by: Essex Porter Updated:SEATTLE —
Taxi cabs versus Rideshares: The Seattle City Council made a choice Thursday, leaving both sides unhappy.
Their popularity boosted by their high-tech convenience, rideshare companies like Lyft and UberX are booming in Seattle. However, they compete with traditional taxi companies that are heavily regulated.
City Council members wrestled with how to level the playing field while keeping the consumer in mind.
“Owners of smart phones should not have an advantage over callers from land lines and cellphones,” said Jane Couchman, a citizen who spoke at the hearing.
A closely divided council put a cap on rideshare services.
Each can have a maximum of 150 drivers operating at one time.
Since three rideshare services now operate in Seattle, that means 450 drivers competing with cabs.
Taxi drivers feel besieged. Sukhwinder Sidhu has been driving taxi for five years.
“They're like taking away bread from me and my family,” he said.
Before the meeting, UberX said any cap on drivers, would force it to shut down. Asked if UberX will still be in Seattle if the council decision stands, Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger responded,
“No. To have such a low limit of the number of vehicles that can be on the system at one time that can make the product very inaccessible.
It's not set in stone yet. All of this will have to be ratified by the full council in a couple of weeks, but all the council members participated in Thursday’s decision.