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Seattle Puts Restrictions On Ridesharing, Renews Debate

OPB | March 18, 2014 12:57 p.m. | Updated: March 31, 2014 7:48 a.m.

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Seattle lawmakers Monday passed new rules for non-taxi ride services like UberX, Lyft and Sidecar.

City council members unanimously voted to cap each company at 150 active drivers at any given time. At the same time, the city will issue an additional 200 taxi licenses over the next two years.

Seattle's new non-taxi ride service rules will cap companies at 450 active drivers in the city.

Seattle's new non-taxi ride service rules will cap companies at 450 active drivers in the city.

Deborah Svoboda / KQED

The Seattle Times reports there are currently 2,000 non-taxi drivers within the city. The drivers are summoned by apps on people’s smartphone. As OPB reported Monday, Uber said the cap would effectively shut down the ride service because it won’t be able to meet the demand of its customers.

The council members also approved a measure that would require the ride-service companies’ drivers to meet the state’s for-hire minimum insurance requirements — none have proven that they are following these requirements yet.

App-based ride services have created controversy nationwide. Non-taxi drivers don’t have to abide by taxi laws like standardized fares, safety, taxes and insurance, which taxi drivers say puts them at a competitive disadvantage. A few cities, including Portland, have banned ride services for these reasons.

KQED reports that Uber found itself in the middle of the for-hire insurance debate when one of its drivers in San Francisco struck a woman and two children in December 2013, killing the 6-year-old girl. Uber was later sued by the girl’s family for wrongful death and negligence after the driver was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter.

KQED found that ride-service drivers’ personal insurance cover some claims, but the companies don’t provide additional coverage. Insurance companies want drivers to have commercial insurance, which is why some drivers are keeping their service status secret.

Seattle’s bill goes on to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who can veto the decision or sign it into law.

Meanwhile, Uber is apparently considering Tacoma, and one council member says he’d welcome the service.

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