Ride-share firms Uber, Lyft seek fewer rules in Everett

Ride-shares were glad to see tweaks to certain requirements, but want less regulations.

EVERETT — The ride-share companies Uber and Lyft want to keep operating in Everett, but with fewer regulations, new documents show.

The companies co-authored a Sept. 20 letter to Mayor Ray Stephanson. The letter was obtained by The Daily Herald through a public records request.

It was written in response to the mayor’s Sept. 6 request for more details about the companies’ concerns.

Uber and Lyft were glad to see tweaks to certain requirements, such as insurance, they wrote.

However, “a few additional changes still need to be made to ensure the continued availability of our services in Everett,” the letter said.

Ride-shares are a “new and unique business that require a new and unique regulatory structure,” it said.

About five weeks ago, the companies temporarily canceled services in Everett. The timing coincided with the deadline for the grace period under the city’s new rules, which were approved in June. Hours after the service cuts were announced, the city decided to extend the grace period, pending an additional review of the rules.

The companies now say they are seeking face-to-face meetings to continue the conversation. As of Monday, Stephanson has not responded to the letter, spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

The city must consider how to address the feedback while keeping “a strong focus on safety,” she said.

“City staff expect to discuss any proposed changes with Uber and Lyft before bringing them before the full council,” she said.

The city codes that govern ride-shares say repeated violations could lead to a misdemeanor charge. Lyft and Uber say that clause puts drivers “at risk of jail time for minor infractions.” They also say they can’t control whether their drivers have business licenses. Each company and each driver needs the license to operate in Everett under the new rules.

In addition, there have been questions about vehicle inspections.

Everett has said that drivers who pass inspections in King County are good to go here. However, it also says the vehicles can’t be subject to safety recalls. The companies say that language forces another inspection to happen, which they consider “overly burdensome and practically unworkable.”

The companies’ final point in the letter regards the city’s zero-tolerance policy for drivers using or possessing alcohol or illegal drugs. Everett says the companies must suspend the driver pending an alleged violation and conduct an investigation.

The city says that part of the code means taking statements from passengers and drivers, not gathering forensic-level evidence for prosecution. Uber and Lyft say investigations should be the domain of law enforcement.

The City Council is likely to take up the issue in the coming weeks.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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