I'm pretty sure they know better, yet the Seattle Times editorial board insists on the misleading lede:
WHEN Seattle began to regulate the taxi industry decades ago, it created a monopoly. Now is the time for city leaders to fix a system that no longer works for consumers who want more transportation options.
Actually, Seattle began to regulate the taxi industry exactly a century ago, in 1914, first capping the number of cars in 1930. It was "decades ago"—1979, in fact—when Seattle deregulated its taxi industry, lifting all caps and allowing taxis to set their own rates. The presumption was that competition would improve service and reduce fares, but as a 2001 report from the city's Consumer Affairs division explains, "service quality declined and rates were often higher." So Seattle's taxi industry was reregulated, starting in 1984—as was the taxi industry in nearly every other city that experimented with deregulation.
Also, this "monopoly" charge is ridiculous. There is no monopoly. Under the proposed ordinance, taxis would face competition from the uncapped town car industry, the flat-rate/for-hires, and the newly legitimized TNC industry.
It's not like there's no history here. We tried deregulation. It didn't work. If you want to make the argument that we no longer need a traditional taxi industry—that the needs of the tourism industry, or of people who pay with cash or scrip, or who rely on the certainty of a regulated fare, are no longer important—then make your case. But to ignore our history of taxi deregulation in the service of repeating it can only lead to an uninformed decision.
Speaking of which:
On Thursday, the Seattle City Council’s Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations should send legislation to the full council that legalizes these new ride-sharing services and ensures the safety of drivers and passengers. New rules should remove any caps limiting the number of taxis or new services.
The three committee members Sally Clark, Bruce Harrell and Mike O’Brien all want to cap the number of ride-sharing vehicles at 300 or 600 licenses for two years. That is a misguided proposal that would protect the taxi companies’ hold on the market and reduce choice for consumers. Sidecar says it has 1,000 drivers in the Seattle market. UberX and Lyft have many more.
It is important to note that the three committee members who support a cap are the three committee members who sat through a year of hearings and reports and contentious public comment. These are the three members who know the issue best. And they all support some sort of cap. But instead, the editors are urging their less informed council colleagues to ignore their recommendations, because the market!
Nobody wants to destroy the TNCs. They provide a useful service. The goal is to transition them into the market without destroying an equally useful (if less trendy) service with which they only partially overlap, all the while assuring the safety of both the passengers and the drivers. Given our city's history with taxi deregulation, the two-year pilot program that the committee has proposed, under which caps can be assessed and adjusted, is a justifiably prudent approach.