Last Thursday the Seattle City Council's "Select" Committee on Taxi, For Hire and Limousine Regulations held another hearing. Being back in Toledo, Ohio at that time I missed the proceeding. That unfortunately will not be the case for next Friday's scheduled meeting for 9:30 AM. I will be there whether I want to or not, and believe me I'd prefer any other location, even if it means standing in minus 30 degree F. windchill.
Today's commentary will thankfully be brief given I have failed to locate the City Council link outlining their 01/30/2014 presentation. I did find the video link but I don't have the time presently to watch and listen for the required two hours. Given that, all the new information I have is based upon telephone conversations and Alexa Vaughn's 01/31/2014 Seattle Times article. I like Alexa but have found her articles lacking important details. Please then bear with me while providing only the barest of facts and details. I promise that any report generated from the February 14th, 2014 meeting will be far more complete.
From what I understand, the City Council plans on releasing 300 newly created "TNC" or ride-share licenses to individuals who can then work for whatever ride-share company they please. These permits limit the driver to 16 hours per total week. But as I have stated previously, anyone holding what I have, a City of Seattle and King County "For-Hire" drivers license, can work unlimited hours. While this news might sound favorable for the taxi industry, think again because it legitimizes Lyft, Sidecar and Uber, permanently placing 300 new quasi-taxis in an already crowded market.
Another facet of City Council proposals is the tightening up of insurance requirements for the ride-shares. Since the terrible Uber-X fatality accident occurring 01/31/2014 in San Francisco, and Uber's subsequent unwise press release disavowing any and all responsibility, municipalities across the country have taken note. It appears clear that the ride-shares unbridled access to taxi markets is beginning to be reined in. Finally our warnings are being heeded. Unfortunately it took a child's death to get every one's attention to what was clear to begin with.
I also heard that contained in the proposal is the release of 75 new City-only taxi licenses, obviously a bone tossed to the taxi dogs. My advise is not to get too excited.
Personally I find none of this reassuring because the City Council is ignoring the fact that our market cannot sustain a doubling of available cars, and I am not even talking about all those illegal town cars. Here is the basic math, brothers and sisters, and the figures should scare the hell out of you.
Currently we have more or less 620 taxis that can operate legally within Seattle's city limits. This is the reality that the City is attempting to say is acceptable:
300 Ride-Share Cars
200 For-hire Cars
75 new taxis
All this adding up to 575 taxi and taxi-like vehicles we did not have 3 years ago. Add in the nearly 800 limousines illegally plying the streets and you can see that none of this makes any sense. And need we forget all those King County-only For-hire cars sneaking into the city?
I am still demanding that the 2010 (or whenever it was) release of the 200 for-hire licenses be examined because that made no sense whatsoever. Before anyone accepts their presence as permanent some serious questions must be answered.
One good piece of industry news is that Chicago's taxi industry is suing the City of Chicago for lack of enforcement. Sound familiar? Stay tuned!