That headline up top there? That's all you really care about, right? If you're an average Seattleite, you just want to know what the fuck to expect when you call a cab/open up your Uber app, try to get from point A to point B. So: Seattle City Council, which has been debating for more than a year how to update and regulate taxi, for-hire, and rideshare rules, unanimously passed a bill today that does a few important things:
• Rideshare companies—that's uberX, Lyft, and Sidecar, which are being referred to as "Transportation Network Companies"—must abide by a rule that no more than 150 drivers can be active on their system, ready to pick up passengers, at a time. Given that Uber last week revealed they currently have about 900 drivers and "regularly exceed" 300 drivers on system at a time, that could really change their service.
• Allows for-hire drivers to pick up street hails but not passengers from taxi stands. (Until now, they've been barred from picking up people hailing cabs on the street and limited to only picking up prearranged passengers.)
• Adds 200 new taxi licenses over the next two years.
• Adds new insurance and safety regulations to the app-based services, while also trying to block TNCs from working around the driver caps by creating multiple shadow companies. It also gives the city council authority to remove the cap on the number of drivers in the future, instead of leaving it to city regulators.
To be clear: This is a solution that, many people repeated today, makes no one completely happy. But trying to please the various parties—taxi drivers, taxi medallion owners, immigrant/refugee organizations, rideshare companies, rideshare drivers, for-hire drivers, average commuters, special-needs commuters—is virtually impossible. So we have something now that everyone can disagree with, and which forms the basis for a trial period during which the city can analyze how and if these rules work.
For a blow-by-blow, feel free to check my Twitter feed. We will, of course, cover this issue more in-depth in coming days. For now, here's what Uber has to say for themselves:
It is extremely concerning that the @SeattleCouncil has chosen to not represent its own voters. This fight is not over. #SAVEuberXsea
— Uber Seattle (@Uber_SEA) March 17, 2014