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Seattle could become first city to regulate ride-share Uber, Lyft base rates

UBER. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE (KOMO) - The Seattle City Council on Monday unanimously passed a resolution to take a closer look at rules and regulations imposed by Uber, Lyft and other ride-share companies.

For weeks, the proposal, which could result in Seattle becoming the first city to intervene in how base fare rates are set, has drummed up vocal opposition inside city council chambers.

Barby Fortin, who drives for both Uber and Lyft, believes the council is trying to help taxi drivers who she says are struggling to compete with ride-share companies.

“Raise the rates, you’ll lower the ridership,” she said after the hearing.

Members of Teamsters 117, which represents taxi drivers, were on hand for the council vote Monday.

Fasil Teka, who drives a town car as well as for Uber and Lyft, commended the council, saying setting base fare rates will result in “equal rights” for all drivers.

After hearing from a stream of ride-share drivers and users, Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell told people in the packed council chambers they’re only going to launch a study.

“We’re on this journey together,” he said. “If this was easy, cities would have figured this out by now. Which they have not.”

But Councilmember Kshama Sawant said there needs to be greater pay equality. She said drivers need to stop thinking “a corporation like Uber or the millionaires or billionaires who run these companies are on your side.”

Sawant said drivers need to realize that the city is on their side and companies are eying driverless cars that will put them out of a job.

The council is looking to set the base fare rate at $2.40. Uber, in response, sent a mass email to riders saying the resolution could double their rates.

Jennifer Sepez, who is legally blind, says any increase in ridership rates will drastically impact her family’s budget. She says she and her two children rely on ride-share companies to get where they need to go.

“I’m really upset about what’s going to happen to my life if they do this,” Sepez said.

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