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Seattle changing gears: New rules for Lyft, Uber, taxi companies?

SEATTLE -- A night out on the town could end up costing you more, perhaps as soon as this summer.

The city of Seattle has been treating ride services like Uber and Lyft with different rules and rates than taxis for several years now.

The city is considering changes to make it more fair, which could result in higher prices when you use Uber or Lyft.

Just getting into a taxi in Seattle right now will cost you $2.40, but for Uber or Lyft that base rate is about $1.35. The city is considering raising the Uber and Lyft base fares to $2.40 also.

That's just one of a number of differences in how the two kinds of transportation companies are regulated. From insurance requirements, to training, to time on the road. The drivers say the differences are striking and unfair.

"We used to work five days a week, but now it's more like seven days a week," says town car driver Fasil Teka.

He says it's hard to make ends meet when his cost of living keeps going up and his wages stay the same, unless he's willing to work up to nine hours per shift. "It's very stressful."

Teka is one of dozens of drivers that parked themselves in City Council chambers to sound off to the Committee on Governance, Equity and Technology. The comment period

City Council committee discusses new rules concerning TNC and taxi companies after a lengthy public comment period.

Tuesday was overloaded with people who wanted to speak.

"You have a vehicle," says a driver named James, "And one of the tires goes flat-- so you do you go and flatten the other tires to make it equal, or do you fix the one tire that's flat?"

All here are concerned about Seattle changing rules for taxi companies and TNCs, that's an acronym for Transportation Network Companies, like Uber and Lyft.

"We continue to think that this industry is rapidly changing," says City Council President Bruce Harrell to the nearly packed room.

"We're really disappointed in the direction the city council is headed right now," says Lynn Reed, an Uber driver who is with an organization that represents drivers like her called Drive Forward. They'd like to see taxis go the way of ride services-- instead of increasing regulations on the roughly 15,000 Uber drivers around Seattle.

"There's no reason to stifle that innovation to level out the playing field," says Reed.

For City Councilor Bruce Harrell, he says he'd like to lighten the burden for taxi drivers-- but the priorities for him are rider safety and protecting the consumers.

"We're not raising the rates for consumers," says Harrell. "These companies don't have to pass on the cost to the consumer. And in fact, this is the same rate they used back in 2014."

Q13 spoke to several taxi drivers who declined to talk on camera. They say they see Uber and Lyft drivers doing things like picking up and dropping off drivers in unsafe locations, pulling illegal driving maneuvers and double parking. All violations of the rules taxis are required to abide by, yet they say TNC drivers hardly ever get cited for their infractions.

For Fasil Teka, he says people are used to paying surge prices during commute times and for big events-- so he thinks an even playing field, even if it's a slightly higher cost, is the best one for all transportation companies.

"The city should make a common ground for all of us," says Teka.

The city committee says they want more data from Uber and Lyft about drivers, their hours and wages to make a fact-based change to the rules. They're expected to craft new ordinances by the end of May.