Seattle council tables decision on rideshare program

SEATTLE -- A big decision that could decide the fate of a popular rideshare service in Seattle has been delayed.

The Seattle City Council wants more information before it rules, but representatives from the rideshare companies won't give it up.

City leaders are debating how to create a level playing field between traditional taxis and the new ridesharing services, such as Uber, Lyft and Side Car.

A key subcommittee was supposed to make an important decision on the issue on Friday, but that didn't happen.

At Friday's hearing, council members debated the size and scope of a two-year pilot program to test if unregulated rideshare drivers can coexist with regulated taxi and car service drivers.

The city hasn't issued any new taxi licenses in 20 years. They know there are roughly 600 licensed taxis on the streets right now, but they have no clue how many ridesharing cars there are.

And that's by design. Representatives from Uber X and Lyft won't tell the council how many drivers are working in Seattle.

"The count on the number of vehicles has nothing to do with safety, therefore we have decided not to share those numbers with the city because they've told us from the beginning it is about safety," said Uber X general manager Brooke Steger.

The council wants to know because it's considering capping the number of rideshare drivers in the pilot program at 300.

"It is frustrating because I think we are really wanting to make the right decision here," said Councilmember Sally Clark.

All sides believe the city needs a create a level playing field, but the city wants Uber to give up its numbers.

"This is a business model where they might have to adapt a little bit," Clark said. "We would really welcome them adapting a little bit."

Steger said if a cap is placed on ridesharing cars, Uber X would go away.

"It would effectively shut Uber X down," she said.

Uber uses several different tiers, and only Uber X would be affected by the cap. Uber Black is already regulated like limos by the state.

Steger said 700 Uber drivers have signed a petition to protest capping the number of rideshare cars, and so far that's the only indication of how many drivers are actually out there.

The city plans on making a decision about the program on February 27.