Rideshare supporters took to Seattle City Hall Wednesday ahead of a city council vote that companies like Uber and Lyft fear could put them out of business.
The city wants to impose new rules on the rideshare industry that now is unlicensed and unregulated.
Council members are weighing the idea of caps on the number of rideshare drivers operating in the city and limiting them to no more than 16 hours a week. There would be a $50,000 annual licensing fee. And then there are concerns over safety and insurance, something that sparked a small counter-protest on the steps of City Hall.
Daniel Sibbett used to operate Aloha Cab, but he says onerous regulations prompted him to turn in his taxi license to become Luau Lyft, a rideshare service.
"I've already been wiped out once by their regs. Aloha cabs, I had 10-- had to sell of five to survive, and ended up losing the house," said Sibbett.
Daniel joined other rideshare supporters at Seattle City Hall Wednesday. The council is set to vote this Friday on a pilot program meant to level the playing field between rideshare companies and for-hire drivers, like Samater Guled, a manager for Eastside for Hire.
"These companies and John Zimmer are backed by Wall Street and corporate America. We're local, small immigrant community. Why are they afraid to compete on a level playing field? What are they hiding, what are they afraid of?" asked Guled.
But Lyft co-founder John Zimmer says the company far exceeds the proposed safety standards and liability insurance. Besides, he says, rideshare drivers are not taxi drivers.
"This is a personal vehicle versus a taxi. This is someone who does it two hours a week versus someone who does it 40 hours," said Zimmer, who say imposing the proposed regulations would effectively end rideshare in Seattle.
The City Council has postponed this vote several times already because the issue is so controversial. Mayor Ed Murray indicated he plans to ask councilmemebers to postpone it again, so he can have more time to study the issue.