What’s Next For Ride Shares In Seattle?

Did the City Council’s vote last night on regulations for Seattle’s burgeoning ride share businesses, including capping the number of drivers allowed to drive at one time for each company, kill UberX, Lyft and Sidecar in the city?

It remains to be seen. As expected, however, representatives for UberX and Lyft are none too thrilled with the outcome, maintaining Friday that - if the full council sticks to the decision come next month, when the full council will formally vote on the measure - it will be a game changer, and not in a good way.

Here’s how Alexa Vaughn of the Seattle Times described the action last night:

Of nine members of the full council who were present, five — Sally Clark, Tim Burgess, Tom Rasmussen, Sally Bagshaw and Jean Godden — voted in favor of a proposal by Clark to limit the number of drivers who could work for Lyft, uberX and Sidecar at any given point in the day.

If the proposal passes a full council vote next month, it would allow an unlimited number of drivers, but no more than 150 of them, using their personal cars, could work at any given time for each company. The measure would take effect a month after Mayor Ed Murray signs it.

Each prospective driver would have to apply for a Transportation Network Company (TNC) permit. In order to get it, drivers would have to take driver-safety training, but it would be less intensive than the for-hire training that taxi and flat-rate car drivers are required to take.

Under the earlier proposal, which did not pass, the taxi committee had recommended a cap of 300 TNC-permitted drivers who could contract with Lyft, uberX and Sidecar. All 300 of those drivers could choose which company they want to work for.

According to Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger, the outlook for her company in Seattle just got a lot less bright.

“It still caps,” she says of the amended proposal that emerged yesterday, “and it’s still really low caps. ... It will effectively shut down Uberx as we know it. Getting a ride on a Friday or Saturday night will not happen.”

“We’ll sit down and talk about what this will all mean.”

That, of course, is the big question at this point. While ride share companies have long maintained that capping the number of drivers will effectively kill them, now that it appears almost certain to happen, and the cap has been adjusted and tweaked, it will be interesting to see whether the ride shares decide to pull out of Seattle altogether, or whether a new business plan is devised.

“Right now I cannot say for certain,” Steger says when pressed for specifics on how UberX will react if the driver cap comes to fruition. “I will say for certain that we will continue fighting.”

Lyft spokesperson Erin Simpson struck a similar note. “We’re obviously going to see how this plays out and figure out our plan soon,” she tells Seattle Weekly of what Lyft’s future holds here. “I think there are still decisions to be made. But, the way that the draft regulations are now, it is an attempt to shut [us] down.”

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