Is Mayor Murray About to Cave to Uber? (Update: Yes!)

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!


  1. 1

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    Hundreds of Seattle families about to lose their livelihoods?

    You must mean the cabbie families, and not the families who will have to close up shop because they can’t afford to pay minimum wage at $15. ’cause there’s very little in what you have written that suggests you have any sympathy for them, Goldy.

  2. 2


    @1 I think we all acknowledge that in the short term, the $15 minimum wage will cost some people their jobs, and push some struggling businesses over the edge. It was discussed and debated at length, and in the end we decided that the longterm benefits outweigh the costs.

    What we haven’t had is a public debate over deregulating the taxi and for-hire industry. It’s something that we’re just going to allow to happen without ever debating the consequences.

  3. 3

    Guerre spews:

    Good thing Seattle isn’t an international port and tourist destination, filled with tourists without phones or American credit cards.

  4. 4

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    @ 2

    What are the consequences of insurance products being created to bring TNCs drivers into compliance, as has happened elsewhere?

    What are the consequences of cab companies significantly improving their response times, and in general improving their reputations through better performance, in order to better compete in the new technological age?

    There must still be some pretty pissed-off hansom cab drivers out there. Doesn’t mean the world owes them anything, although the likes of Deathfrogg may argue otherwise.

    There’s very little difference between a hunk of metal purchased at high cost and now worth far less because the monopoly it represented is disappearing, and a franchise purchased and lease agreement signed at high cost and now worth far less because the profit it will generate will soon substantially decrease, if not disappear altogether.

    You’ve had a pretty dismissive attitude to those on the losing side in the minimum wage debate. Seems fair you should be on the receiving end this time around.

  5. 5


    We also haven’t seen a robust discussion around the distracted driving that app-based “ridesharing” causes. The likes of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar will turn out drivers without a skill test for driving while jabbing at a smartphone which is practically required by their “Transportation Networking” services. Drivers have a financial incentive to be distracted from the road which is unparalleled by GPS and text messaging apps which don’t require a response within seconds of a message.

    There are things that these companies could do, like using interactive voice response instead of requiring the driver to take their eyes off the road and perform manual input. They could also allow for delayed responses from drivers who are in motion instead of requiring input within FIFTEEN SECONDS for Uber or slightly longer for Sidecar (variable, less than 60 seconds). However, they aren’t being required to do these things so they don’t expend that minimal effort to make their apps safer.

  6. 6

    SSHH spews:

    Seems like if there really are thousands of customers throughout the area without smartphones and credits card then there’d be a taxi industry that will still want to serve that market. The market might be smaller, but it certainly won’t go away.

  7. 7

    Merchant Seaman spews:

    I’ve used all of the services listed, for hire, Sidecar, Uber and cabs, and while TAXI service in Seattle is pretty bad, an unregulated environment will be worse, try getting Lyft, Uber or Sidecar to pick you up at terminal 18 gate 5 at 3:30AM, or to pick you up after a mugging, and wait at your house while you get them money, ect…

    Then there is the not small matter of wage earners who played by the rules getting screwed, when Goldy’s former co-worker was confronted with the fact that if Yellow Cab (a co-op in fact) should die (his words) workers would be hurt, he rather glibly stated that they could all just drive for Lyft, or Sidecar, well assuming that they own cars new enough for those services, have smart phones, an bank accounts.

    People from the middle class fail to grasp that poor people are to often denied access to financial institutions, and must rely on a cash economy, something that both passengers, and drivers of traditional Cabs can do with ease.

    Then there is the matter anonymity, the ride share companies keep a record of every trip you take with them, your name, pick up points and drop offs.

  8. 8

    Ralph Hurley spews:

    It won’t be long until individuals figure out how to rip off the Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar’s of this Brave New Taxi World

  9. 9

    Sparklee spews:

    @7 yep, the California Public Utilities Commission can access all records of their TNCs including the names, addresses and trip history of every passenger. They can do this all without a warrant or even a subpoena: &

    @8 one possibility: hail a TNC vehicle for a short ride (or cancel once you’ve contacted the driver) and then pay them directly for a longer ride.

    Or people could start using the ridesharing section Craigslist more heavily; there’s no limit on how short those “rideshare” trips can be. See for an example

  10. 10

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    The taxi industry has been totally fucked.

    And so they take their rightful place next to the Seattle franchise restaurant industry.

    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.

    Kinda like a Seattle Subway franchise license, then.

  11. 12

    LeftyCentrist spews:

    “I think we all acknowledge that in the short term, the $15 minimum wage will cost some people their jobs, and push some struggling businesses over the edge.” – Goldy

    I don’t recall that part of the discussion and debate. What I recall of the $15Now supporters party line goes more like “No proof!” and “No reason to think there will be any negative consequences! None at all!”.

    So the $15Now position has become that there will be short term problems, and they have now always acknowledged that?

  12. 13

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    @ 12

    I think by ‘we’ he meant the collective version of the term, kind of like saying “We won the Super Bowl!!!!!!”

    And hoping no one remembers you wore your Peyton Manning orange jersey to the bar on Game Day.

  13. 14

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    Goldy @GoldyHA

    I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but every time I write unfavorably about Uber/Lyft et al, the brute force attacks on HA seem to surge….

    It’s not brute force attacks. Just that bitch Karma again.

