Jeff Chiu/AP

Each service will be limited to 150 drivers at any given time.

Yesterday afternoon, the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to limit the capacity of uberX, Lyft, SideCar, and other on-demand transportation services in the city.

The new regulation caps the number of drivers at 150 for each service at any given time. The Council will also require those services to meet state insurance rules already imposed on traditional taxis - both Uber and Lyft are currently on track to do so. 

Setting a cap means these services won't be able to compete with the established taxi industry. At 150 drivers, they simply won't be able to keep up with demand. As one uberX driver told The Seattle Times, “In rush hour, 150 drivers each is not going to be enough. It’s not even enough for downtown."

The bill would also force hundreds of drivers off the roads - uberX alone employs nearly 1,000 drivers in the city. 

These services have faced regulatory hurdles in virtually every city they're attempting to expand to. So far, Uber has been barred from setting up shop in Miami, Portland, and New Orleans entirely. And in Chicago, where Uber and Lyft already operate, taxi drivers have filed a lawsuit against the city for not regulating these services as stringently as it has the taxi industry. There was, however, some success in California, which recently rolled out a specialized regulation framework for these new transportation services, now designated as "Transportation Network Companies."

Seattle's measure has been controversial. Last month, tech industry folks in the city started a petition urging the council to drop the proposed restrictions in order to promote competition and innovation.

But the council stood firm. According to a GeekWire live blog of the voting session yesterday, Councilwoman Sally Clark criticized the companies for failing to adequately communicate and collaborate with regulators. Councilman Bruce Harrell was also quoted saying, "the headline should not read City Council capped anything. It should read that it allowed rideshares to come into industry."

The decision is also a defensive move, an effort to buy some time for the existing taxi companies before companies like Uber and Lyft cause too much disruption.

"This is a wake-up call for taxi industry. It has to change in order to thrive. Now you have time to do that," says Harrell.

Mayor Ed Murray, who has 10 days to sign the bill into law, said in a statement that he hopes to phase out of driver limits after the council figures out how to fairly de-regulate the local taxi industry. 

Author's note: A previous version of this article referred to companies like Uber and Lyft as ride-sharing services. While the companies have been promoted as such, they are different from traditional ride-sharing programs, which consist of carpools and vanpools. California, the first state to regulate services like Uber, established the new category of "Transportation Network Companies" to do so. 

Top image: A Lyft driver waits in her car as a taxi cab passes her in San Francisco. (Jeff Chiu/AP) 

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    The FBI's Forgotten War on Black-Owned Bookstores

    At the height of the Black Power movement, the Bureau focused on the unlikeliest of public enemies: black independent booksellers.

  2. Transportation

    You Can’t Design Bike-Friendly Cities Without Considering Race and Class

    Bike equity is a powerful tool for reducing inequality. Too often, cycling infrastructure is tailored only to wealthy white cyclists.

  3. Protestors hold a sign that reads "Respect Democracy Our Vote Matters"
    Equity

    The Conservative Backlash Against Progressive Ballot Measures

    In many states, ballot initiatives on expanding Medicaid, limiting gerrymandering, and raising the minimum wage swept to victory in November. Now lawmakers are doing their best to reverse them.

  4. A photo of a visitor posing for a photo with Elvis in downtown Nashville
    Perspective

    Cities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap

    From Instagram stunts to Edison bulbs, why do so many cities’ marketing plans try to convince people that they’re exactly like somewhere else?

  5. Amazon HQ2

    Without Amazon HQ2, What Happens to Housing in Queens?

    The arrival of the tech company’s new headquarters was set to shake up the borough’s real estate market, driving up rents and spurring displacement. Now what?