I realize that, given my push to complete my newest book by the third week of October, I will have little real time to give to the very serious subject confronting our local taxi industry: the incursion of non-taxi ride services presented by the for-hires, the limos (town cars) and the new so-called ride-share services like Lyft, Uber and others. I will be taking two weeks off in early November and only then do I envision having the time and space necessary to adequately address the issue. Suffice to say, the City Council committee on "Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations" is forging ahead with their deliberations. Yesterday said much about their expected direction.
The hearing began with Ben Noble, a legislative assistant providing an extensive background briefing for the committee. Mr. Noble has really done his homework, I believe understanding the issues as well as anyone, myself included. It was clearly hard work done well.
After his briefing, they moved on to part two, which was the presentation of three options numbered one, two and three. Again, excuse my brevity but roughly here are the three headings in order:
1) Maintain Current Regulatory Structure
2) Enable New Entrants and New Technologies to Direct Regulation of Individual Drivers and Vehicles
3) Enable New Technologies and Allow New Entrants............While Minimizing Role of the Existing FHV Category
Option One is the most pro-taxi while the others more or less open the floodgates to the for-hires and ride-share services. No one appears to know how to deal with the increasing tide of town cars except hand it back to the state of Washington. Those guys simply put are trouble.
I told one legislative assistant I am on friendly terms with that I am eager to work with committee to sort out the various options. Sally Clark stated that she wanted to use Option 3 as the starting off platform which I think should scare the hell out of the taxi industry. In short everyone, it is time to put on your "lobbying" hats and get your views known before it is too late. I understand that it is imperative to act quickly but personally, as I have said, I have little time currently to devote to a pending disaster. The one thing I know we don't need or want is for the City of Seattle to be flooded with an unlimited number of taxi-like vehicles, regulated or not.
As I stated in my two minutes before the council, I have grave doubts whether this great increase in passenger demands actually exists. I wish somebody at Seattle/KC would hire me to do a demand study. Whatever the results I would guarantee they would be accurate within five percentage points. Cooper & Mundy never mentioned once the great decline in the package business, which was once nearly 30 % of the total business, and during certain hours, 50 %. Again, the results the City is looking at were created by non-industry folks. Do you think the FAA would use non-pilots to investigate their industry? Of course not, of course not!
KIRO Debate Coverage
I finally viewed the two minute plus KIRO report about last Saturday. Ed Murray says there should be a moratorium on the ride-share entry into Seattle's transportation market. Finally a sane voice in the taxi wilderness! Toward the end of this month I will be stating my choices for mayor and city council. Stay tuned. One thought. Being nice doesn't always translate into effectiveness!