Uber and Lyft are gradually expanding their coverage in the Pacific Northwest beyond the major metro areas. Uber launched its smartphone ride-booking service in Kennewick and Yakima, Washington, last week and similar-sized Oregon cities may get their shot in 2017.
The ride-hailing companies don't want to be regulated the same as taxi cabs. That has led to city-by-city wrangling about what rules should apply to the ride-hailing services. Insurance, background checks on drivers, vehicle standards and business licensing are all in play.
Uber dipped a toe in the Eugene and Salem markets, but then pulled out after clashing with the city halls. Salem has a newly-elected mayor who has said he'll invite Uber back when he takes office next month.
Lyft pulled out of Tacoma for almost two years due to dissatisfaction with new city licensing rules, only to return this August after the city council voted to streamline its regulations.
Uber and Lyft are now lobbying the Oregon Legislature to pass uniform statewide rules. The Portland metro area is currently the only beachhead in Oregon for both companies.
“Oregonians can expect ridesharing outside the Portland metro area in 2017,” Uber spokesman Nathan Hambley wrote in an email Thursday. “We're currently working with a number of cities to make this possible and will also be working with the legislature on a bill that would put in place statewide rules for ridesharing.”
"We are hopeful to service much broader areas of Washington and Oregon in the near future," Lyft spokesman Adrian Durbin said in a separate email Thursday.
Hambley noted that 38 states have already passed statewide rules, with Michigan the latest to do so earlier this month.
Uber marshaled support from elected officials, police chiefs and people in the nightclub and alcoholic beverage industries for its recent launches in mid-sized Washington cities.
The chair of the Washington State Senate Transportation Committee, Republican Curtis King, took the honorary first ride when Uber initiated service in Yakima last Friday.
“Cities like Yakima show that with commonsense regulations, the private sector can flourish and serve the public good,” Sen. King said in a prepared statement.
In Olympia, the owner of a local taxi company said it has survived the arrival of Uber in the community five months ago.
DC Cab owner Bruce Wooden said customers of his tried the new competitor but "the drivers creeped them out." Wooden said customers who came back to his service also told him they disliked Uber's "surge pricing," which refers to Uber's practices of raising rates during periods of high demand.
Available Pacific Northwest cities for Uber (as of Dec. 2016):
- Greater Seattle-Tacoma-Everett (initiated in Seattle in 2011)
- Spokane area (beginning May 2014)
- Portland area (including Vancouver, Washington)
- Bellingham (initiated Nov. 2015)
- Olympia-Thurston County (initiated in July 2016)
- Kennewick, West Richland and unincorporated Benton County (debuted last week)
- Yakima (debuted Friday)
- Richland and Pasco, WA (coming soon)
Available Pacific Northwest cities for Lyft (Dec. 2016):
- Portland area
- Spokane area (including Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho)
- Greater Seattle-Tacoma-Everett
- Olympia-Thurston County (in progress)