That’s why nightlife leaders strongly oppose the Seattle City Council’s efforts to enact highly restrictive caps on the number of ridesharing drivers and the number of hours per week they can drive. Those caps would be devastating to the continued functioning of services like Lyft and Uber X, in Seattle. Simply put, it appears that the council is on the verge of compromising public safety – and branding Seattle as an anti-innovation city – with their proposed regulations.
This is a top priority for us. For Seattle Nightlife and Music Association members, the availability of a full range of easily accessible transportation options is a public safety issue, plain and simple. If someone comes out to one of our restaurants, bars or clubs, drinks, and then gets behind the wheel of a car, we know that we could potentially be held liable. We want to do everything in our power to minimize the chances of that happening.
That’s why we believe in encouraging innovations in urban transportation across the board, and why we appreciate the growing availability and reliability of services like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar alongside traditional taxi and for hire vehicle service. When it comes to making sure our customers get home safely from our establishments, we know from direct experience that the more options they have, the better – and safer – it is for all of us.
Many of our customers like the real-time accountability built into ridesharing services. They want quick, safe and reliable service, and the fact that customers can track the drivers on their smart phones, so they know exactly how far away their ride is, is important. We believe that the emergence of these services has meant there are a lot fewer impaired drivers on the road.
We think the council should also help cabbies and for hire vehicles become more innovative and competitive as well.
That is why we are so concerned that some of the city council members seem intent on restricting the availability of these services. No other jurisdiction in the country has imposed caps. Instead, we urge the Council to remove the restrictive caps and instead allow innovation to grow and thrive in Seattle.
That doesn’t mean favoring ridesharing over taxis. (At the Red Door, we set up one of the city's first official taxi stands back in 2011). We think the council should also help cabbies and for hire vehicles become more innovative and competitive as well.
Instead of capping ridesharing in order to try to preserve an outdated status quo, let’s significantly increase the number of taxi licenses so taxis become easier to get and more reliable, and let’s reduce the burdensome regulations that make it harder for them to compete. Let’s give the for hire vehicle drivers the hailing rights they seek. And let’s encourage the emergence of more transit and transportation options, like jitneys or private bus service, in the future.
As other jurisdictions like California and Washington, D.C. have already done, Seattle can and should come up with a solution that provides a regulatory framework that maintains a fair competitive playing field for all transportation modes, that incentives innovation, that focuses on safety, reliability and accountability, and that provides service over a wide geographical area and that maintains service options for people in all circumstances of life (including people with disabilities). And let’s focus on accomplishing these goals while maximizing the range of transportation choices available to city residents.
We’ll all be safer as a result.
Jessica Summa-Kusiak is President of the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association. Pete Hanning is the owner of the Red Door in Fremont.