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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 8 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 45
Lyft Seattle asks supporters to petition City Council - Ridesharing service hopes to avoid being regulated as 'for-hire'
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Lyft Seattle asks supporters to petition City Council - Ridesharing service hopes to avoid being regulated as 'for-hire'

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Lyft, a mobile-phone-based ridesharing service, is asking its passengers to petition Seattle City Council members to let them know they want to keep this option available in the city.

Lyft is popular among Gays. I use it all the time, my friends use it, and some of them are even Lyft drivers. They make good money, don't complain about their customers, and get to choose which hours they work. In contrast, I can't stand Yellow Cab, have been thrown out of an Orange Cab literally for no reason (the driver was very odd), and the green cabs, whatever they're called, are never available when I need a taxi. So when I discovered Lyft, I was, and remain, happy with their service.

But the City Council is considering new regulations for peer-to-peer transportation, and these new laws could hurt Lyft and other ridesharing platforms. So Lyft is asking that you go to http://campaigns.peers.org/petitions/tell-seattle-council-members-to-get-on-board-with-ridesharing, and sign the petition that states you want Lyft - and other rideshares like it - to stay on the road.

But if the City of Seattle has its way, there won't be anymore 'Lyfts' for anyone.

THE TRADEMARK MUSTACHE
Lyft cars are easy to spot - they're the ones adorned with hot pink mustaches, picking up people who hail them using a smartphone. Drivers work part-time, using their own vehicles.

According to the company, payment is optional. At the end of every trip you get a 'suggested donation,' which you can increase or decrease as you wish. No cash is used - everything is done by credit/debit and a phone app.

'I started this petition because Seattle is the next major U.S. city to take a stand on ridesharing,' said Lyft passenger ChrisTiana Obey, 27. 'This is our best opportunity to make sure our city protects our current transportation options with smart, fair regulation. We need to make our voices heard now, while there is still time to influence the council's decision-making process. A final decision is expected in early December.'

Obey, a recent college graduate and a proud resident of Seattle, says a medical condition prevents her from being able to qualify for a driver's license, 'so I rely heavily on public transportation and ridesharing.'

CAB INDUSTRY OPPOSED
City Council members are determining how services like Lyft, Sidecar, and UberX will be regulated while taxi companies are lobbying against the very existence of these new services. 'This is a pivotal moment for ridesharing in the Northwest,' says Obey. 'City Hall needs to hear our voices before they make their final decision.'

Still, city officials say, this service is operating like 'for-hire' cars that are regulated by the city, and thus it should be subject to similar rules.

'They [Lyft] should be regulated because they do qualify as a 'for-hire' vehicle, because money is exchanging hands. To that extent they are required to have a for-hire vehicle license,' said Denise Movius, deputy director of Seattle's Regulatory Services and Operations. She added that city inspectors would ticket any Lyft drivers they see.

'This is new territory for most cities - you see these popping up in areas that have denser concentrations of people living and working in these areas,' said Seattle City Council President Sally Clark.

Clark says the service needs to be regulated for safety reasons.

'I want to make sure we regulate with the right interests in mind, safety. That people aren't getting taken by anybody,' said Clark.

SELF-IMPOSED STANDARDS
Lyft said each of its drivers goes through a rigorous background check. 'We do DMV checks, we do criminal background checks, you rate your driver at the end of every trip, and we also have a million-dollar excess liability insurance policy,' said company official Nick Greenfield.

Lyft disputes the claim that it operates like a taxi service. 'If you don't want to pay your friend, then that's OK, but we see that almost everybody is making that suggested donation,' Greenfield added.

But drivers can also rate passengers after rides and can choose not to pick them up.

'Before Lyft and Sidecar came to Seattle, I had fewer choices to get where I needed to go efficiently and affordably,' continued Obey. 'After using these services for the past year, I've seen the value it has added to our community. Ridesharing increases our transportation options, helps improve transportation efficiency, and provides important opportunities in this tough economy. Let's protect ridesharing. We deserve a choice.'

CALIFORNIA'S EXAMPLE
Just last month, in California, regulators reversed a previous decision after listening to hundreds of ridesharing supporters. They created smart and thoughtful rules, tailored to the sharing economy that protected both public safety and transportation choice.

'That is how the rules are supposed to be written,' said Obey. 'But it only happens if people like us speak up and make our voices heard.'

'Let's show the council we support the huge strides made in California. Tell your Seattle City Council members: Regulate smart. Regulate just. Regulate fair!'

Added Obey, 'If we get to 1,000 signatures, I will personally deliver our petition at the next City Council meeting.'

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