As we reported in Fizz this morning, Mayor Ed Murray said this week, pretty unambiguously, that he would like to eliminate caps on the number of drivers for "ridesharing" companies like UberX and Lyft within a year. (In addition to other new restrictions on the previously unregulated companies, including a minimum insurance requirement, the city council limited the number of drivers who can operate for each company at one time to 150).
Given the rather tortuous process that led the city to this point— with taxi drivers arguing that ridesharing services should be outlawed or at least regulated as heavily as cabs, and the app-based ridesharing companies arguing that the city should give them the freedom to innovate without excessive regulation—we wondered how in the world Murray thought the city could come up with a plan that would make both sides happy in less than a year.
Put another way: How would Murray both eliminate caps on ridesharing services and increase the number of taxis in Seattle while still allowing the taxi industry to stay competitive?
Arguing that the city should strike a balance between regulation and innovation, Murray's told PubliCola:
We have a highly regulated taxi industry and highly insured cabs, which cost a lot of money to operate.
My principles were, number 1, [rideshares] need regulation on issues of safety—the vehicles driven, and the drivers, need a level of insurance significantly higher than what they pay now, but not at the current taxi level, which is too high.
In return, I would also like to see caps removed.
Currently, we’re not in a win-win place. Taxis are required to use the dispatch system, which is cumbersome and doesn’t lend itself to the innovative use of apps. I'd like to move toward a regulatory place that’s a level technological playing field. We need to look at removing caps and perhaps look at the number of taxi licenses.
A total lift [on taxi licenses] is probably something they do not want. People own these cabs. They have value in them, and there are people hired to drive them. There’s a whole series of issues related to how we regulate cabs that I would like to look into. If they can deregulate and be as innovative [as ridesharing services], it’s going to make them more competitive.