Back in March, Seattle city council voted to heavily regulate ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft by capping the number of active vehicles to 150 each. Considering Uber claims to have around 1,000 drivers in the city, this initiative would have severely limited each company's capacity to meet demand. Yet by mid-April these regulations were suspended due to more than 36,000 signatures on a repeal petition (double the 16,510 required to force a public vote).
Now, after more than a year of debate, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced an agreement between the taxi industry and ride-share apps. App-based transportation platforms such as Lyft, Uber and Sidecar can continue to operate without any limit of drivers. The key terms of the deal include:
- Transportation network companies and their drivers will be licensed and required to meet specific insurance requirements.
- The City will work with the industry to clarify or change state insurance law to account for recent changes in the industry, similar to recent actions in Colorado.
- There will be no cap on the number of transportation network company drivers.
- The City will provide 200 new taxi licenses over the next four years.
- Taxi and for-hire licenses will transition to a property right that is similar to a medallion in other cities.
- For-hire drivers will have hailing rights.
- An accessibility fund will be created through a $0.10 per ride surcharge for drivers and owners to offset higher trip and vehicle costs for riders who require accessibility services.
This is a huge change from the March decision not only because of the unlimited drivers, but also because you can now hail for-hire drivers, a right originally reserved for taxi's only.
“I believe Seattle once again will lead the nation in showing how what appears to be conflicting interests can actually come together,” Murray said after announcing the agreement. “We have deregulated a highly regulated monopoly, allowing taxis and for-hires to become far more competitive than they are in the current situation. We are recognizing that a technology exists that is rapidly changing the marketplace.”
GreenCab Taxi General Manager Chris Van Dyk, talked with Geekwire about the decision:
“The experience in Seattle in years past, in San Francisco and in Ireland now, is that if you have unlimited entry, if you have no limit on the number of taxi and for-hire vehicles, operators simply cannot make a living wage, and the industry goes to hell in a handbasket, and in a relatively short time,” Van Dyk told GeekWire. “The economics of the industry are counter-intuitive, because of the low threshold of entry. Apps do not change this.”
We have yet to hear if the taxi industry will choose to fight the decision or not.
Seattle joins a small handful of cities allowing ride-sharing apps including Chicago. It seems like every city has a different attitude when it comes to the sharing economy, Miami police are impounding Lyft drivers while Uber is banned in Brussels and in high court in London. We're curious to see if this decision holds in Seattle and if will influence other cities still in debate. Regardless, it's becoming more and more obvious that the sharing economy is here to stay.
Check out the complete article by Geekwire and let us know what you think.