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Originally published Friday, August 2, 2013 at 7:47 PM

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Taxi drivers block 4th Ave. to protest illegal rideshare pickups

Honking taxi drivers clogged streets around City Hall Friday to pressure the city into enforcing passenger service regulations more tightly.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Yellow Cabdriver Salah Mohamed said if the city wants to continue being unreasonably lax in going after illegal businesses competing with Seattle taxis, he could be unreasonable, too.

He said that is why he and dozens of other honking taxi drivers blocked Fourth Avenue for about two hours Friday.

They swarmed City Hall about noon, encircling the building. On Fourth Avenue, parked taxis clogged all but a narrow left lane, backing up traffic behind them.

The taxi drivers and operators of Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association reiterated a message they’ve delivered at several protests and city meetings over the past year: The city has consistently failed to enforce its own laws against for-hire car drivers who break the law and drivers for ride-share apps such as Lyft, Sidecar and UBERx. For-hire drivers are not legally allowed to pick up people who flag them down, but some do so anyway.

The city’s taxi drivers are struggling to make a living wage as a result, Mohamed said.

“We hate to bring these problems, but you force us to,” Mohamed said to an aide at Mayor Mike McGinn’s office.

He and several other drivers and operators delivered a large cardboard “citation” to the mayor’s office that listed a $300,000 fine for lack of enforcement. Union members said the dollar amount was based on the collective difference between what 500-600 union drivers are making now and how much they made at this point last year.

At this point last year, ride-sharing apps hadn’t quite taken off yet. Sidecar hit Seattle streets in late 2012, followed by Lyft and UBERx in April. Although the city has acknowledged it views ride-sharing app businesses as illegal, it has not made a concerted effort to curb their use.

“We’re looking at different enforcement solutions but haven’t come to any conclusions yet,” said mayor’s spokesman Robert Cruickshank.

He also said McGinn and the City Council are weighing the passenger-service concerns of the taxi industry, for-hire drivers, ride-sharing companies and people who want to safely call for a timely pickup.

The results of a taxi-demand survey the city funded and administered earlier this year, expected to be released next week at a City Council committee meeting, will help to determine what the city does going forward, Cruickshank said.

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or avaughn@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.

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