A bill that would level the playing field between taxi cabs and certain types of limousines has passed out of the House Transportation Committee ahead of a crucial cutoff deadline that keeps it alive in the legislature.
Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines), who co-sponsored the measure, says illegal town cars and limos regularly solicit fares at Sea-Tac Airport and the surrounding hotels, luring passengers away from licensed taxis.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve had conversations with taxi drivers in the district about this problem,Ã¢â‚¬Â Upthegrove said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“They are concerned because their business is tightly regulated at the local level, but the limo drivers are not subject to the same regulation. It creates an unfair advantage for the limos, but also puts consumers at risk.Ã¢â‚¬Â
House Bill 1775 would give the City of Seattle, in conjunction with the Port of Seattle and King County, the authority to regulate two of six classes of limousine – executive cars and executive vans Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the way they already regulate taxis. Currently, the state Department of Licensing regulates limousines but lacks the resources to crack down on those operating illegally.
75 percent of the stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s limousine business takes place within King County, and Sea-Tac Airport is a popular pick-up or destination point for passengers who ride in them. But unlike taxis, limousines are prohibited by state law from picking up Ã¢â‚¬Å“stand and hailÃ¢â‚¬Â passengers. Instead, trips must be arranged in advance, though a business office. Because illegal limousine operators donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have business offices, they violate the law each time they pick up a fare. Most consumers are unaware of this law, and are easily swayed by drivers who pull up the curb in sleek cars and promise a fare that is Ã¢â‚¬Å“cheaper than a taxi.Ã¢â‚¬Â
However, that is often not the case. In fact, a ride in a limo can be over twice as expensive as in a taxi.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We hear so many complaints from people because the town cars donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have meters and are charging whatever they like,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Habtamu Aboye, a taxi driver from Sea-Tac. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A taxi fare from the Eastside to the airport is maybe $40 or $50 dollars, but the town car charges $100 or more. This bill is good because it stabilizes the taxi business and provides customer protections.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The lack of oversight within the limo industry also means drivers with criminal backgrounds, expired licenses, and no insurance are potentially behind the wheel. A 2007 report in the Seattle P-I noted that about 30 percent of the 91 town cars cited for violations by the Port of Seattle between January 2006 and September 2007 were not properly licensed to operate at Sea-Tac Airport and about 10 percent were not licensed with the state.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The bill goes after the bad apples who are putting passengers at risk and giving the entire business a bad name,Ã¢â‚¬Â Upthegrove said.
Rep. Dave Upthegrove represents the 33rd Legislative District, which serves Sea-Tac, Des Moines, Normandy Park and large parts of Kent and Burien.
More information on him is available at this website.