Seattle Police investigated nine impaired driving incidents a week in the East Precinct — and 50 a week across the city as a whole — in 2015. For the East Precinct covering Capitol Hill, that’s a 22% jump vs. 2014. While the majority of those incidents did not result in arrests, the increase in stops and reports reflects the ongoing effort to crack down on driving under the influence. To give Capitol Hill revelers yet another safe option vs driving drunk or high this New Year’s Eve, Seattle officials Wednesday rolled out a new partnership with ride service Lyft to provide discounted and free rides in the city’s nightlife neighborhoods including Pike/Pine and Broadway.
“In 2014, we had 500 crashes involving impaired drivers, one fatality, 25 serious injuries, and 144 injuries overall. So, it’s a public safety issue that we absolutely have to tackle,” Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly said during the announcement at E Pike’s Comet Tavern.
The Lyft partnership calls for the Uber competitor to provide $75,000 worth of subsidized rides to Seattle customers in qualifying areas including Ballard, Fremont, Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, Belltown, South Lake Union, and the University District. “Data from the past five years shows these areas with higher frequencies of impairment-related crashes,” a statement on the effort reads.
Lyft customers will be eligible for $10 off their ride with a limit of five rides per person through the course of the partnership. Vouchers will be made available at “bars throughout selected Seattle neighborhoods” on New Year’s Eve to promote the discounted rides. Existing Lyft users will also be notified about the new discounted ride zones.
“This partnership is a great example of how Lyft aims to partner with the city of Seattle,” Todd Kelsay, general manager of Lyft Seattle is quoted as saying in the announcement. “Our mission is to affect positive change in our cities through transportation. We hope everyone celebrating New Year’s opens the Lyft app to get home safely. Together we can make Seattle’s streets safer for everyone.”
Kubly said the city is open to partnering with other companies for similar subsidies and that a state grant will continue to fund taxi vouchers available to nightspots for helping inebriated patrons get home.
Comet owner Dave Meinert said he hopes the Pike/Pine nightlife businesses can work with Lyft to improve those kinds of taxi services and eliminate problems with drivers who will sometimes refuse to provide service for an intoxicated passenger.
East Precinct commander Capt. Paul McDonagh tells CHS that increased officer presence will be part of the scene on Capitol Hill this New Year’s with emphasis patrols planned for the area. Unlike some nightlife areas elsewhere in the country, McDonagh said Washington law doesn’t allow for DUI checkpoints.
The East Precinct’s increase in DUI stops and investigations includes many events that are sometimes little more than a 911 caller reporting a swerving vehicle. But it also includes emphasis efforts in the Central District from this summer as East Precinct put more officers in the area and initiated more traffic stops. Looking at suspected DUI stops and reports from across the city since 2014, police have been most active in checking for impaired drivers in the North Precinct including Ballard or in South Seattle around Beacon Hill.
Back on Capitol Hill Wednesday, CHS asked director Kubly a hypothetical: *If* the First Hill Streetcar were running, would it provide discounted rides Thursday night? Kubly said there’s no mechanism for the city to offer service beyond rush hour level frequency for the streetcar system. Meanwhile, Sound Transit has typically offered special late night service for light rail on NYE. When you ring in 2017, that could be useful.
To learn more about Seattle’s new ride discount program, check out seattle.gov.