Consider this only a second installment concerning last week's bill and ordinance which incidentally was signed over the weekend by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. The 30-Day window alluded to last week is now tick, tick ticking away like a well-placed time bomb. Four bomb technicians including myself met this morning, beginning discussions on how to disarm and defuse something that could potentially "blow-up!" our local taxi industry into smithereens, into so many irreparable pieces. A law suit was filed against Uber today. More on that later. Our potential litigation is broader and would be connected to similar efforts across the country. Our situation here in Seattle is uniquely our peculiar conundrum given we are also confronting the well-established problem presented by the flat-rate for hires and their newly received sanctioning by the City of Seattle. Call it a double whammy though doubling the pleasure, doubling the fun is not how I would describe our confounding situation. Other adjectives are more appropriate in our case.
Today I finally took a few minutes to review Council Bill 118036. So far I haven't found the finished version signed by the mayor but what I have read in the nearly finished version is instructive. What had me shaking my head in disbelief was the admission the City of Seattle made stating they understand that the ride-shares are illegal. As I said last week, how does the City of Seattle pardon and legitimize companies they understand have acted completely above the law? Quotes from sub-sections 6, 7 & 8 fully illustrates this.
All these quotations originate from the bill's "Section 1. Next week I am guessing I will have additional commentary but given my complete post-taxi exhaustion this short examination will suffice.
A fragment from Section 1, sub-section or item number 3 says "demand study supports that the public is receptive to application dispatch technology," which seems to justify much of what the City has done and is now intending to do. I could pick this sentence to death but I will let it speak for itself. I personally am receptive to chocolate cake. Does that mean the City should have bakeries mandated for very city corner? Some I am sure would support that.
Item #6 says "The council finds that the use of application dispatch technology by unlicensed companies and drivers are competing with existing licensed taxi cab and for-hire drivers in the transportation market and causing negative impacts."
If they understood we were being subjected to unfair and illegal competition, why didn't the City of Seattle stop it?
Item 7 says "they are operating motor vehicles used for the transportation of passengers for compensation and these drivers are currently operating illegally without for hire driver licenses or regulatory oversight."
My same question again. Why didn't the City of Seattle intervene?
Item 8 says, "that companies providing transportation services via application dispatch with unlicensed affiliated drivers are operating illegally without a license or regulatory oversight."
I find this kind of language amazing. How did the City of Seattle not understand the implications? It is a total mystery to me.
Item 14, authorizes the 100 new taxi licenses to be released this year, with another 100 in 2015. All of this would have been reasonable say five years ago but adding to an already saturated market now makes little sense other than throwing a sweetener into a sour mix. One thing this new bill doesn't do, at least I don't think it does, is address the 1,100 town cars illegally cruising DT. Only the uninformed would think the City of Seattle can sustain nearly 3000 cars taxis and taxi-like vehicles. Maybe in 50-100 years but not now.
In Section 26, City Code 6.310.540 allows County-only cars to pick up contract business. More on this interesting deviation later. While personally supporting dual-plating this idea is just silly, implying that county car XXX will drop off at 9 AM and wait around until 5 PM for the return fare. I say this because the primary focus of this inclusion is to eliminate "dead-heading" but of course it doesn't do that at all. Car XXX would just go back to work in Bellevue and return empty to Seattle at 5 PM for the pick-up.
More on this but today the single owners at Sea-Tac Airport, known as the Western Washington Taxi cab Association, filed a suit against Uber in King County Superior Court. I am guessing this is the first of many.
On the Uber front, they are planning to put a voter referendum before Seattle voters. Quoting the late C&W singer George Jones, "The Race is On."