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Originally published June 19, 2013 at 5:14 PM | Page modified June 20, 2013 at 7:42 AM

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Editorial: Ride-sharing services should be regulated

Some people like the convenience of services like Lyft, Sidecar and UBERx, but the new services are shirking the rules. City leaders must level the playing field so regulated taxi and for-hire drivers can compete.

Seattle Times Editorial

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RIDE-SHARING services like UBERx, Sidecar and Lyft are innovative and convenient, but the city of Seattle should consider the need for oversight, particularly considering the services compete with a highly regulated taxi industry.

Their early success has exposed a demand in Seattle for cheap, direct transportation. The problem is these cars don’t follow the same licensing and insurance requirements that taxi and for-hire drivers are required to follow. That’s technically illegal, but the city is not enforcing the rules.

So what happens if there is an incident in one of these cars? Who’s liable? The city shouldn’t wait to find out.

As much as consumers enjoy the ease of using smartphone applications to get around town, public safety is at stake.

City Council members are exploring the effects of the ride-sharing phenomenon and expect to make rule changes by July 31. They must preserve rider safety and level the playing field for heavily regulated taxi and for-hire drivers. Mayor Mike McGinn should get more involved as well.

Because the ride-sharing market is growing rapidly, UBERx, Sidecar and Lyft are offering deals to consumers, with which traditional drivers cannot possibly compete.

Now that ride-sharing services are here and offering a valuable service, the city cannot put them out of business. However, they should be subject to some additional regulations.

Simple assurances that ride-sharing drivers have undergone background checks and have insurance is not enough.

The underlying issue remains demand. There are only 688 taxi cabs permitted in Seattle. That number hasn’t changed in years. Perhaps it's time to consider lifting that cap, changing insurance requirements or allowing more drivers to be flagged down by potential customers.

The top priority for city leaders should be public safety. An equally important goal is to create a balanced regulatory structure that’s fair to all drivers.

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