Seattle taxi drivers protest against unlicensed competition

by: Graham Johnson Updated:


SEATTLE - Seattle taxi drivers blocked streets and honked horns around City Hall Friday, fed up with competitors they say need to be regulated.

Drivers said the city is allowing competitors unlicensed as taxi drivers to move in on their business. They delivered a "citation for inaction" to the mayor and City Council.

"This is madness. Do something about it," said taxi driver Salah Mohamed. 

For-hire cars that look like cabs are not allowed to pick up people who hail them on the street, but taxi drivers said they do it anyway.

Town cars, and new, unregulated ride-share companies like Lyft and Uber are now also competing for riders.

Several taxi drivers told KIRO 7 the city could solve this problem by issuing more taxi licenses.

But Henry Yates, who represents for-hire companies, said taxi company owners have blocked new licenses to protect their own business.

"It is in their best interest to say what they have been saying, which is, 'Don't issue any more licenses. Keep the laws exactly the way they are now,” Yates said.

City officials said if they issue too many taxi licenses, drivers won't be able to make a living wage.

The City Council will take up this controversy next week and will release a new study about the demand for taxi, limo and for-hire services.

The city has five inspector positions for taxis, limos and for-hire cars. Two of those positions are vacant.