Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations
Seattle benefits from a healthy spectrum of transportation choices. Currently the City is served by Taxis, For-Hires and Limos. New entrants in the market - UBERx, Sidecar and Lyft - are offering opportunities for private citizens to use smart phone Apps and their GIS capabilities to pick up rides for fares or suggested donations.
Our City regulates Taxis and For-Hire vehicles with an eye toward safety, reliability, affordability for passengers and fair leases for drivers. Council entered into this conversation due to concerns about safety, liability regarding new personal rideshare entrants; coupled with a need to determine appropriate levels of licensed taxis and for-hires to serve city, as well as enforcement levels and how enforcement is funded.
The new ridesharing entrants appear to be initially popular with some users, but it's not clear the models satisfy state and local law. New entrants are also operating outside current regulatory framework, without government regulated safety standards, and possibly creating economic pressure on incumbent providers. However, these services may be serving a new level of demand, rather than taking only a share of a fixed number of trips.
Taxis, for-hires, and limousines all operate under different regulatory structures - for example taxis use meters and can pick up customers who flag them on the street while for-hires and limousines operate through pre-arranged trips. New entrants are quickly becoming popular and the number of customers is growing as are questions about potential risks from insufficiently insured drivers, uninspected vehicles and inexperienced drivers. At the same time, entrants threaten economics of existing Taxi, For-Hire and Limo drivers and owners, which can be seen as a significant social justice issue as many drivers depend on their income to support their families.
Council has teamed with the City's Department of Finance and Administrative services, which regulates taxis, and for-hires and manages state regulation of limousines, to commission a demand analysis to better understand the level of services that is now being sought in the marketplace. Council anticipates that this analysis will help provide direction on how best to balance the growing demand for services, the innovations possible through new technology and the role of traditional taxi, for-hire and limousine providers.
Taxicabs, For Hire Vehicles, and Limousines in Seattle: How you can tell them apart
- For-Hires: Charge a fixed fee for each ride. Different colors than taxis, usually two colors. No meters. Can't use words "taxi" or "cab." All licensed for-hire vehicles have decals on upper portion of windshield.
- Taxis: Each taxi association has unique single color. Charges are based on meter rates that are linked to distance traveled and the duration of the trip.
- Limousines: Unmarked luxury vehicles (most often black). Can also be towncars, such as UBER Black. Limousines cannot advertise that they provide taxicab services.
Council President Sally J. Clark issued the following statement regarding the taxi, for-hire, and limousine regulations demand study originally slated for release August 8th:
"Taxi Research Partners, the firm contracted to perform the study, has not finished analysis of the demand study data. Once completed, the Council and the public will be able to get the most accurate look possible on demand for private transportation services in Seattle and King County.
"Council entered into this conversation due to concerns about safety and liability regarding new personal rideshare entrants, as well as a need to determine appropriate numbers of licensed taxis and for-hires to serve city residents, and enforcement levels and how enforcement is funded.
"Taxi Research Partners will deliver the report in September, and with the necessary data, the Council will discuss regulation of taxis and for-hire vehicles with an eye toward safety, reliability, and affordability for passengers as well as fair leases for drivers. The Taxi Committee will meet on August 8 to discuss wheelchair accessibility and driver regulations."