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Ride-Sharing Companies Contract With 9,200 Drivers in Seattle, Study Shows

Seattle regulates Uber and Lyft under an ordinance passed in July 2014, and the county passed partner legislation shortly thereafter. However, litigation is still being pursued over the classification of the drivers.

(TNS) -- There are more than 9,200 Uber and Lyft drivers permitted to work in Seattle, according to King County records.

The app-dispatch companies sued the county last month to stop it from revealing how many drivers had received permits, after a Seattle law firm requested those numbers under the state’s Public Records Act.

Uber and Lyft called the numbers trade secrets and said their release would be harmful.

But a judge this week blocking the release. The county then said it had given special permits to 6,677 drivers for Uber and 2,601 for Lyft.

“The county and city have long regulated for-hire transportation, and all other transportation licensing information is public,” King County Superior Court Judge Barbara Mack wrote.

“Information about the number of for-hire cars is part of the countywide public discussion about transportation planning. It is unlikely that a court would find that release of the information requested here is not clearly in the public interest.”

Seattle regulates Uber and Lyft under an ordinance passed in July 2014, and the county passed partner legislation soon after.

To operate a personal vehicle in Seattle with an app-dispatch company like Uber and Lyft — what the city calls a transportation-network company (TNC) — drivers must obtain a TNC driver permit from the county.

Steve Ross, an attorney with the law firm Keller Rohrback that requested the numbers, said it sought the information because it was “investigating the companies’ employment policies.”

Former drivers have sued Uber in several cities, including Seattle, claiming drivers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors.

“Under the present system, Uber and Lyft shift business expenses such as gas and vehicle maintenance to their workers without providing the benefits of employment, such as guaranteed minimum wage and workers’ compensation,” said Ross, who is not representing any former drivers.

Representatives for Uber and Lyft didn’t immediately return requests for comment Friday.

The numbers released represent active permits as of Nov. 24, said Cameron Satterfield, a county spokesman.

“We are very pleased that the court has recognized the importance of making these types of records available to the general public and to elected officials,” Ross said.

 

“Government officials and the public deserve to have this information as they consider the many important and dynamic transportation issues facing our region.”

This week’s ruling in the records case came a month after the City Council passed an ordinance giving Uber and Lyft drivers, along with taxi and other for-hire drivers, the ability to unionize.

When Uber’s chief adviser, David Plouffe, a former political strategist for President Obama, visited Seattle before the council’s vote, he said the company had 10,000 active drivers.

The numbers released this week don’t include Uber drivers who use company vehicles and who have regular for-hire driver’s licenses — for instance, limo drivers with Uber Black.

©2016 The Seattle Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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