Through marketing (mostly radio ads and Facebook) and my friends, I’ve been hearing a lot lately about Lyft and Uber. Sidecar isn’t as popular here in Seattle, but it still got my attention while researching ridesharing applications. Former sustainability assistant and blogger extrodinaireTim wrote a post about Lyft two years ago when they first started becoming popular here in Seattle, and since then there has been a bit of controversy about the legality and regulation about these kind of application based vehicle services (dubbed Transportation Network Companies by the city). Although these services were legalized in Seattle about a year ago, there are still concerns about insurance and potential conflict between statewide and local legislation.
As a car owner, I know how bad traffic can be, especially during rush hour. I also know that I contribute to traffic, and I feel especially guilty when I’m driving a short distance I could be walking, or when I’m the only one in my car. With all the hype I’ve heard lately, I wanted to know more and know if the companies are helping to alleviate the use of personal vehicles for single occupants.
After reading a number of articles, I found some on the basics of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) and others relating to the politics and the environmental factors. These articles all helped me to better understand about the issues at hand.
What’s legal here in Seattle and what was all the controversy about?
- Licensing and insurance requirements for drivers in the networks (there are specific requirements, but all listed pretty generally in news articles).
- Removal of the cap on the number of drivers for each TNC, so there can be many drivers from Uber, Lyft, or other companies.
- The creation of an Accessibility fund, which charges 10 cents per ride in vehicles not equipped for wheelchairs in order to create a wheelchair accessible taxi service.
- Changes made to benefit taxis and for-hire drivers. The City will increase the number of taxi licenses they issue over the next four years, and for-hire drivers are now allowed to pick up passengers that hail them on the street instead of being restricted to arrange-in-advance rides only.