contractors. They do not have an employer. They don't get a w-2. They cannot strike. Taxi drivers are ineligible for collective bargaining ubder the National Labor Relations Act,.
      Frank
      • 9 Months Ago
      Instead of stepping up to the challenge of Uber and lyft, the cab companies are just crying. The are no cabs during inclement weather or at night in the neighborhoods., When i call for a cab for to show up at my home or work, the cab company expect me to stand outside, in the inclement weather, to wait on cab. HELL NO...im not standing outside during a storm waiting for a cab, and for the cabbie to pop the trunk for me to thrown in my luggage...and the cabbies expect a tip.....HELL NO. The cabbies have no customer service skills and expect a tip for me to load my own luggage. They ask me for directions. In most cabs, i feel like a criminal in the back seat of a squad car. Its smells bad and there is a grimy bullet proof barrier between me and the cabbie. If this is the legacy of the cab industry, and cab indusrty manage to kill these ride share apps,...i will be taking the bus. At leat the bus driver does not expect tips, and knows where he is going. I understand the ride share apps are weak in working with people in wheelchairs. but perhaps they can recruit drivers with wheelchair vans.
      • 9 Months Ago
      Are these deals free services ? or are they a paid driver and a paid site ? if the driver is paid more than an agreed share of the fuel, then they would be a "for profit/for Hire" driver and should be held to exactly the same standards as Taxi drivers IE: Background checks, Chauffeurs license, proof of insurance AND Bonding. But if they are just a free "Hookup" for the ride, and you and the driver negotiate the Fuel / costs, really the "state" should not even be aware or involved. Obviously some scammer has decided he can beat the "state" and taxi fee's which do cover some things, like licensing(for record keeping as to safety) and records (as to background on rapist and murderers getting you alone)
        SublimeKnight
        • 9 Months Ago
        There's a lot of latitude between fuel cost and for profit. For one, IRS approved mileage, which is way more than fuel cost. Then there's the owner's cellphone, that they use to get alerts of "jobs" and I'm sure plenty more grey to totally legal ways to consume that profit margin in order to still be considered a non-profit endeavor.
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