Story Summary

New car service companies don’t comply with same regulations taxis do

A number of new car service companies have entered the Seattle-area market, such as Uber and Lyft. Their presence is making the public happy — they love the service, cost and convenience — but they are rubbing taxi drivers and cab companies the wrong way since they don’t have to comply to the same regulations and rules.

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The Seattle City Council voted March 17 to place a cap of 150 rideshare vehicles on the road at any one time. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

SEATTLE — Supporters of the city’s rideshare companies — Lyft, Sidecar and UberX — said Thursday they had submitted more than double the number of voter signatures required to get a referendum on the ballot on the city ordinance limiting the services.

On March 17, the Seattle City Council approved a bill to place new regulations on rideshare companies, including capping the number of drivers that can be on the road at any one time at 150. The legislation places safety regulations around these new services, including insurance requirements equivalent to those in the taxi industry.

But Thursday, supporters of the companies said in a statement that they had submitted more than 36,000 voter signatures calling for a referendum on the recent city ordinance, while only 16,510 voter signatures are required.

“We’ve seen overwhelming support from voters for the referendum effort,” said Brad Harwood, spokesman for the supporters’ group. “The fact that we were able to gather more than double the required number of signatures in such a short time shows that Seattle voters clearly want to have a conversation about this issue.”

Mobile app ride service companies have stated that the new ordinance would severely limit their ability to continue providing service within the city, and thereby reduce affordable transportation choices in Seattle.

“These ride services are widely popular and provide important transportation options within the city,” said Harwood.  “The recent ordinance would severely limit these options for residents and visitors alike. “

Submission of the signatures prior to Thursday’s deadline automatically suspends the ordinance from taking effect.

“Clearly, there is a need for effective policies that will allow these services to continue to operate within the city,” continued Harwood.  “We look forward to working with the mayor and the city to find a workable solution.”

After initial inspection by the City Clerk, the petition pages will be delivered to King County Elections for verification of the voter signatures.

SEATTLE — Political analyst C.R. Douglas takes a look at the issue in this video report.

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council approved a bill Monday to place new regulations on rideshare companies like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar, including capping the number of drivers that can be on the road at any one time at 150.

The legislation places safety regulations around these new services, including insurance requirements equivalent to those in the taxi industry. City Councilman Tim Burgess said the legislation also calls for 200 new taxi licenses to be issued over the next two years and allows flat-rate for-hire vehicles to pick up passengers who flag them down.


The Seattle City Council voted Monday to place a cap of 150 rideshare vehicles on the road at any one time. (Photo: KCPQ-TV)

“While I intend to sign the legislation approved by Council today,” Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement after the vote, “I do not believe it is either a complete solution or a long-term solution.

“I remain concerned about the issue of insurance, which I believe is already too burdensome for taxis,” Murray added. “I remain concerned about the need to level the regulatory playing field for taxis generally, which includes issues of training, fees, rates, use of technology and latitude for innovation.

“And I remain concerned about the issue of caps on rideshare vehicles, which I believe is unreasonably restrictive and unworkable in practice.”

Murray said he is ordering his director of the Facilities and Administrative Services to discuss the issue with parties involved and he will submit his own recommendations to the City Council later.

UberX employs about 900 drivers.

Brooke Steger, a general manager for UberX Seattle, said, “It’s astounding 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.  This fight is not over, and, as we explore our options, we urge Mayor Murray to reject the anti-competitive and and arbitrary caps that will sling-shot Seattle’s ecosystem back into the dark ages.”

City Councilwoman Sally Clark released a statement shortly after the vote: “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 started out of a need to resolve conflict between the taxis and the flat rates and to better fund enforcement of 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?”

Regular taxi and for-hire drivers have been complaining for nearly a year that rideshare companies have a competitive edge and are operating illegally.

Samatar Guled, a for-hire driver for seven years, said there should be a level playing field.

“During when its slow time, they would reduce their price and when it’s busy they actually have surge pricing.  For us, our rates, we have to file with the city so we really don’t have the same flexibility to change our rates to do all the stuff they do,” Guled said.

Another complaint from taxi drivers is that the rideshare drivers don’t pay liability insurance, something that can cost up to $8,000.  owever, UberX says it does have a $1 million liability policy for drivers when they are on the job.

The new regulations will go into effect in 30 days.


Sign held up at Seattle City Council committee hearing on Thursday, Feb. 27. (KCPQ-TV)

SEATTLE –  It’s cabs versus rideshare companies. On Thursday night, the city made some decisions that will affect who you pay to pick you up.

