Uber sets its sights on Tacoma, taxi drivers and city prepare

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:


Tacoma, Wash. - Despite being in the midst of a battle over rideshare regulations in Seattle, Uber is showing interest in potentially expanding to Tacoma. The company set up a new Twitter account, @Uber_Tacoma, and tweeted, "Hey Tacoma! We've got our sights set on you."

"That tweet ... it's a little intimidating," taxi driver Lora Johnson said. "It's a little predatory."

Uber has two different products: black cars and Uber-X, which competes directly with taxis and is priced about the same. Uber Seattle's general manager Brooke Steger would not comment on whether it was one of the services or both. Regarding a possible Tacoma expansion, Steger only said, "Stay tuned."

Johnson said she doesn't believe that Tacoma has enough demand to support its current taxi companies and rideshare services. Johnson's boss at Fair Fares Taxi Cab Company, Victoria Fair, said her drivers have to meet a lot of safety and insurance requirements. She said just like taxi drivers in Seattle, she wants an even playing field if rideshare companies come to town.

"If they met the same regulations, I would not have a problem with it," she said.

Tacoma's Tax and License department currently oversees regulations for 115 taxis . City officials told KIRO 7 on Thursday that Uber had not filed for a business license yet. KIRO 7 asked Tacoma City Council member Marty Campbell if he believes that rideshares will need to face the same kind of regulations as taxis in Tacoma.

"I think that we’re going to have to look at something," he said. "Whether they need to be as robust as what we have for our taxi companies ... again, do we do too much on our taxi companies? Do we really need to take another look at how we’re doing that?"

Next week the Seattle City Council is expected to vote on limiting the number of drivers allowed from companies like Lyft and Uber. Campbell said he will be watching the vote closely.

"I think it's important that we look at what other cities have done," he said.

But some people in Tacoma said it's about time they had the same service availability as Seattle.

 "I think just having more options is good in that way," Marianne Moses said.

Tacoma city staff have started reviewing their taxi regulations and plan to present their findings to the mayor, city council and city manager.