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Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm unite to regulate Uber, other ride-hailing services

In this Jan. 14, 2016, photo, a driver waits to pick up passengers at an Uber and Lyft pick up area at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas. The advent of Uber and Lyft in Nevada last fall has thrown the powerful Las Vegas taxi industry and its regulators into upheaval, as the taxi industry's $3-per-ride credit card processing fee and lack of an online review system look suddenly out of date.
In this Jan. 14, 2016, photo, a driver waits to pick up passengers at an Uber and Lyft pick up area at the Bellagio hotel and casino in Las Vegas. The advent of Uber and Lyft in Nevada last fall has thrown the powerful Las Vegas taxi industry and its regulators into upheaval, as the taxi industry's $3-per-ride credit card processing fee and lack of an online review system look suddenly out of date. AP

A community meeting to discuss a proposed ordinance to regulate ride-hailing services such as Uber is set for next month in Olympia, a city of Lacey official said Thursday night.

Why is a Lacey official talking about a meeting in Olympia? Because Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Yelm are trying to take a uniform approach to regulating the ride-hailing companies — and Olympia has agreed to host the meeting, said Steve Kirkman, who works in Lacey’s public affairs department.

Kirkman updated Lacey City Council members on the proposed ordinance during its work session Thursday night.

Uber, which connects drivers with customers using a smartphone app, wants to do business in the area. Once the ordinance is in place, Uber expects 40 to 50 drivers locally, adding 10 to 15 drivers a week, Kirkman said.

The area can expect quite a bit of turnover because 11 percent of Uber drivers quit the first month and half leave after the first year, Kirkman said. Uber makes money by taking a 20 percent to 30 percent commission from each customer transaction.

The Seattle area is home to 2,000 Uber drivers, Kirkman said.

Some key aspects of the proposed ordinance:

▪ The ride-hailing companies, which the ordinance refers to as “transportation network companies,” would pay a $1,000-per-year license fee that would apply to the four-city area, not just one jurisdiction, Kirkman said.

▪ Drivers would have to get a business license for each jurisdiction where they do business.

▪ The jurisdictions could audit up to 20 drivers twice a year, requesting driver background and vehicle maintenance information.

▪ Driver vehicles 10 years or older would not be allowed.

After Kirkman’s presentation, the council seemed largely supportive of Uber’s existing practice for handling driver background checks. As for generating revenue through the city’s business and occupation tax, the council felt it might be a nonissue because they weren’t sure drivers will make enough money to meet the threshold for the tax, which is an annual gross income of $20,000.

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt raised concerns about ride-hailing services driving taxicab companies out of business, but her comments appeared to go unheeded. She then turned to Mayor Andy Ryder and asked whether he had ever tried Uber.

Despite raising concerns earlier in the meeting about the importance of regulating the ride-hailing services, Ryder replied, “Oh, yeah. They’re great.”

The community meeting is set for 6 p.m. March 9 at Olympia City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E.

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