    Quit ignoring the downside of the positions you support (job losses with substantial increases in the minimum wage @ 12, for instance). Quit writing that there are no other options if your desired result (Prop 1 passage, for instance) is not achieved, when you know good and well that there are, in fact, options and that those options are being actively discussed.

    And the blowback won’t be as bad.

    Look at the bright side – your Tweets are being read.

  14. 15

    Ralph Hurley spews:

    @10 — “Kinda like a Seattle Subway franchise license, then.”

    False equivalence.

    If a ‘Sandwich Artist’ set up an unlicensed stand next to the Subway and if it were deemed legal (even though unlicensed), then it would be the same situation. People, I think, get tired of calling you on these things because you are a determined and frequent liar. It gets tedious.

  15. 16

    sally spews:

    Some days the false equivalences are so thick, it’s just not worth plowing through them.

  16. 17

    djw spews:

    Thanks, Ed Murray, for bailing out the council and putting a halt to their nonsense. Enough with protecting 800 rentiers with very dubious service quality in order to make it harder to live a carless lifestyle.

  17. 18

    djw spews:

    Speaking of dishonest, Goldy, this:

    the hundreds of Seattle families who are about to lose their livelihoods.

    pretty much qualifies, given that your preferred policy would….lead to hundreds of families losing their livelihoods. I’d love to see an analysis that the caps create net employment.

  18. 19

    ChefJoe spews:

    and, in one deft swoop, Ed Murray gains a ton of support from the young people who use lyft/uber etc and further paints the city council as being overly protective of cabbies (Sawant included).

  19. 22

    ChefJoe spews:

    @21 will the Yellow Cab ap enable you to not use the cab driver who doesn’t know their way around the city and insists they can’t take credit cards and don’t have change ?

  20. 24

    Etaoin Shrdlu spews:

    I am glad the this policy “decision” was never debated because I am increasingly loathsome of the Seattle “process.” Finally, progress!

    Look — there are no more buggy whip manufacturers in America. The carriage industry died when a better one came along. The good whip makers either moved into the automobile starter business or opened up sex toy shops. Progress happens. Some people adapt. Others don’t.

    The corrupt and decrepit taxi monopolies have outlived their usefulness. Let’s tax the shit out of the TNCs — I don’t mind paying another 10-15% per ride — and give that money to Metro for the poor souls who need 3:00 AM rides to nowhere. ‘Cause I know I’ll need it some day, too.

  21. 25

    you gotta be kidding spews:

    Goldy getting pissed at a dishonest process is too funny. He wasn’t too pissed about the dishonest “compromise” by Mayoral threat on the minimum wage debate. Smh.

  22. 26

    Poor Goldy spews:

    Poor Goldy. Seems to have a chip on his shoulder with regards to having sucked Stranger cock for several years. (Did Dominic cum in your mouth?)

    Luckily, according to his boast, he’s now making THREE TIMES what he made at the Stranger, right? Oh, things didn’t go according to plan and now you can only afford to hail shit cabs. Sucks to have no skills.

  23. 27

    Lack Thereof spews:

    So if for-hires have hailing rights now, what exactly is left as the difference between a taxi license and a for-hire license, anyway?

    I was always 100% for mostly deregulating the for-hire / app-dispatch market, so long as the street-hailable taxi market was kept regulated (a distinction Goldy always refused to see).

    So is the new scheme TNC’s are the new For-Hire, and For-Hire is now is just another type of Taxi? If that’s the case, why maintain separate for-hire and taxicab licenses?

  24. 28

    ClaimsAdjuster spews:

    Mayor Murray was determined to announce an agreement and that is what he got. The participants who did not go along had already walked out of the negotiations by the end. So what was produced is a mirage, not an actual agreement among the stakeholders.

    The insurance industry was certainly a stakeholder in this but was not at the table. For example, one Lyft/Uber proposal stated that the City is supposed to endorse the “Colorado insurance rules” for TNCs at the state level:

    “With City support, industry reps participating in this agreement will work jointly to clarify or modify the current language of State insurance law to account for recent changes in the industry and business models of all market participants, including TNCs, taxis and for-hire vehicles. The City will support an insurance language changes similar to the agreement recently reached in Colorado…”

    If the insurance industry had been represented, they would never agree to the lax Colorado rules which is only $50K max injury per individual, $100 tops per accident while the UberX/Lyft driver is in between fares. The Sofia Liu case in California fits that profile. The City of San Francisco has already spent $500K on medical treatment for the surviving members of the Liu family. The Colorado rules would allow just a $100K payout in that case.

    Neither the Seattle City Council nor Olympia is likely to go along with this when the max on taxi insurance is currently $325K whether the cab has a passenger or not. Instead of Colorado, the City Council would be more likely to follow the example of California where both the CPUC and the state legislature are now in a race to be the first to put an end to TNC corner cutting on insurance.

    In the mean time, the court case against the Uber/Lyft referendum will soon be decided. If the the plaintiffs prevail, the currently suspended law, caps and all, will go into effect. The Mayor’s agreement will just end up in the trash where it belongs.


  1. […] It’s a big win for companies like Lyft and UberX, which could operate with no caps on their numbers of drivers and grow as fast as the market demands. It also apparently offered enough sweeteners to satisfy some taxi and for-hire owners and drivers, who had spent more than a year arguing that solution was unacceptable and put them at an unfair disadvantage. […]