As we noted in Fizz yesterday, Mayor Ed Murray has parted ways with city council members Mike O'Brien, Sally Clark, Kshama Sawant, and Bruce Harrell (the unlikely left-right alliance supporting stricter regulations on ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber. Lefties like Sawant say unrestricted ridesharing hurts working-class immigrants, while Harrell worries about protecting the taxi industry in general.)
Murray argued that although ridesharing drivers should be required to carry a minimum level of insurance coverage (legislation the council's taxi committee will discuss tomorrow would require a floor of $1 million), there shouldn't be a cap on the total number of ridesharing vehicles or the number of hours they can operate per week (the council is also proposing a cap of 300 vehicles overall and a cap of 16 hours per week). "We have a city where fewer people are owning cars and fewer people are driving cars that they own, which is why we’re seeing more taxi rides."—Mayor Ed Murray
We asked Murray to elaborate on his position on ridesharing regulations: Specifically, why he opposed a cap, what regulations he did support, and how he responded to concerns that ridesharing will kill the taxi and for-hire car service industries?
Here's what Murray had to say:
First of all, the issue of safety, I think, has to be our primary concern, and I have had some of the [ridesharing companies] in and discussed with them that they have to accept a level of insurance that’s commensurate with taxis. [Lyft insures drivers for $1 million in damages; cabs are required to carry a minimum of $300,000 in insurance; and it's unclear how much insurance UberX drivers carry].
There’s this argument that’s being put forward that we’re pitting a social justice good against an environmental good. That’s a false dichotomy. I think we do have an obligation, because they are mostly immigrant drivers, to help them. I believe we need to lower the costs. We need to immediately increase the number of licenses; we need to look at the costs the city puts on them, lessen regulation, and increase the number of taxis.
The other piece of this is, even though we’ve seen this explosion in the [transportation network companies, AKA TNCs], during that same period of time, taxis have continued to grow in their own revenues. That speaks to the second good, which is that we have a city where fewer people are owning cars and fewer people are driving cars that they own, which is why we’re seeing more taxi rides.
I don’t think caps on the TNCs work. Council member O'Brien doesn’t take into account that people driving TNCs work differently. I think in exchange for that, we should increase the number of taxis, decrease regulations, and give for-hire cars hailing rights.
There’s a social justice good around immigrants, and there’s an environmental good around people not owning cars.
Generationally, there’s a massive divide on this issue. In what used to be my legislative district (the 43rd, which encompasses Capitol Hill and the U District), I'm hearing significant angst over capping TNCs.