Now that Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have submitted enough signatures to force a referendum on Seattle’s recently revised taxi, limousine, and for-hire ordinance, it is time to start throwing their drivers in jail.
It is a criminal violation in the city of Seattle to pick up paying passengers without a valid for-hire license, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. No doubt the recently passed ordinance didn’t give the “Transportation Network Companies” (TNCs) everything they wanted, but it did legitimize their businesses, giving them a path toward legal operations. But by submitting sufficient signatures to force a referendum, the TNCs have effectively suspended the new ordinance, leaving the old law on the books. So, you know, enforce it!
Seriously. This is a political power play that is about more than just caps. The question here is who gets to write Seattle’s laws? The popularly elected city council after a year of public hearings and excruciating deliberations? Or the venture capitalists behind a handful of clever iPhone apps?
The TNCs think they have the upper hand. But in addition to suspending all caps, insurance, inspection, training and other regulations on their vehicles and drivers (along with all taxes and fees!), the TNCs have also suspended their right to operate legally. So if they hate the new law so much, let’s see how they like the old one.
A sting operation would be easy. Book a ride, and when the driver shows up, issue a citation and impound the car. Because it’s the law. It’ll only take a few high profile arrests to convince most drivers to log off the system. And then maybe the TNCs will be moved to negotiate a new ordinance instead of attempting to impose one.