Car Share Services Know They’re Breaking the Law; But they Think the Law is Stupid

Between a front-page Seattle Times piece today and a scheduled rally today featuring put-out taxi cab drivers, it seems Seattle’s love affair with ride-share apps have finally come to a head.

Services like SideCar – which allows drivers and those needing a ride to coordinate carpools in real time -- are ducking city regulations even though they are in many ways acting as taxi cabs.

At 2 p.m. today, taxi cab drivers who pay big bucks for licenses and follow strict regulations are rallying to demand the city start cracking down on the services.

But as our own Nina Shapiro reported last fall, similar action was taken against SideCar in California and that didn’t deter the company one bit.

Basically, they don’t believe in transportation regulations, so they won’t bother following them.

Transportation regulations “were created when the big innovative technology was the telephone,” SideCar CEO Sunil Paul told Shapiro. He’s part of a new world, he contends, and those old-school regulations don’t apply. Moreover, he asserts, “We are not a transportation company, and we don’t operate a transportation service. All we’re doing is providing the means for passengers and drivers to connect with one another.”

According to the Seattle Times this morning, councilmember Sally Clark says she and other council member may agree, suggesting to the paper that they have considered ways to make the services legal.

Seattle Councilmember Sally Clark said she’s impressed with the innovative approach to offering quick, affordable transportation in dense, urban areas, but she and other council members are on the fence about whether Seattle should find a way to make their services legal, as is. The current taxi and for-hire cab industry has been highly regulated in Seattle for decades, with caps placed on the number of licenses available and expensive fees used to fund the monitoring of drivers.

But the taxi drivers won’t go down without a fight.

“The City is not fulfilling its responsibility to enforce the laws that are on the books. The industry is in turmoil, and taxi drivers and their families are suffering as a result. The city says it is studying the issue, but there is no plan to beef up enforcement to protect taxis from losing fares,” Salah Mohamed of the WWTCOA Leadership Council says in a press release.

Stay tuned.

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