Ordinance that sets standards for Lyft and Uber also streamlines regulatory system for taxis and for-hire vehicles
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous approval to an ordinance that continues the County’s regional cooperation on the regulation of for-hire transportation, while establishing ground rules for the operation of the emerging Transportation Network Companies within unincorporated King County.
“After months of public hearings and meetings with interested parties, I believe we have crafted a piece of legislation that the stakeholders can be pleased with,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, chair of the County’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. “This legislation brings King County in step with the City of Seattle and will provide the consumers, companies and drivers with a new level of protection and certainty.”
King County regulates taxis and for-hire vehicles that transport passengers for compensation within the unincorporated communities of the County. To promote public safety and customer service, since 1979 the County, the City of Seattle, and the Port of Seattle have collaborated on a program to regionalize taxicab regulations and licensing by developing consistent regulations and services across jurisdictions. This collaboration includes standardizing fees, regulations, enforcement, and rate review procedures throughout King County.
Since 1995, King County and Seattle have had an interlocal agreement where King County manages all for-hire driver licensing functions for both jurisdictions while Seattle manages all taxicab licensing and inspection functions for both jurisdictions. In addition, King County has interlocal agreements with the Port of Seattle and 16 cities to provide taxicab for-hire licensing services.
Emerging companies such as Lyft and Uber—also known as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs)—have developed as alternatives to taxicabs and for-hire vehicles, offering opportunities for private citizens to use smartphone application-based technology (apps), and their phones’ GIS capabilities to pick up rides for fares or suggested donations. TNCs have not had specific regulations on the operation of the companies.
This summer, the Seattle City Council adopted legislation for the operation on TNCs, significantly changing its approach to the regulation of the taxi and for-hire industries, making major changes to how drivers will be licensed and ensuring compliance with regulations.
Today’s Council ordinance mirrors the Seattle City Council’s regulation of TNCs in unincorporated King County and the 16 cities that the County provides regulatory services. The ordinance also streamlines regulations for taxis and for-hire vehicles and drivers. With these new regulations, taxi and for-hire associations or third-party vendors can provide background checks, training, and vehicle inspections.
In addition, the Council’s legislation will also extend the ability to make use of new technology to all the for-hire industry, allowing taxis and for-hires to use phone-based apps that are also used by Lyft and Uber.