City legislation around the world are making decisions on where they stand in the sharing economy. We've seen San Francisco Announce their Sharing Economy Working Group and have become the poster child of American Shareable cities. Other cities like Amsterdam and Seoul, Korea have been endorsing the sharing economy and are actively working to become shareable cities. Even the United States Congress has started to address the sharing economy and it's impact. But not everyone is convinced that this movement is right for their city. Portland, Oregon has opted to exclude ridesharing until it can fully understand potential impact.
The latest news is from Seattle, Washington where city council has met several times over the last few months to discuss ridesharing and recently decided that they would limit the amount of rideshare services to 150 drivers (per company) on the street at any given time of the day. So far the ruling seems to satisfy no one. Lyft, Uber and Sidecar all released statements of extreme disappointment in the ruling.
In a statement, Lyft outlined its objections.
By passing an ordinance that does not prioritize public safety or support consumer choice, members of Seattle’s City Council have shown that their sole intent is to eliminate competition and protect existing industries in Seattle. This ordinance will eliminate Lyft in Seattle; local residents who drive for Lyft on their way to work, while they are running errands, or on the weekends to make ends meet will no longer be able to act as drivers, especially when passengers who have chosen to live car-free in Seattle need them most. While safety is often brought up as a reason to apply an old regulatory model to an innovative transportation solution, the truth is that new technology provides an opportunity to increase safety above and beyond what has been done previously. In comparison to existing requirements, Lyft’s $1M commercial liability policy is more than three times the $300,000 requirement of Seattle taxis. Despite today’s disappointing decision, we will continue to stand strong as a community and do everything possible to ensure a path forward that allows ridesharing to thrive in Seattle.
San Francisco’s Uber released a statement by its general manager in Seattle, Brooke Steger.
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 effectively shut down uberX in Seattle as we know it. 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.
And Sidecar weighed in with a statement similarly expressing disappointment.
Sidecar is focused on offering safe and affordable transportation in Seattle. We share the Seattle City Council’s goal of making transportation safe for its residents. In fact, we have safety measures in place that exceed what is required by Seattle taxis. But the City Council’s decision today to cap the number of Seattle rideshare drivers is not about safety. It’s designed to protect the taxi industry by eliminating competition.These regulations move Seattle in the opposite direction of innovation by restricting consumer choice for residents who depend on safe and affordable transportation alternatives like Sidecar. Seattle residents want choice in transportation. We are disappointed that the Seattle City Council moved in favor of regulations designed to protect the narrow business interests of the taxi industry over the interests of its citizens.
- Check out SFGate's Blog Post for more info
It's easy for supporters of the peer economy to be upset by rulings such as this but these aren't easy decisions to make. April Rinne explains the dilemma best in her perspective piece "How Shareable is Your City".
To date, city governments and the sharing economy companies have rarely been seen as partners. More often, city leaders have dealt with transformative new business models from a reactionary position. This is understandable: the rules governing many new businesses were developed for an industrial age in which mass consumption and ownership were the norm, and before today’s technologies existed, so they don’t fit within current regulatory structures. Moreover, regulators must strike a balance between competing pressures – from the public, incumbents and a variety of other stakeholders – to encourage innovation and maintain public safety.
The proposal in Seattle still needs to be officially passed by the entire city council on March 10 and would take effect 30 days after being signed into law by Mayor Ed Murray.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think city council's ruling was fair? If so fair to whom?