Morning Fizz: "Artificially Capping UberX is Not the Answer."
Caffeinated news and gossip featuring polling, biking, capping, and the streetcar.
1. The Democratic polling outfit, Public Policy Polling, has some numbers on I-591, the anti-gun control ballot measure: 35 percent against the measure, 33 for the measure, and 32 don't know. The yes vote only nudges up to 39 percent among Republicans (29 percent against).
African-Americans came out the strongest against the anti-gun control measure in the PPP poll, 46 to 31. Democratic voters also soundly rejected the measure, 43 to 25.
Among people who have guns in their household, the yes vote is only 37 to 35.
Oddly, women and young voters support the measure, 32-28 and 40-29 respectively.
Independents support the measure 36-32.
2. The city council's transportation committee got an update on the progress of the First Hill Streetcar yesterday, which was—much in contrast to the lousy news about the downtown deep-bore tunneling machine, "Bertha"—mostly positive.
Here's the latest: Construction on the First Hill Streetcar, which will connect Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill, is now 85 percent complete. The city, which is building the project, has spent $101 million of the total $132 million Sound Transit has allocated for construction, including $5.1 million in change orders to various construction items. The most significant delay has been the delivery of streetcar vehicles, which were supposed to start showing up last year but were delayed when testing revealed that the flooring on the cars was flammable; fire-proof cars are supposed to show up between June and October of this year, and service is supposed to start shortly after that.
It's unclear whether the project will go over budget. According to interim Seattle Department of Transportation director Goran Sparrman, "We have consumed part of the contingency...so we are getting concerned with whether we will be able to see this contingency through." He added, "At this point it’s hard to conclude whether we will be right on budget or whether we will need to consume some additional resources."
3. In a draft letter about the city's Bicycle Master Plan update, the Seattle Planning Commission expressed a few concerns about the proposal, most of them centered around how well the update syncs with transit-oriented urban planning efforts by the city.
Specifically, we suggest Transit Communities be noted as a destination type that should be connected.They also expressed concern that the master plan puts too much emphasis on neighborhood greenways, potentially at the expense of easier (and probably cheaper) bike improvements that could make streets more welcoming for bikers without necessarily creating an entirely new greenway (a street designed to prioritize cyclists and pedestrians over cars.)
Specifically, the Planning Commission wrote,
While we appreciate that the Plan maps indicate great connections to and between Urban Villages and Transit Communities, we would like to see this better reflected in the goals of the document. Specifically, we suggest Transit Communities be noted as a destination type that should be connected. We also would like more clarity on preferred bicycle facility locations. While we understand that the front of a building may not always be achievable it is essential that bicycle facilities are visible directly from the routes and that they be easily accessible by users at key destinations. ...
The Commission remains concerned that the commitment in the Plan to the “ultimate” bicycle facility type may jeopardize the implementation of minor improvements that could make a big difference in creating a more bicycle-friendly street system. We offer, for an example, that the significant focus on developing greenway corridors may diminish the amount of resources available for other types of improvements for the Citywide Network and Local Connectors. In large part, routes identified as greenways—both Citywide and Local—are currently very bikable and walkable because they are generally low-speed and low-volume non-arterial streets. Challenges to bikability for all ages and abilities occur when crossing arterials. Intersection improvements and wayfinding could make a big difference in the bikability of a greenway corridor without all of the other components that are ultimately desirable along a greenway.
4. As the city council gets set to crack down on ride sharing by limiting licenses and hours for Uber and Lyft drivers, state Rep. Cyrus Habib (D-48, Kirkland), concerned that new Seattle rules will have a negative impact on his Eastside constituents, is pointing to legislation he passed out of the house late last week as a smarter alternative.
Rep. Habib's bill, co-sponsored by Seattle-area green urbanist Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, Burien, W. Seattle), would lessen regulations on taxi drivers—responding to the sharing economy upheaval by taking a cue from its innovations, rather than blockading it. The bill exempts taxi drivers from having to buy industrial insurance coverage, about a $2,100 cost to individual drivers—something app-based drivers don't have to pay. (Cab companies themselves, which have to pay a portion of the industrial insurance, are against Habib's bill.)
With the council set to vote this week (Lyft drivers have organized a protest today), Habib took to Facebook yesterday afternoon posting:
There are many things we must do to help our traditional taxi cab industry... Artificially capping UberX is not the answer. It's not going to help cab drivers, and it will certainly hurt consumers. I also find it unfortunate that my friends on the Seattle City Council appear ready to make a decision that will seriously affect my constituents on the Eastside, who then have no political recourse. I urge the good members of the Seattle City Council to please reconsider adopting this proposed measure.
Mayor Ed Murray came out yesterday afternoon against the cap on rideshare drivers, telling Geekwire, “I’m very concerned about caps. I’m very concerned that the ridesharing companies are actually assisting us in getting people to not buy cars or drive cars. But you have to balance it out with the safety issue"—i.e., insurance requirements.