After a dragged-out public fight between rideshare companies (like Uber and Lyft) and the taxi industry, the Seattle City Council approved an ordinance this afternoon that regulates those companies, modeled on a stakeholder agreement brokered by Mayor Ed Murray.
In other words, it's totally legal now—like pot! Go and share rides at will, people of Seattle! Pay no mind to the naysayers and the haters!
The vote was eight to one, Mike O'Brien being the lone vote against. His amendment to fill in what he calls "insurance gaps" narrowly failed 5-4, with Bagshaw, Clark, Godden, Rasmussen and Burgess voting no.
On his official blog, O'Brien charges that this insurance gap threatens public safety. "We are creating a system of confusion that, in the event of a serious accident, could leave victims hanging out to dry while insurance companies are caught in extensive litigation to determine liability," he says.
"This so-called 'insurance-gap' has been identified as a major concern across the country, wherever TNCs operate," O'Brien argues—rideshare firms are also known as transportation network companies (TNCs). "The gap exists when a driver is on the app but does not yet have a passenger...my colleagues have willingly shirked our responsibility to close this gap."
Few of the council members are likely to have read all 113 pages of the bill, O'Brien says, but they were under pressure "in the form of a threat of an initiative from the TNCs. These multi-billion-dollar corporations told the City of Seattle that if we didn’t simply rubber-stamp this deal today without any scrutiny, we will face an initiative that writes the law to the sole favor of their bottom lines."
Mayor Ed Murray thanked the council in a statement. He says the ordinance does a great job of "balancing the legitimate interests of all sides, protecting public safety, and promoting access to a broad array transportation options in Seattle."
So is Mike O'Brien the proverbial canary in a coal mine or a backward liberal who sold out to the taxi industry and hates innovation? Stay tuned!