“You can only slice a pie so many ways,” said Chris Van Dyk, general manager of Green Cab Taxi Co.

That’s the problem Van Dyk has with rideshare companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. He said those drivers are taking money out of his drivers’ pockets.

“The market has been flooded in the city,” he said. “There were 850 cabs. Now, with illegal operators, we’re up to 2,200-2,300.”

The truth is, rideshare companies have not shared their numbers with the city. So right now, it’s impossible to tell how many drivers are working for them and how many fares they’re collecting.

That’s part of the reason City Council members have struggled to regulate this new industry. But after months of debate, including several hours during a City Council committee meeting Thursday, they decided something needed to be done.

So they agreed to a cap. Only 150 drivers for each company will be allowed on the roads at any given time.

“I’ll have to see how it plays out,” said Yogi McCaw, a driver for Uber. “They sort of went for the middle ground. They sort of punted.”

But the Uber company later issued this statement on its Facebook page:

“It is extremely disappointing that the Seattle City Council Committee on Taxi, For-hire and Limousine Regulations has chosen to ignore the tens of thousands of their constituents who support uberX and, instead, decided it is a good policy to protect the taxi industry and shut down ridesharing in Seattle. This decision will put hundreds of small businesses out of work and leave them without an opportunity to earn a living. The Committee has sent a strong message that they support the status quo over opportunity, transportation choices and safety. We hope when these regulations come to the full Council that innovation and safety win the day.”

McCaw started driving last month, because he liked the flexibility of the job. He said he’s in control of when and how many hours he works. But he’s worried that freedom has hit a red light.

“I don’t know when they’re going to finalize this thing,” he said. “But maybe one day I’ll log on and be told I can’t get on the system, we’re already full of drivers. I’m waiting to see if that day comes.”

Cab drivers were celebrating Thursday night. They say they’re still going to push for more regulations, such as how many rideshare companies should be allowed to operate in the city.

But for now, they think this cap will make the playing field for all drivers a little more even.

“It’s not a joke, it’s a serious matter,” said taxi driver Pankaj Kohli. “We have kids, we are part of society, and we want to thrive.”

The rideshare drivers’ cap was approved only by a committee Thursday night.  The full City Council still has to vote on this proposal, which will likely happen March 10.

Local News

Taxis vs. rideshares: Issue prompts rally outside City Hall

SEATTLE — On the steps of City Hall, it was a rally around ridesharing Wednesday.

The popular car service has replaced the taxi cab for many people. But it’s also an industry that is unregulated.

MAG_LYFTThe City Council has a proposal it’s considering to regulate rideshares, but the companies that provide the service and their customers believe the city is going too far.

“We would have to re-evaluate operating in Seattle,” said Lyft co-founder John Zimmer, of the proposed regulations.

Zimmer flew up from San Francisco to be at the rally.

Companies like Lyft and Uber offer car rides to users through an app on their iPhone.

“I have a medical condition that doesn’t allow me to get a driver’s license so if I had to get home late at night, ridesharing is always there,” said Christiana Obey, a big fan of Lyft.

Seattle’s cab drivers are not fans of the service, claiming it has left a lot of them in park. One of those drivers, Samatar Guled, wants ridesharing to be regulated like taxis. The city is considering requiring licenses for rideshares, along with a cap on the number of cars and how many hours drivers can operate.

“We’re following the rules,” said Guled. “We should all compete under the same regulations.”

Guled tried to make that point by disrupting the rally against those proposed new rules.

In the background, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray watched and later admitted this is an issue he is studying closely.

“I think we should try to equal these things out,” said Murray.

The mayor agrees there should be regulations for rideshares, with the goal of making sure it’s insured and safe.  But he also wants to eliminate caps for a new industry that is clearly taking off.

Both sides of the issue will be at Friday’s City Council meeting when a proposal will be discussed and possibly voted on.


SEATTLE — Ride-sharing services such as Lyft and UberX are taking off around the region as more people opt to get rides from fellow drivers as opposed to traditional taxi cabs.  But with that popularity comes more scrutiny.  The city of Seattle is poised to start clamping down on the industry with new regulations.

One of the most controversial is a plan to limit each ride-share company to only 100 cars, with no driver being able to work more than 16 hours a week.

cab“I am driving anywhere from 35-50 hours a week, depending on how many hours are available for me to drive,” said Frankie Roeder, who works for Lyft, the company whose drivers have the pink mustaches on their hoods.

