City council working to find balance between Uber, Lyft and taxi companies

City council working to find balance between Uber, Lyft and taxi companies

SPOKANE, Wash. - Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft have been operating in Spokane for a short time, but local taxi owners are calling them illegal.

Before the most common way to get a ride was by hailing down a cab. Now you can find a ride-sharing car on your smartphone and get someone to pick you up, leaving some taxi drivers saying its not fair since Uber and Lyft don't follow the same rules as taxi companies do.

Zachary Kelty drives for Lyft and Uber using his Honda Civic. Both companies use apps to connect drivers with people who need a ride, but some taxi drivers want to put the brakes on them.

"You can't just walk into an industry and do anything you want with it," Bill Boomer, owner of Bill's Friendly Cabs said.

Boomer has owned his cab company for the last seven years and he's not happy with ride-sharing companies coming onto his turf. Since Uber and Lyft arrived in Spokane, Boomer said business at some smaller cab companies is down 50-percent, and his company has taken a hit as well.

"I'm going to say I'm down 15-percent," he said.

Competition isn't the thing that bothers him.

"I think they are totally illegal," he said. "I don't care if they come in, but they need to follow the laws."

Boomer said with licenses, fees and insurance it costs $2,000 to set up a cab and he thinks it's unfair the Uber and Lyft drivers don't have to pay the same fees. The city is looking into it to see how both taxi and ride-sharing companies can co-exist.

"I want to make sure everyone is on a level playing field as well and that it's not taxi drivers are paying some fees but not Uber and Lyft," Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said. "I think we need to re-write these kind of regulations to add in these ride-shares so they are specially called out."

Both ride sharing companies claim their drivers are heavily insured and pass strict background checks.

"We aren't doing anything wrong," Zachary Kelty said. "We may be operating in a gray area but we aren't doing anything illegal."

Kelty wants to keep peace on the road and he said he's willing to pay a fee to be behind the wheel.

"If they decide I have to pay a yearly fee, I would be perfectly fine with that, I would not be against it one bit," he said.

The Spokane City Council is meeting next Thursday to discuss what can be done and putting in possible regulations for these ride-share companies. Stuckart said the city council can put something in place by the end of summer.