Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seattle Needs Ride Sharing



The City of Seattle is in the process of deciding whether or not to eliminate ride-sharing services such as Über, Lyft and Sidecar.

Is that a good thing?

If you've ever watched Portlandia, you have an idea of what it's like to live 200 miles north. Seattle is very open and progressive, but at the same time it feels the need to regulate almost everything. Our City Council can get bogged down on inane issues, such as spitting in public parks.

However, when communication delivery shifted from print to the web, would it have made sense for the Seattle City Council to regulate online information sources in order to keep local  printers in business? Of course not.

Which brings us back to getting around town.

The taxi industry is in revolt over the unfairness of competing with ride-sharing enterprises. Taxis are subjected to layers of regulation, where ride-sharing entities are not. It makes sense to analyze the different requirements for ride sharing and taxis, and do what is reasonable to level the playing field.

But another part of the equation is that the taxi industry hasn't adapted to change. It's difficult to compete with Über, which lives on smartphones, and for a reasonable cost, provides instant communication, safety, and timely responses to its customers.

Instead of discouraging new, faster and cheaper ways to get around, shouldn't Seattle be looking at ways to improve options for consumers, cultivate employment, and identify ways to bolster local government through the taxes it collects?

Seattle is a welcoming environment for people of all stripes. It is an incubator of innovation. Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco and many other trailblazing companies began here. And some have crushed, or at least dented, their competitors. 

I think ride-sharing services should be allowed to operate. Having said that, I'd like to add they should be subject to oversight, be licensed, insured, and pay taxes.

To survive, a business needs to be nimble. It may be time for taxi companies to evaluate their business models to compete with ride sharing. It could be a win-win for all.

Do you have ride sharing in your city? What do you think?

To see Conan and the stars of "Ride Along" use "Lyft," click the link below:



Above: Robert Deniro in Taxi Driver via Columbia Pictures Corporation 



14 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:52 PM

    Hear! Hear! Well-said!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Anonymous!

      I hope the City of Seattle comes to its senses...is that expecting too much? *wink*

      Cheers/Terri

      Delete
  2. If they're serious about traffic congestion, think they should make it easier on taxis and ride-sharing services to operate in Seattle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear David,

      True—Especially since the City of Seattle eliminated a number of parking spaces downtown to accommodate bicycle racks!

      Thanks for the comment!

      Cheers/Terri

      Delete
  3. I really do think that it would be completely wrong for the city of Seattle to eliminate ride sharing companies. I feel that sometimes, even though Seattle is progressive, we go about things the wrong way, such as eliminating ride sharing companies, bike lanes, and spending money on electronic parking signs for garages that never fill. I think regulations for those companies such as uber and left should be raised, as you said, and, though I am not aware of all of the taxi regulations, possibly lower some regulations for Taxi's to make the playing field more even.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear George,

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback and for taking time to read this post.

      In many ways, we are lucky to live in a city as progressive as Seattle. But sometimes things happen that really mystify me. Like, didn't we vote and approve to extend the Monorail THREE TIMES? And where are we? Drilling a tunnel that may be the ghost of the "Big Dig" in Boston :-/

      But as for the ride-sharing services — this one seems a no-brainer. Of course the drivers should be licensed and insured. And as for regulations, I agree, something needs to be done to make it more fair for taxis to compete.

      I do believe taxis need to get with the program to remain competitive.

      Many thanks again for your comment!

      Cheers/Hugs/Terri

      Delete
  4. D Otsuki6:54 PM

    Although I have rather limited knowledge on this subject, I think this post makes a lot of valid points. I do believe that said ride-sharing services should have to pay taxes and follow certain regulations as described above.


    I furthermore agree with the bit on taxis. They haven't adapted. Think of something like Blockbuster. They didn't adapt fast enough to a change in technology and desires for the general public, and hence, we have Netflix. I think something similar is happening here. The taxi companies (or company, I don't know which is valid) should be more focused on changing their business plan rather than complaining about others'. It is unfortunate their businesses are going down hill, but that doesn't make it other people's problems, in my opinion.

    In the real world, people--and in this case companies--adapt or they fail. It's like an artificial natural selection, and I think that's how it should be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Dan,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the post and offer a great response.

      I think complacency is the downfall of a lot of companies. They regard themselves as unassailable, then get caught unaware. To remain relevant, it'e necessary to adapt and change. Your Blockbuster/Netflix example is a great illustration of missing the boat.

      When our son was married earlier this summer, a lot of the out-of-town guests used Uber. They loved it. I guess part of it was the cool factor of being transported in a nice vehicle instead of a yellow cab. The other part was being able to see on your smart phone, your driver and the route they were taking.

      At the end of the day, Darwin is still right!

      Cheers/Hugs/Terri

      Delete
  5. Anonymous11:29 PM

    Thanks for making us aware of this situation, Terri. I haven’t used these new ridesharing services yet, but friends have expressed delight about using Uber. Uber is very creative—at one point they had a cat promotion day where you could ask that kittens be delivered to you for 15 minutes of snuggle time with all proceeds being donated to the animal shelter. It proved to be very popular. I’m happy these new services exist, as we now have more choices. Coincidentally, I signed up for Uber today before reading your blog as we are looking at transportation options for a relative on Christmas day. But it does not seem fair that these new services are not as regulated as taxis. I hope the cab companies can find a way to revamp their operations to be more in touch with the times, and that the regulations placed on ride sharing companies will still allow them to flourish.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear A,

      Thank you for reading and commenting. And I'd like to add, your comment is so well written. I feel honored you took the time to craft it.

