Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has scheduled a 1:15 press conference today to announce the results of “for-hire industry mediation,” and from what I’ve been hearing from folks on the taxi industry side of table, its pretty much a capitulation to Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar: No caps on the number of so-called “ride-share” vehicles and a relaxation of already relaxed inspection and insurance requirements.
If, like my ex-coworker Dominic, you despise Yellow Cab, and can’t wait for the traditional taxi industry to die, this is a huge victory. But let’s not pretend that’s not what’s going to happen.
This “mediation” was allegedly made necessary by the initiative Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar filed in the wake of the city council’s new ordinance imposing a cap on the number of vehicles per network. Which is ironic, because by addressing administrative issues rather legislative issues, the TNCs’ initiative is likely outside the scope of the local initiative and referendum process. The taxi industry has filed suit, but Murray doesn’t appear willing to wait for the results.
I guess what really pisses me off about this is how incredibly dishonest the process has been. We are essentially moving toward total deregulation of the taxi and for-hire industry without ever seriously debating making that policy decision. But you know, as long as Capitol Hill hipsters don’t have to wait too long for a ride on a Friday night, I suppose it’s worth the disruption to the thousands of Seattleites lacking the credit cards and smartphones necessary to use these services, and the hundreds of Seattle families who are about to lose their livelihoods. So no need to debate this any further, I guess.
UPDATE: Yup, that’s pretty much what happened. Murray led off his press conference bragging about an agreement that allows “all players to compete fairly,” and yet it uncaps the “ride share” companies while leaving the taxi industry capped (albeit with an additional 200 over the next four years). Hard to see that as a level playing field.
Murray did bring the flat-rate/for-hires onboard by giving them hailing rights, but the traditional taxis have been totally screwed. From the time they first started appealing to the city a year ago to enforce the law and prevent others from stealing their fares to today’s press conference, they have seen their livelihood snatched away from them. Perhaps the new technology makes that inevitable. But it’s a farce to present this as some sort of compromise that works for all sides. The taxi industry has been totally fucked. This idea that the city will make for-hire licenses “property” like medallions is completely worthless if one can’t make a living from the license.
So congratulations to Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and their high priced lobbyists. You won!