Capitol Hill streets busy with car sharing services

Capitol Hill residents can be bold in their pedestrian activities and range far knowing there’s a fleet of vehicles ready to give them a ride back to the neighborhood thanks to app-based pick-up services like Uber, rental services of Car2Go and ZipCar, and two new carsharing services called SideCar and Lyft.

“Ride sharing services like SideCar can make cities like ours less congested and less polluted,” says Lee Colleton who occasionally drives for SideCar around Capitol Hill.

Lyft cars are adorned with giant pink mustaches.

Lyft cars are adorned with giant pink mustaches.

Unlike taxi and rental services, car sharing services work by allowing drivers to use their own vehicles and work on their own time. Passengers are not required to pay the driver, which allows the companies to avoid commercial licenses required by taxicabs services.

“We make a donation recommendation based on the length of the trip, but they’re not required to pay anything,” says Amit Patel, the marketing manager for Lyft. “Fortunately, most of our passengers do.”

Colleton says he makes around $9 per ride, and has only given two rides without receiving a donation in the past five months.

SideCar, however, reports its drivers earn an average of $20 an hour in donations during heavy ride times – including Fridays through Sundays, according to SideCar’s Seattle City Manager, Alex LaChance.

“For our drivers, our goal is to help them cover the cost of car ownership,” LaChance says.

While the community of rideshares view the service as a connection device between drivers and passengers, operating the un-regulated service is causing some issues. LaChance says SideCar hasn’t experienced licensing issues in Seattle yet, but the company last week filed a lawsuit against the City of Austin, after the city accused the company of violating its Transportation Code. SideCar has a petition on Change.org regarding the cease and desist letter, and vows to defend its case because:

·       SideCar is not a transportation service. SideCar is a technology platform that enables peer-to-peer ridesharing.
·       The City Code regulates “chauffeured vehicles”. We don’t own or operate vehicles, dispatch drivers or mandate shifts.
·       The City Code regulates “chauffeured vehicles” for a fee. Members of the SideCar rideshare community pay what they want and it’s voluntary.
·       SideCar is protected under federal law.

Sidecar, Lyft and Uber have also been targeted by the California Public Utilities Commission, which has also served the ride-share startups cease-and-desist letters until they are regulated, according to TechCrunch.

“SideCar will continue to defend ridesharing and the freedom of choice everywhere we go,” LaChance says.

With safety also a concern, both Sidecar and Lyft require their drivers to pass a background and drivers record check, drive a model year 2000 or newer vehicle and have valid insurance – backed by the company’s $1 million liability insurance. Passengers and drivers also rate each other after each ride to validate their credentials. The cashless system also allows passengers to donate through credit cards registered on the app, ensuring passengers aren’t anonymous.

“I’ve given many rides to inebriated people but only a few occasions have caused concern,” Colleton says. “The obvious near spoilage of upholstery was averted by quick stops for relief at the curb on the way out to a bus-forsaken Magnolia home. I felt sorry for the fellows in that case; had it not been for the late hour and freezing fog, I’d have told them to take the bus: Even taxi drivers can refuse to pick people up if they’re three sheets to the wind.”

Sidecar iPhone app

Sidecar iPhone app

Passengers looking to take a ride can download the Lyft and Sidecar apps to locate a driver. The services are actively accepting applications for new drivers. Requirements can be found on the respective websites.

Sidecar services are already available in Seattle. Lyft is planning to launch Friday, according to Patel. Look for the giant, fluffy pink mustache hood ornaments to know when they arrive on the Hill.

Meanwhile, one-way car sharing service Car2Go won an expansion of its Seattle business this weeks as the City Council voted on Monday to approve a 45% in the service’s fleet and the expansion of the service’s boundaries to West Seattle, Beacon Hill, Columbia City and Georgetown. With the added territory, there’s no telling if boosting the number of Seattle cars to close to 500 will make it any easier to find an open Car2Go vehicle on Capitol Hill during the morning commute.

