SEATTLE – Drive through Downtown Seattle and you’ll see Uber and Lyft drivers, sometimes with hazard lights on, stopped in traffic lanes to pick up or drop off riders.
It can block traffic and be unsafe for passengers getting in and out of the cars.
“In an ideal world we wouldn’t do that, but sometimes there’s no choice,” said Michael Wolfe, a ride-share driver and leader of Drive Forward Seattle, a group founded by the industry to fight a unionization effort.
The group sent a letter to city officials calling for dedicated pickup and drop-off zones.
The group listed “pain points,” topped by the block of Union Street between Russell Investment Center and Target, followed by First Avenue near Pike Place Market.
As driver Gary Singh stopped to pick up a passenger in a traffic lane near the market, he said, “There’s no choice to be honest. We just have to risk it.”
Bruce Agnew, a leader with the ACES Northwest Network, which advocates for a future of automated, connected, electric and shared vehicles said, “The critical issue is to get a safe place to drop off and pick people up.”
Agnew’s idea is for mid-block zones, three cars long so there’s room to pull in and out, with changing signs similar to those at bus stops that show who’s allowed in the space.
It could alternate between buses, ride-shares and trucks making deliveries.
“That could change minute by minute,” Agnew said.
Seattle Transportation Director Scott Kubly said in the first half of 2018, he hopes to see some proposed pilot projects.
Would downtown lose more street parking?
“I don’t think so,” Kubly answered. “Potentially, but I don’t necessarily think that’s necessary, I think it’s maybe rethinking how curb space gets managed.”
Kubly said one idea is to use the 30 foot zone at the end of a block for pickup and drop-offs, but drivers say a pickup zone would be safer in the middle of the block.