SEATTLE — The traditional cab is now just one of many ways to catch a ride in the city, and that competition has many cab drivers begging for the city to act. And the current unregulated market is starting to churn up a different kind of road rage.
With more and more people in Seattle choosing app-friendly ride share services like UberX and Lyft, cab drivers are saying these new services are unfair to them and unsafe for passengers. In fact, the demand for Uber is so great that the company recently opened a downtown office.
“The growth that we have seen in the last two years in Seattle has been astronomical,” said Uber general manager Brooke Steger.
With a click of an app, Uber offers a plush car service, but customers say it’s more than just a ride.
“There has got to be better customer service from cab companies — that is why Uber is winning,” Seattle resident Jason Jacobs said.
“The cabs haven’t had any competition, so in my experience they don’t offer a lot of customer service,” Seattle resident Paul Mendes said.
In April, Uber started offering another — and greener — ride share service called UberX.
Seattle heavily regulates cabs everything from the number of licenses to the type of insurance.
“Do you know how much I pay for insurance every month? $612, my friend. Do you think these people do that? No they have personal insurance — it’s $70,” said cab driver Salah Mohamed. “The city has to find a way to kick these people out of the city.”
Thursday, cab drivers begged city leaders to level the playing field.
“Right now, cab drivers are suffering — 50 percent of what we are making is gone,” said one cab driver.
The city council has several options to choose from before it votes in November.
“It’s going to require more regulations on some of these new entrants, looking at the drivers of the vehicles and getting some sort of license or certification from the city or county,” Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien said.
Cab drivers also said that unregulated drivers put passengers are at risk, but Uber is confident that in the end consumer demand will continue to drive business.
“Monopoly for one service, or for one industry, needs to be stopped,” Uber Driver Ivan Ferencak said.
“I would hope the city will allow us to continue to let us see the growth that we have seen,” Steger said.
Cab drivers do have an ally in for-hire drivers. The cars look similar to cabs, but the difference is for-hires have to get a phone call — they cannot pick up customers hailing them on the street. For-hires also say ride shares are destroying their business.