Taxi drivers protest at Seattle City Hall

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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.

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  • DaveBobSutton

    These ridesharing apps are outlaw taxis. Plain and simple. If Seattle’s leaders don’t respond to these outlaw taxis, why should Seattle taxi companies continue to submit to the costs and rigors of taxi regulation? Ridesharing apps don’t pay a thing or follow any rules.

    If Seattle’s leaders sit back and do nothing they will be encouraging complete taxi de-regulation. And taxi de-regulation has already been tried and failed in Seattle.

    During the ‘70s and ‘80s, more than 20 American cities attempted taxi de-regulation and the result was bad news for passengers. Amateur rip-off artists flooded the taxi market and caused a Wild-West environment of circuitous routes, price-gouging, no-shows, trip refusals, aggressive solicitations and fights between drivers.

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