Having already led the way on the $15 minimum wage, Seattle is poised to set a minimum rate for car services like Uber and Lyft. The Seattle City Council approved Monday a resolution that will put City Hall on a crash course studying the so-called “transportation network companies” industry in an effort to better understand the possible impacts of forcing a minimum pay rate for drivers.
Monday’s resolution sets a proposed price point of $2.40 for a minimum base fare for TNC rides in Seattle — the companies currently charge a $1.35 minimum. Before Monday’s vote, Uber and Lyft drivers and customers spoke against regulation and what they said was union-driven interference in the industry. Council president Bruce Harrell went off script to forcefully deny that the Teamsters Union is driving Seattle’s effort.
In addition to the base fare issue, the resolution also sets a framework for possible further regulation of the industry including insurance requirements and new fees. The companies are also being asked to voluntarily provide data on rides, fares, and driver compensation to city planners.
Though recent reporting suggests that many drivers in the industry are unable to make a living through driving alone, in 2017, professional drivers were again the top-ranked new business created in District 3 neighborhoods including Capitol Hill and the Central District.
With ride sharing a critical component of the rapidly growing Seattle area’s transportation infrastructure, City Hall has been doing what it can to shape the industry’s labor practices as it has opened its streets to the services. In 2015, the council voted to give drivers collective bargaining rights, a move that immediately ended up in the courts and could be resolved soon by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, the transformation of transportation as a sharing economy also is busy outside of Uber, Lyft, and countless startups’ lanes. A new era of battery powered bikes is now being tested for rental on Seattle streets and the car sharing industry has already evolved from a battle won by Zipcar to a consolidation industry where a merger with the city’s two leading providers is in the works.
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