26 thoughts on “Capitol Hill streets busy with car sharing services

  1. These ride-sharing companies are quite obviously skirting regulations and licensing by calling themselves something they are not. They are just taxis by another name, and the parent companies are doing it to make money, not for altruistic reasons.

    I cannot imagine that the taxi companies will stand by and not do anything about this. I predict a lawsuit will soon be in the works.

    • These companies provide service that people are actively choosing to use instead of taxis because they offer a better experience.

      Lawsuits won’t fix the terrible customer service and lack of innovation you get from the traditional taxi companies.

      • No, a lawsuit won’t do that, but it could shut down these startups for good. It seems really unfair to me that they are allowed to take away business from taxi drivers, who are after all just small business people and who must pay hefty licensing fees.

        I don’t take taxis very often, but have never had a bad experience…the drivers have been courteous and professional.

        • Many Uber drivers were formerly taxi drivers. The good ones make the switch, and free up medallions for other drivers. Many cities have a taxi shortage, this isn’t putting people out of work.

        • Many Uber drivers were formerly taxi drivers. The good ones make the switch, and free up medallions for new additional drivers. Many cities have a taxi shortage, this isn’t putting people out of work.

  2. Sidecar seems to be relishing its barely-legal position. Ridesharing is meant to be, “I’m going from A to B. Does anyone want to come along?” Sidecar reinterprets it as, “I’m going to cruise around my neighborhood with an iPhone stuck to my dashboard. Does anyone need a ride?”

    The biggest risk, of course, is to the drivers themselves. Just because someone installs a smartphone app and registers a credit card (not _their_ credit card, necessarily) doesn’t automatically make them a trusted taxi passenger. Eventually, a driver will get attacked or carjacked and we’ll have to shut down Sidecar reactively.

    • Those are my thoughts.

      It is only a matter of time before a driver is assaulted, car jacked or robbed. Or, the passenger may be the victim of their driver.

      Skirting the system is fine and dandy until something goes wrong. Then we’re all thankful for regulation.

      • Regulation doesn’t magically stop all problems. A cab drive was violently assaulted by an anonymous man in the area just a few days ago.

        With Uber/SideCar/etc, there’s a record of every passenger. It’s much safer for the drivers.

        • Funny you should mention, but some SideCar drivers were waylaid a few weeks back in an East-coast city. They all had their cars stolen from them by people dressed as police officers and armed with guns. Quite terrifying, really.

        • Of course regulation doesn’t solve all problems, don’t be silly. There are passenger records with conventional taxi services as well via video recording.

          Conventional taxi services are equipped with tracking, video recording and communications devices (that are not a cell phones). While not 100%, they still are much safer. They are also operated by individuals who drive for a living, not as a hobby.

          Eric, with all the polling of drivers and your defensive stance, we can assume you’re invested in one of these companies in some fashion. Good luck.

          • 1) There are no passenger records for cash fares in taxis.
            2) Uber drivers are not hobbyists, they are licensed.
            3) I don’t have any stake in these companies.

        • Not everyone using an iPhone is trustworthy. If you read the police blotter, notice how many of these phones get stolen every day. Uber and Sidecar don’t enforce a PIN for their app, so if there’s no PIN on the device, a thief could hail a black car, be driven anywhere, and bill the victim! Sure, the cops could call Uber HQ, but by that time the perp could easily be in another state.

          As cool as these services are — I’ve used Uber many times — they assume an awful lot of trust.

          • In a case like that, the stolen phone and stolen credit card would still provide a lot more clues than stolen cash would with a cab.

  3. Let’s hope the city council can do something to tighten up these regulations a little bit, this is a disaster waiting to happen!

    Also, has any one else noticed what a nuisance the Uber cars have become on Capitol Hill. They are constantly stopping in the middle of traffic to let passengers out, they almost never stop at crosswalks for pedestrians (btw every single intersection in Washington state is a crosswalk, whether marked or not). I cannot even tell you how many times I’ve nearly been hit by an Uber driver. Are they licensed the same as Taxis? Why don’t they have Taxi licenses on them like they should?

