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Originally published Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 4:08 PM

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Guest: Pass clearer rules for new ride services like uberX, Sidecar

Seattle’s current transportation regulations are designed to keep low-cost, convenient, green alternatives for sedan transportation off the road, writes guest columnist Brooke Steger.

Special to The Times

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I have taken Uber black and uberX and have taken many many taxi rides in Seattle. I... MORE
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SEATTLE is no stranger to innovation. Some of the world’s biggest advances in technology, aerospace, online retail and biotech have come out of our city.

Seattle doesn’t just embrace technology innovation. We’re also on the cutting edge of environmental policy and leading the debate on reducing CO2 emissions.

Technology-enabled transportation options like Uber are no exception. Seattle has been an early and active adopter of technology-enabled transportation solutions such as UberBLACK, uberX, Car2Go and Sidecar, among others.

Unfortunately, in stark contrast to the progressive culture of this city, Seattle’s current transportation rules are designed to keep low-cost, convenient, green alternatives for sedan transportation off the road. Current regulations are the direct result of decades of lobbying by the taxi industry, which over the years has sought to limit its competition.

The consequence? Antiquated regulations that simply do not reflect modern technology and ignore popular demand for transportation alternatives.

Despite this regulatory scheme, it quickly became clear that the city of Seattle decided on a policy of nonenforcement for these dated regulations and has allowed low-cost, green transportation alternatives to flourish. For now.

While we are pleased to see regulators following the demand of the city’s residents, a scheme of tacit approval without legal support is not the ideal business climate for innovators who prioritize compliance with regulations. Businesses need clarity in order to invest in their markets, to adapt to growing demand and to bring the best service possible to a city’s residents.

We applaud the City Council’s Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations Committee for working to adapt the rules. The solutions are straightforward: Streamline licensing for commercial transportation providers, and abolish protectionist measures that prohibit low-cost, green cars from being put in service.

With these simple changes to the for-hire/limo regulations, Seattle can be positioned to lead the country in transportation innovation, embracing its innovative, sustainable culture while keeping the roads safe for its citizens.

Technology-enabled transportation options have positive benefits throughout the cities they serve. They spur economic development, create jobs and make life easier for residents and visitors.

For the city of Seattle, UberBLACK and uberX relieve parking congestion and traffic, reduce drunken-driving incidents and create small-business jobs. Contrary to what the taxi industry claims, Uber make safety and accountability paramount for riders.

Every uberX driver undergoes rigorous background and driving-record checks, substantially more rigorous than what local governments impose on commercial drivers.

At the end of every trip, riders rate their driver, keeping accountability high, and Uber reviews all trip feedback.

That type of accountability simply doesn’t exist in the highly protected taxi industry, which has chosen to invest resources in lobbying rather than in customer service, safety and technology improvements.

Consumers need more from our transportation system. They want options for commuting on light rail and buses. They want safe bike paths and pedestrian walkways. There is plenty of room for taxis, for-hire cars, limos and technology platforms.

Thousands of Seattleites take low-cost rides using uberX every week, proof positive that in this amazing and progressive city, residents want a safe and reliable low-cost alternative to taxis. Seattleites choose us because they want more options for convenient, hassle-free transportation and they eagerly await the council’s vision of the city’s transportation future.

Brooke Steger is general manager of Uber in Seattle. On Twitter @wiredpirate

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