By a unanimous 9-0 vote today, the city council—including longtime holdouts Bruce Harrell and Kshama Sawant, who opposed the move on the grounds that it was detrimental to the minority- and immirant-dominated taxi industry—voted this afternoon to legalize "ridesharing" services like UberX and Lyft, which allow members to access cars via smartphone apps.
The big heroes of this afternoon's vote—if you support ridesharing services, which we do—were ridesharing champions Sally Bagshaw, Sally Clark, and Tom Rasmussen, who made their cases, vociferously, for preserving the companies' ability to operate.
(Under current law, ridesharing drivers are illegal; the newly adopted rules are an attempt to legalize existing ridesharing services while mandating that they operate under minimum insurance requirements and include a maximum number of operators on the road at any given time. Rasmussen's amendment to eliminate all caps on ridesharing vehicles failed 6-3, with Rasmussen, Sally Bagshaw, and Tim Burgess voting in favor.)
Although four of the nine council members opted to abstain from a recent vote limiting the number of cars that could be live on the system of any one ridesharing company, or "transportation network company" (TNC) at any one time to 150, all nine—including the two most vocal opponents, Bruce Harrell and Kshama Sawant‚ ultimately voted for the new (de)regulation.
"My support for this bill sets up the conceptual framework for ... letting technology and consumer choice dictate what we're going to do," Harrell said today.
Rasmussen added that as the region cuts back on transit service (King County Metro could see cuts of as much as 17 percent if voters don't pass legislation approving an increase in the sales tax and a new vehicle-license fee in April), the need for new transit options has never been greater.
"Our public transportation system will not meet our needs for decades private," Rasmussen said, so "Our private transportation systems will be a part of our transportation system for decades."