    • I have not found Uber to be a nuisance, and I’m also a huge fan of the service.

      Have you reported these drivers? My experience with their Seattle customer service has been extremely good.

      • I’ve lived here for 19 years and have never taken a taxi (or uber). I don’t really understand the need or expense. I don’t have a car, but I do have two perfectly good feet and an Orca card. Is it really that difficult to walk from CC’s to the Cuff?

        And Pike between Broadway and 12th is totally clogged with Uber cars who REFUSE to yield to pedestrians and remain completely behind the stop bar until I am completely across the street. That’s the law and I wish SPD would enforce it as diligently as they enforce the J-Walking laws on 4th and Pike (very diligently btw.)

        • It’s not always practical to walk or take the bus, sometimes it’s nice to explore other neighborhoods especially at night.

          My experience as an Uber passenger has been that the drivers are much more careful than the average cab driver. If you’re seeing unsafe driving, report it to Uber! Again, my experience is that they take complaints a lot more seriously than the taxi companies.

  4. Drivers who provide UBER services are using UBER as their second job, moonlighting if you will. Firstly, they are normally drivers for a limo service or for-hire towncar provider. They are regulated and licensed by Seattle and King County just like any other “for-hire” driver would be. UBER allows the drivers to fill in their slow times or days off. I always chat with the drivers and often ask how they like UBER. They always say they love not having to worry about payment details and that it works out well for them. It’s refreshing to get into an UBER and not have the driver yaking on their phone the whole trip, the vehicle is clean, and they know where they are going! Numerous times I’ve been offered a bottled water upon climbing in the car. Like that EVER happens in a taxi!

  5. “Ride sharing” is a carpool among friends or associates. These services are taxi companies. They are based in California and expanding into new markets. The reason these companies don’t call themselves taxis is because taxis must adhere to regulations and pay fees to do so. The reason taxi companies are regulated is because the taxi biz is dangerous. Bad things happen regularly. These “ride sharing” companies combine unprofessional drivers with passengers who may be looking to ride for free. This is a recipe for something bad to happen. Something bad will happen, sooner rather than later. Folks: Don’t let it happen to you.

    • I’ve talked to a bunch of Uber drivers who used to drive cabs, and one of the common things they all say is how much safer they feel driving Uber.

      These services provide a level of accountability far beyond what the taxi industry/regulators have come up with.

  6. Hmmm…I’ve got an idea! People who are afraid of what might happen – don’t use this service!
    If you see a vehicle being driven outside the law, take down the license number and report where you saw it and what it was doing you didn’t like. Use your camera, smartphone or video what you can. Post online for others’ information.

    I celebrate that creativity, cooperation and connection are rapidly moving us from the corporation-based economy (dying because it didn’t serve most people well) to the collaboration-based economy (thriving because it meets more people’s needs).

  7. I can’t wait for Sidecar, Lyft, UberX and any other “rideshare” tech companies to get through this mess. I own towncar and have to pay alots of money for insurance that required to operating a commercial vehicle for business of driving people. And to mention the fees and licensing. Sidecar and Lyft drivers do the same thing I do only they have regular insurance, don’t have to pay the fees or licensing. I want to drop my commercial insurance as soon the big money/tech people win/buy the decision. I’ll be able to do the job I love, without paying extra money to do it. And people that I “rideshare” with will get to ride in a nice luxury car. I will save close $8000 a year! WE ALL WIN! GO SIDECAR!

  8. huh, last time I checked, these services were “cashless” therefore there is no reason for someone to try and rob the driver. That’s one reason people like UBER and perhaps other services. If you try and give a taxi driver a credit card for payment, they often say the machine is broke etc. Also, isn’t it odd that the taxi companies are coming out with their own apps to summon cars to your location? Obviously, they understand the CUSTOMER SERVICE is important. They didn’t get that until there was some competition. I will still gladly pay the 20% surcharge for a comfy ride in an UBER to get home or wherever. I often ride public transport going to an event, but once there and a few drinks later, I just prefer the safety of the UBER.