Several ride-sharing services were under fire recently in Seattle, where a limitation of how many drivers each service could have on the road at a given time drew the ire of he three companies. Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar all cried foul over the limitations, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray heard them. In response, he’s lifted those limitation from an ordinance set to go before the City Council soon.
The original scheme put up to 150 cars from each company on the road at any given time. In lifting the bottleneck, Murray said “I believe Seattle once again will lead the nation in showing how what appears to be conflicting interests can actually come together. 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.”
Additionally, all for-hire drivers will have hailing rights. The city will provide 200 new taxi licenses, and both taxi and for-hire licenses will morph into property rights over time. If you’re familiar with taxi services, you’ll know medallions are prized, and that’s essentially what “property rights” are.
Though no cap was placed on for-hire talent, there will be a ten-cent surcharge on all rides for an “Accessibility Fund”. While the Mayor and ride-share services laud the new proposal as forward-thinking, some aren’t so kind. Chris Van Dyk, GM at Green Cab Taxi, said “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”.
Murray noted “I think the technology has created something that didn’t exist before. But what I heard from folks in this city... is that they like to use an app to get a car. Someday, it will be a Yellow Cab, and today it’s Uber and Lyft.” Van Dyk doesn’t think apps will matter much in the long run. Only time — and maybe the City Council — can tell who’s right this time around.