The Olympia and Tumwater city councils have approved new rules for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft.
At their respective meetings late Tuesday, the councils also approved an interlocal agreement with Yelm and Lacey regarding regulation of these popular services, which are known as transportation network companies. The Yelm City Council approved the rules and agreement May 24, while the Lacey City Council is expected to do so Thursday (June 9).
The ride-sharing companies differ from taxi companies because they rely on a digital network — more specifically, a smartphone app — to connect passengers with independent contractors who use their personal vehicles. The passenger pays for the service with a credit card through the app.
Officials from Olympia, Tumwater, Lacey and Yelm have been working this year to develop a uniform approach to regulating ride-sharing businesses. Among the new rules:
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▪ Ride-sharing companies must obtain a business license in each community where they operate.
▪ All drivers must pass a third-party background check and must not have committed three or more moving violations in the previous three years.
▪ There is a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use for drivers.
▪ Drivers must be at least 21 years old with a valid license and must meet registration and insurance requirements.
▪ There will be a twice-yearly audit of records for the companies and drivers.
▪ Vehicles must pass inspection standards and display the appropriate logo for the particular ride-sharing company it represents.
▪ Unlike a taxi, ride-sharing vehicles cannot accept street hails.
▪ Drivers must pay a business and occupation tax.
According to the five-year agreement, Olympia will take the lead in licensing and auditing the companies on behalf of all four cities. Olympia will pay for the administrative costs through a $1,000 licensing fee.
One primary goal is to protect the health and safety of the communities, said Jay Burney, Olympia’s assistant city manager. Burney said Olympia is handling licensing and audits to ensure consistency in the process.
Taxi services will not be subject to the new ride-sharing ordinance, but will still be regulated under the existing rules.
Uber decided this week that it’s no longer doing business in Bremerton.
The Kitsap Sun reported the company doesn’t like the city’s requirement that drivers obtain a $75 business license to operate there. Uber spokesman Michael Amodeo said the regulation makes it “very difficult, if not impossible, for ride-share services to thrive there.”
Bremerton City Attorney Roger Lubovich says the company’s position is perplexing. The city doesn’t make Uber, Lyft or similar companies abide by its regulations for taxicabs, but like anyone else doing business in Bremerton, Uber’s independent contractors must obtain a business license.
He noted many other jurisdictions have similar rules, including Tacoma, where Uber instructs its drivers to obtain a city business license at $90 per year, if the driver is making more than $12,000 a year. The company’s decision means its drivers are unable to pick up fares in Bremerton.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.