Roeder makes it a full-time job and fears that limiting people like him to only 16 hours a week will just hurt those who need rides.

“If the service is going to continue to be as beneficial to the city, we need drivers on the road and we need people that are willing to do it full time,” said Roeder.

Ride-share companies say these kinds of limits will doom an industry that is in its infancy and just getting started.

“If the caps are put in place on the number of drivers and the hours, it will shut UberX down and that option will be taken away from riders here,” said Brooke Steger, general manager of Uber.  “We just think that is anti-competitive.”

Traditional cab companies, which have seen their businesses suffer in recent years, support limits on ride-sharing. They are insistent that those drivers should be required to go through the same hoops as the heavily regulated taxi industry, where drivers have to obtain expensive licenses and carry commercial insurance.

“My guys have worked in the industry six, seven years to get these licenses,” said Chris Van Dyk, manager of Green Cab Co.  “They have been willing to work subject to these conditions.  What did we do wrong?”

The new rules are expected to require new permits for ride-share drivers, including background checks and vehicle inspections.  Perhaps the thorniest question of all is insurance.  Just who is liable if a ride-share driver gets in an accident, even if they didn’t have a passenger at the time?

“As soon as you turn on that app and show the public you are available to pick up a ride, I would consider that working,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien.  “You may not be making money, but you’re working.”

Ride-share companies say they are open to solving the insurance problem.

“We are more than willing to work with the city on this issue to make sure that we reach an agreement that everyone is comfortable with and everyone feels like there is a high level of clarity to,” said Steger.

City lawmakers have some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks when it comes to reigning in ride-sharing.

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.

SEATTLE — For-hire, taxi and ride share drivers packed into a city council meeting Thursday afternoon to weigh in on a system some are’t happy with — regulations surrounding the city’s licensing requirements for taxi drivers versus drivers other other car services.

Limousine car services and ride shares like UberX and Lyft have recently become popular because of courteous, clean and prompt service. But cab drivers and for-hire drivers  said the city is failing to regulate these new ride shares at the cost to passengers safety.

Ride share drivers are not regulated by the city, so they are not mandated to go through the same training and licensing that cab drivers must. One cab driver said it’s a grossly unfair playing field and it is squeezing the taxi industry out of the market.

But others in the industry say the competition will drive better customer service.

The city council is considering several options. One would be to simply shut down ride shares all together, another would be to start regulating the new services in line with with that current regulations that cab companies must comply with. Many predict that the city council will not make an extreme decision to cut ride shares out of the market because they are just too popular.

Uber said they believe Seattle is a big enough market that all the different types of services can thrive.

The city council will weigh all the options and make a final decision by early November.


SEATTLE — Taxi cab drivers mounted a big protest Monday afternoon at Seattle City Hall, saying city  leaders are not enforcing the law when it comes to protecting their industry against all the competitors that are popping up, including the flat-rate cars and the increasingly popular ride-share programs.

“All we’re saying is wake up,” said Salah Mohamed, who has been driving a taxi for year.  “Do what you’re supposed to do, which is enforce the law.”

Mohamed says only licensed taxis can be flagged by customers on the street or pick up at designated stands. But he argues “for hire” services (which look an awful lot like cabs, but charge only a flat-rate) are breaking those rules.

“I’m losing business,” Mohamed said.  “Make sure that everybody follows the rule of law.”

But operators of “for-hire” vehicles object to the argument being made by the taxi drivers.

“The taxis are the kings on the table,” said Sam Guled.  “They want everything. They don’t want to share with anyone.”

Guled, who owns the region’s largest for-hire company, with pre-arranged, flat-rate service, says it’s time to change the rules.  He says his drivers should be allowed the same rights as taxis, especially given that the city hasn’t issued a new cab license in years and demand is only growing.

“They’re trying basically to make competition illegal,” Guled said.  “For God’s sake!  I mean this is America.  This is what makes this country great.  We want competition.  We want everyone to compete on a level playing field.  That’s all we’re asking, fairness, fairness, fairness.”

Even though the taxi drivers and for-hire drivers are bitter enemies out there on the street, they do agree on one thing:  the new mobile-phone based ride-share programs should be regulated, including inspections, commercial licensing, special insurance, etc.  There are no requirements on them now.

That wouldn’t just level the playing field, the argument goes, but it is very important in terms of public safety for people to know what they are getting is safe and secure.

Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council are looking into the issue.

Indeed, the city is doing a study right now about how much demand there is and how all these services fit into the landscape.  That should be completed in August.