Cab drivers spoke out against new app-based car services during a Seattle City Council meeting Thursday. Companies such as Uber, SideCar and Lyft offer smartphone apps that allow users to book a ride by the touch of a button. Those business operations are mostly unregulated, and their presence in Seattle has led to questions about whether the companies are legal.
If you’re unfamiliar with the new companies, here’s a general overview of how they work. You download their app, create a free account and punch in your credit card information. And when you want a ride, you start up the app and click a button.
For customers such as Saul Spady, it’s a great innovation. He said he no longer uses traditional taxis or car services. “I only exclusively take Uber and SideCar and Lyft now, because as a consumer, the process, the ease of it, the safety of the experience is really streamlined,” he said.
Fans of the new companies say the service is safe because it only uses credit cards — there’s no cash involved. The companies add that the rides can also be tracked through the GPS in a rider’s smartphone.
Critics point out that these new services are not treated the same as traditional car services. Being unregulated means that drivers aren’t required to have professional licenses and vehicles aren’t necessarily inspected the same as a commercial vehicle.
Samatar Guled with the Seattle-King County For Hire Owners and Drivers Association told City Council members that the loophole amounted to discrimination against professional drivers. “This is not innovation, this is disgrace that the city is allowing these new entrants to compete on an uneven playing field,” he said.
City officials are grappling with how to handle these new businesses. They’re in the process of discussing whether to issue new regulations.