The ride-hailing service known as Uber wants to do business in the Olympia area, which has triggered a discussion among city officials in Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Yelm on how to regulate it and similar services, such as Lyft and Sidecar.
City officials have been meeting and a draft ordinance could go before the various councils in February, with the councils taking action in March, said Jay Burney, assistant city manager for Olympia, who has been involved in the jurisdictional discussions.
Details of the final ordinance details are still in the works, but it could be similar to what’s expected from taxicab companies, Burney said.
A taxicab company pays a one-time fee of $80 for a business license in Olympia, with the license renewed annually at $30, he said. Taxicab drivers are expected to pay a one-time fee of $70 for an occupational permit, which includes the cost of a background check. The permit also has a $30 renewal fee, Burney said.
The occupational permit is valid in the four-city area, but a separate business license is required for each city.
It’s an ordinance along those lines that could be applied to Uber and Lyft drivers who initiate rides in the Olympia area. Thurston County doesn’t have a process for regulating taxis, so another consideration is how to license the ride-hailing services in unincorporated areas, he said.
For those unfamiliar with ride-hailing companies such as Uber, the service uses a smartphone app to connect drivers, who work as independent contractors, with those who need a ride. They find each other via the app and the passenger pays for the service with a credit card attached to the app. No cash changes hands.
Uber, for example, generates revenue on a percentage of that transaction.
Once an ordinance is in place, Uber estimates there will be between 40 and 50 drivers initially countywide, with 10 to 15 new drivers each week, according to data shared with the city of Lacey. Driver turnover is reportedly high. Seattle has an estimated 2,000 Uber drivers, according to the Lacey data.
But some ride-hailing services are already doing business here, according to Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder, who updated the City Council on the ordinance discussion last week.
“I’m seeing drivers down here,” Ryder said. “But we’re not collecting anything and they’re operating down here without a (business) license.”
Burney said it’s possible that ride-hailing services are already doing business here, but he has no data to support whether that’s the case.
He emphasized that Uber officials came forward to say they want to do business here.