| SEATTLE, July 15
SEATTLE, July 15 Seattle lawmakers eased limits
on ridesharing companies on Monday, handing a victory to a
nascent industry that has emerged in scores of cities to compete
with traditional taxis.
Seattle City Council voted 8-1 to remove restrictions
imposed earlier this year on the numbers of cars used by UberX,
Lyft and other companies, which let customers hail rides through
smartphone apps from drivers using their own vehicles.
But it kept in place tougher insurance requirements on the
rideshare companies, brought in in March, addressing one of the
main criticisms of the new operators.
Many traditional taxi companies and a number of city
administrations have balked at the rise of the rideshare
industry, protesting against what they see as a lack of
regulation covering licensing, safety and insurance coverage.
Austin, Texas, began threatening to impound ridesharing cars
last year, prompting another service, Sidecar, to leave town.
Seattle's lawmakers raised similar objections in March,
limiting each of the ridesharing companies to 150 drivers on the
road at any one time.
But as a public campaign built against the limits in a city
known for its embrace of innovation, Mayor Ed Murray assembled
taxi owners, dispatchers, for-hire owners, and ridesharing firms
for weeks of meetings aimed at balancing competing interests.
Monday's vote also allowed 200 more licenses for traditional
taxi companies over four years.
"Today's vote to authorize ridesharing recognizes that
regulations can be modernized to allow new industries to thrive
while maintaining the highest level of public safety," said Lyft
spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson.
The one council member to oppose the new measures, Mike
O'Brien, said the public had not been given a proper chance to
vet the bill.
Supporters say ridesharing companies are often cheaper than
their traditional competitors.
But UberX has faced criticism in recent months for its
practice of surge pricing, in which it increases the cost of a
car ride - sometimes several times over - at times when demand
is highest, such as during a snowstorm. UberX Chief Executive
Travis Kalanick has defended the practice as an example of
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)