Council moves forward work plan for overhauling taxi and Uber/Lyft regulations

This morning, the Council voted out of committee a resolution establishing its “work plan” for revising regulations on taxi, for-hire, and TNC (e.g. Uber and Lyft) services.

The resolution aligns with the list of issues Council President Bruce Harrell first proposed in December. Among those are:

  • Data gathering from companies to inform policy. Uber and Lyft have been particularly reticent to hand over data about their businesses.
  • Setting “minimum charges across all segments of the for-hire transportation industry to ensure fair market access to all participants.” There are two issued behind this: first, ensuring that unregulated TNC companies don’t underprice heavily-regulated taxis; and second, either directly or indirectly setting a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers to support those who drive full-time.
  • Transitioning to a regional license system for taxis, for-hire vehicles, and TNCs. The dual-license system between Seattle and King County for taxis has been a sore issue for some time, and Harrell would like to tackle it.
  • Consolidation, leveling and standardization of operating fees.
  • Adding flexibility to insurance standards.
  • Establishing a Bill of Rights for drivers and passengers.
  • Expanding the Seattle-King County Taxicab Advisory commission to cover taxis, for-hire vehicles, and TNCs.

Council member Mike O’Brien added an amendment this morning that specifically requests additional data on drivers from all companies, including TNCs. The amendment adds a deadline (May 31, 2018) and threatens that if the companies don’t deliver the data the city may pass legislation to require it.

Fortunately for the Council, the state legislature failed to pass either of the two bills it was considering that would have put statewide regulations in place for TNCs, because that would have preempted Seattle from passing its own laws. The Council now has a fairly wide open landscape for its legislative work.

The Council’s resolution specifies a timeline for developing the legislation, with recommendations done by the end of June and legislation passed by the end of September. It won’t be a simple process, as the TNC driver community continues to be deeply split on whether the industry would benefit from increased legislation

The resolution comes up for final approval on Monday.


  1. “unregulated TNC companies don’t underprice heavily-regulated taxis”, maybe instead of increasing regulations on TNCs, the council could reduce regulations on taxis, thereby making it an even playing field…..wait, better have my first cup of coffee, because in this city, that is just plain crazy talk.

    1. I completely agree with you, deregulate the taxi industry and see if they can compete.

      1. I’m not sure that was the take-away from my piece. The taxi industry was heavily regulated based on the principle that the amount of business it could serve was fixed, so it was granted a monopoly to stop the industry from tearing itself apart fighting over scraps. Uber and Lyft have shown that (at least today) that premise is not true — the number of people riding has exploded for a number of reasons. But at the same time, Uber and Lyft are artificially keeping fares low, subsidizing with investors’ money. That’s predatory pricing, and it’s unsustainable, but before it plays out it may run the taxis out of business. I don’t believe the solution is simply to deregulate taxis and let them join the race to the bottom. I suspect we won’t like the final outcome, once the smoke has cleared — we may look back one day and wish we hadn’t destroyed the taxi industry. That said, Uber and Lyft today do provide a better product and it’s good that taxis are feeling competition, so we should deregulate to the extent that it allows them to offer a better product.

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