On Other Blogs

On Other Blogs Today: Protecting Taxis, Explaining the Mudslide, and More

Our daily roundup.

By Erica C. Barnett March 24, 2014



1. The Washington Post weighs in on Seattle's decision to limit the number of "ridesharing" drivers who can be on the road for a single company like Uber or Lyft at one time.

In a decidedly skeptical post (including a somewhat derisive reference to taxi committee head Sally Clark, who headed up the discussion about the new regulations) titled, "Uber's battle in Seattle highlights the irony of regulation hurting the consumers it was designed to help," the WaPo's writer recounts two trips to and from the airport in L.A.

The first, from the airport to downtown, was in a traditional taxi, which was "dirty," cost more than the cited airport-to-downtown fare, and involved an uncomfortable argument over whether the writer could use a credit card. The second, with an UberX driver, was far cheaper than the taxi ($29 including tip, as opposed to about $55 plus tip), in a "clean" new car, and didn't involve any haggling (because rideshare users pay by debit or credit card on their phone, no cash required.) 

The Post writer links to council member Clark's blog post on the vote, writing that "The incoherence of regulators such as Clark isn’t much of a surprise.  Like the taxi and limo drivers they oversee, the regulators haven’t had to deal with disruptive technological change for decades." 

I think that's a bit harsh. However, I do agree with the writer's more general conclusion that "consumer protections" for taxi riders have devolved over time into industry protections—protections that keep an ossified industry in business no matter how unreliable, poor, expensive, or surly their service becomes. 

2. On Earthfix, KUOW's environmental reporter Ashley Ahearn talks to a geologist about what factors might have contributed to this weekend's deadly mudslide on the Stillaguamish River in Snohomish County. The short answer: Higher-than-usual rainfall (which is likely to happen more in the future because of climate change), combined with logging and other factors. 

For the longer version, check out Ahearn's report

3. Seattle Bike Blog talks to commercial property maintenance company owner John Demaree about a sticker he decided would be funny to post on his truck, depicting a tally (in Roman numerals) of pedestrians, wheelchair users, and cyclists who had been, presumably, mowed down by his truck. 

SBB's Tom Fucoloro's interview with Demaree ends on a more charitable note than I probably would have: Demaree thought he was making a funny joke, a play on those obnoxious family stick-figure stickers you see on SUVs everywhere (Mom, Dad, kid, kid, dog, cat, etc.) 

As Fucoloro notes, "For many of those who have lost friends and family members to traffic violence (sometimes due to collisions with work trucks), it simply is not a joking matter." 

Sadly, to many people, it is: As Demaree notes in Fucoloro's piece, people on the road frequently give him a "thumbs up" when they see his sticker joking about the deaths of cyclists and pedestrians. Like Fucoloro, we aren't laughing. 

4. In an effort to forestall cuts to food benefits for the very poorest Washingtonians, the state could increase heating-bill benefits to low-income residents, the Seattle Times reports. Under a federal farm bill signed by President Obama, millions of low-income food-stamp recipients lost benefits because they weren't receiving more than $20 a year in heating benefits, a threshold that qualified them for food stamps.

The state, under the direction of Gov. Jay Inslee, could raise heating benefits to $20.01 a month, so that poor individuals and families disqualified under Obama's farm bill would once again qualify for food assistance.  

5. Since the state legislature failed to pass a transportation funding package this year, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reports, construction on the west-side approach to the SR-520 bridge replacement will be confined to the westbound lanes. Construction on those lanes, according to the blog, will happen whether or not the state finds funding for the eastbound half of the roadway. 

The legislature has punted on funding a state transportation package for the last two years. 


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