      I was unaware of the kitty snuggle time, but it's this type of creativity that resonates with young customers—our "future grownups."

      Choice has been important for marketplace competition. I suppose the cab companies are all competing fairly equally with each other. Along come the ride-sharing interlopers, turning the industry upside down. I'm sure it's upsetting. But in a free marketplace, the consumer is king.

      Since ride-sharing entities operate differently than cab companies, I don't think the same regulations can be expected to work. But my hope is there will be a way to meet on common ground. GOOD innovations need to be acknowledged as such, and I think ride sharing qualifies.

      I don't know who you are, but if you and I are friends, please contact me via email. I have two Uber cards left from earlier this summer and would be happy to give you one.

      Thank you again for your great feedback!

      Warm regards,

      Terri

      Delete
  6. Aloha Terri,
    Being a former Seattle resident and having dealt with the horrible traffic of your city for 3 years before moving to Hawaii 16 years ago (I can only imagine it's worse now), ride sharing is an awesome service and concept for big cities. I've used Uber in San Francisco, London and Paris this past year and found it to be a wonderful alternative to trying to hail a taxi during rush hour! Uber driver's cars are nicer, newer, cleaner and drivers friendlier than most taxi's... and they only cost a bit more. Competition is good and bad cab companies will not survive if they do not compete and clean up their acts (so to speak)! It reminds me of the city's (Seattle) reluctance to build light rail and stop people from demonstrating by hanging themselves off bridges during rush hour, which closed vital 99/I5 at the most inopportune times of the day when we lived there in 90's! Also... from my experiences the new transportation service companies like Uber have stricter self imposed rules and seem better run without the added regulations, if you look at the minimum requirements. Thank you...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear W,

      Aloha and many thanks for the comments!

      "Progressive" doesn't necessarily equate with "visionary." Since you were here, the traffic has grown from bad to terrible, and is paralyzed during rush hour. It's amazing that a city of this size doesn't have a reliable mass transporation system.

      My experience with Uber has been excellent. I don't know about the other companies, but suspect they are similar. You have used them around the world, and have had the same response — positive. No wonder there is speculation about its value: Uber Might Be More Valuable Than Facebook—Here's Why—http://nym.ag/1gTdCok 

      Regulations are the product of bureaucracies. I seriously believe the city council thinks they're not doing their jobs unless they are creating layers of red tape. The city may be wondering how their blessing will turn into a lawsuit down the road. So, fairness notwithstanding, in the interest of public safely, oversight is needed.

      I hope you will visit Seattle soon! We would love to show you all the new things that have happened since you were here!

      Cheers/Hugs/Terri

      Delete
  7. in dc and in some new york suburbs that are close to ugly, sprawling industrial parks (or as you nicely euphemize them in seattle "campuses") the taxi drivers try to put a bunch of people in their cab at the train stations...

    is this what you mean by RIDE SHARING?.

    if so, there are few things to think about before you wholeheartedly endorse it...

    for example, if you are in a hurry to get to your meeting (and that is the ONLY reason you would be in White Plains), you might have to go OUT OF YOUR way to drop someone else off at General Foods or Pepsi headquarters....i hate that.

    also..you might end up in a car full of creeps--people blabbing on their cell phones or eating tacos or fried chicken at 9 am and stinking the whole car up--

    and sometimes its hard NOT to ride share. i.e. the taxi driver at the head of the line calls you over and says "where are you going?" and you look in the back seat and the tallest man in the world is sitting beside the bearded lady and you're like "uh, i'm going to paris so i think i better get the next cab".

    i get the green nature of it..and the congestion piece and agree with it...

    AND, you're talking about being in the CITY of Seattle--not the suburbs. without a subway system i can see how sharing rides makes a lot of sense--and of course the good news about sharing in the city is that there are traffic lights and lots of other cabs around. so unlike being in the boondocks of timbuktu westchester, if you are in a horrible cab you can always jump out at a red light and keep your eye peeled for a cab full of cute, fun, smart people. who knows, maybe you'll all decide to blow your meetings off and just go for a joy ride!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Pixi,

      Thanks for reading and for your great response.

      Your comment is so entertaining, my blog post is feeling depressed!

      I don't have the experience of sharing a taxi with strangers but I can see why a cab driver would want to consolidate a bunch of people, all leaving the airport and, all wanting to ride into the city. Having said that, I'd find it disconcerting to share a ride with strangers!

      Last year when we went to Italy, we arranged to have a car service pick us up at the airport and deliver us to our hotel. Exhausted from traveling, if we'd had to share the ride with extra people in the vehicle, talking on cell phones and eating food—I can imagine how obnoxious it would've been!

      With dynamic ride-sharing services, you don't have to accommodate strangers or unwanted passengers.

      Do you know how people in the suburbs deal with the lack of convenient mass transit? They all drive cars. And THAT is why Seattle's traffic is such a mess!

      Pixi, you need to come back to Seattle. It is a much more exciting place with you here!

      Cheers/Hugs/Thanks/Terri

      Delete