The Mayor’s office says they’ve worked out a deal with various stakeholders to remove the caps on drivers for services like Uber and Lift.  Key terms of the deal, from Mayor Murray’s office:

  • Transportation network companies and their drivers will be licensed and required to meet specific insurance requirements.
  • The City will work with the industry to clarify or change state insurance law to account for recent changes in the industry, similar to recent actions in Colorado.
  • There will be no cap on the number of transportation network company drivers.
  • The City will provide 200 new taxi licenses over the next four years.
  • Taxi and for-hire licenses will transition to a property right that is similar to a medallion in other cities.
  • For-hire drivers will have hailing rights.
  • An accessibility fund will be created through a $0.10 per ride surcharge for drivers and owners to offset higher trip and vehicle costs for riders who require accessibility services.

Just like with the minimum wage hike, Murray’s proven adept at a “Ducks Unlimited“-style approach to getting consensus by giving everyone something. The 200 new licenses and hailing rights for for-hire drivers were both part of the City Council bill back in March that instituted the caps.  It’s not clear to me if this deal is 200 more licenses on top of the 200 proposed in March.  I’ll have to get confirmation on that.  But the main deal-sweetener for the taxi drivers is ownership rights and the fund for accessibility services.

The proposal will now go to the city council for approval.

22 Replies to “Murray Reaches Deal to Lift Caps on TNCs”

  1. Well done, Mayor. I presume the council will have the wisdom and decency to not double down on their ill-advised war against carless lifestyles.

  2. As much as I’m not a Murray fan I have to admit his “let’s make a deal” approach to getting things done is bearing some sweet fruit.

    Hopefully his powers still work outside the Seattle City limits and he and Dow can get the legislature to fix transit funding as well as authorize some decent revenue sources for ST3 (or at least for Seattle to pay for its own system)

  3. No medallions. That’s just creating artificial property that the incumbant companies will hoard and drive up the value up and then lobby against issuing any more medallions, and later if the city wants to dissolve the medallion system it will have to compensate the holders because it’s taking private property. What problem is medallions going to solve?

    1. Unlimited street-hail cab supply comes with its own set of issues as well, as anyone who’s ever been stalked through an entire walk home at night by sketchy DC cabbies can attest. Perhaps the way to solve this is by issuing only a limited number of licenses, but making them nontransferable — if a licensee gives his license up or lets it expire, the city can choose from among applicants or assign the license first-come first-serve to qualified applicants.

    2. The problem medallions solved was getting incumbents to the table. Frank’s description of “Ducks Unlimited”-style deal-making is particularly apt. There, everyone at the table gets something, but ducks themselves aren’t at the table because they don’t speak English (if they could, they might negotiate for a longer “wabbit season”) and have a tendency to poop on everything. Here, everyone at the table gets something, but future entrants can’t negotiate because they have a tendency to prevent their own births while traveling back in time.

    3. Honest question: is the lobbying against more medallions going to be any stronger than the lobbying against license expansion already is?

    4. They’ll put more money into opposing it if a $50K medallion is at stake than a $0 license. That money would go into ads and initiative-signature gatherers. It could make the difference between making it difficult to reform the system later, vs impossible to reform it and impossible for new entrants to compete.

      1. Yeah. I said this in a comment but it apparently wasn’t allowed through. Trying under my other email address…

  4. Instead of blocking these services, we should be looking into how they can be better integrated into the Transit Web.

    1. David, in my own cab-driving days in Detroit my style was to keep moving on the arterials of the neighborhoods I liked, rather than sit at cab-stands waiting for a call.

      Then as now, I loved driving itself, and as a suburban kid just out of college, I felt like I was finally becoming a working-man in the kind of city that bred art, jazz, and Motown.

      And where I could have dinner in Greek-town, which in those days was populated by people literally right off the boat from every part of Greece, and often on shore leave from a freighter.

      And midnight lunch at a place on the west side where staff and clientele were, like many auto workers, right out of coal country Kentucky. And end of shift breakfast at the Eastern Marketi like Pike Place but huge.

      And dozens of other amazing things I could not have seen anywhere, and any other ways. The last thing I would have done was stalk anybody at night. You could get killed like that.

      And John, you’ve put a lot of gold in a nut-shell. In every city I’ve ever visited where transit was a way of life, there was always an “understory” of excellent taxi service.

      Winning approach is as close coordination and communication as possible between modes. From a transit point of view, good cab service is best possible guarantee that fewer residents will need cars, and fewer visitors will rent them.


  5. Is the prohibition on street-hailing rescinded? I thought that was one of the odder laws in Seattle, personally.

    1. One thing I think is flat illegal, and also dumb and dangerous: a cab pulling over into a bus stop, especially right in front of an incoming bus. Or blocking a bus from leaving.

      What John is suggesting would probably make voluntary cooperation easier. So would limiting hailing to clearly marked curb space- well clear of bus traffic.


      1. I’ve heard its illegal but it hasn’t stopped me from hailing a cab on a Friday or Sat night if they don’t have a passenger already.

    2. I get a lot of people riding in my cab asking why street hailing is illegal. They can hail a cab anytime they wish. I can pick them up, as long as it can be done in a safe place.

      Some of the confusion seems to be this: If I am on my way to a dispatched call, I can’t really abandon that trip, after I have committed to it, to pick up a street hail. That’s why I sometimes won’t make the flag stop on the street when I appear to be empty.

    3. There is no prohibition on street hailing. That’s a misunderstanding of existing law.

      So long as the cab is licensed in the locality the hailing is happening, not already en route to a dispatch call, and able to safely & legally pull over, you can hail any cab you please.

  6. Has there been a study that compares usage percentages – based on customer economic level – for taxi customers vs. paid ride share customers vs. neither? I’d guess that folks making less than $30,000 a year don’t make up a very large percentage of taxi or paid ride share customers (unless they’re in hazardous situations), but maybe 75% of some paid ride share customers make under $30,000 dollars a year. I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a “sweet spot” is for these various approaches to transit, but it would be interesting to know, if only from a cultural/trivia aspect what role the various income strata play in.the business models..

    1. The percentage of low-wage workers riding cabs is likely higher than you think, in large part because Metro so frequently lets them down when they are trying to make a time-sensitive trip.

      Almost every cab ride I ever took was because Metro was AWOL when I needed to get to work.

  7. Dumb question: Will all cabs, for-hire drivers, and “rideshare” drivers be making the Seattle minimum wage?

  8. Now that for-hire licenses come with hailing rights, what’s the difference between a for-hire license and a taxi license?

    From the limited reading I’ve done on it, it seems like that now TNCs are now equal to the old For-Hire tier, and For-Hires are now just clones of Taxis.

    1. I was wondering the same thing.

      I guess one difference is that taxis have a regulated metered rate and TNCs can charge what the market will bear. I’m not sure where for-hire cars fit on this scale.

  9. So, how do I know I am hailing an UBER and not a PSYCHO driving around in a black Town Car? Will they be branding their vehicles or identifying themselves in some way?

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