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Summon-a-car service Uber courts Portland with ice cream Friday

Posted by on July 19th, 2013 at 7:37 am

Uber’s website.

Uber, a California-based startup on a crusade to make taxis and towncars better, is the latest company lining up to serve low-car Portlanders.

Uber’s basic product, which it calls Uber Black, lets users book a nearby towncar using a smartphone, then electronically pay the driver and privately leave him or her a rating, without opening their wallets. In exchange, it costs about 30 percent more than a taxi, though fare-splitting is allowed.

But with this company, there’s a catch: as Uber’s employees will be the first to tell you, the basic service their company provides is currently illegal in Portland, due to the city’s complicated body of codes that regulate for-hire transportation. Those laws require taxis to accept any ride, however unprofitable. In exchange for that requirement, the city limits the supply of taxis and protects them from competition by requiring limos and towncars to book all rides at least 60 minutes in advance.

For Uber to launch in Portland, it’ll need to convince the city to change these laws. That’s where the hand-delivered ice cream comes in.

As part of a one-day national campaign on Friday, Uber’s iOS and Android mobile apps will be able to summon ice cream trucks instead of towncars. In Portland, ice cream deliveries will cost $20 for five servings.

Uber currently operates in 35 cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In most of its U.S. cities, it’s faced entrenched opposition from the local taxi industry — and if KATU’s report on Tuesday is any indication, the story in Portland will be similar.


There’s wide agreement among transportation policy experts that cities would be better off if they didn’t artificially restrict the supply of taxis. Doing so tends to drive up their price, reduce the competitive pressure to offer good service and generally increase the pressure on everyone to own a personal car. In 2011, Seattle’s Sightline Institute found that Portland had one of the country’s smallest supplies of taxis per resident, despite being in the middle of the pack on taxi price.

“The demand [for taxis and towncars] is there, but people just haven’t had high-quality, reliable and quick solutions.”
— Uber spokesman Andrew Noyes

“Taxi service in Portland is unreliable, difficult to order, and has insanely long wait times,” wrote Lillian Karabaic, a BikePortland contributor and local bike activist who’s used Uber in other cities, as she signed a petition the company’s government affairs firm helped line up to show support for Uber. (There’s also a local Twitter feed.) “I want Uber because I’ll pay a little more to not wait an hour in the pouring rain for a 2 mile ride!”

Karabaic is right that Portland taxis can be unreliable. Uber has a real argument that its slick, upscale service could keep more drunk drivers off the road while also making it more pleasant to live in Portland without owning a car.

“The demand is there, but people just haven’t had high-quality, reliable and quick solutions,” Uber spokesman Andrew Noyes said Thursday. He added that Uber “would do everything in our power to accommodate bikes” and that the company has been talking about the subject locally.

On the other hand, taxi politics are complicated. Noyes is happy to attack local taxi companies such as Broadway Cab (whose president, Raye Miles, has been quick to criticize Uber) for “making millions” on the labor of low-paid cab drivers — but it’s not as if Uber isn’t trying to do the same thing. And while state campaign finance records show Miles and his company contributed a total of $4,700 to the campaign of Mayor Charlie Hales (plus $2,000 more to his opponents, just in case), Uber’s lobbying firm Gallatin Public Affairs and its local partner, Greg Peden, chipped Hales $2,125 themselves, plus $500 to future Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick.

However this political battle plays out, the best thing about this news may be that multiple companies are fiercely competing to provide services to Portlanders who are getting around without cars of their own.

That, or the ice cream.

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Comments
  • Schrauf July 19, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Great article – well written and interesting.

    At first glance I scoffed and thought, what typical low-car user is going to summon a “luxury” town car with the other options already available, but I now see it could come in handy in some limited situations. And having multiple options (bike, transit, car rental by the minute or hour, normal taxis, fancy taxis, etc.) is key to making a low-car lifestyle nevertheless convenient and available to more people.

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    • Alex Reed July 19, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Agreed, the biggest need we have in Portland is for more real normal-priced taxis. But at least letting Uber at high prices might someday lead to them getting the City to allow them to offer normal-priced service. So, I signed the petition, sorry taxi cabal! (I support taxi drivers, but they generally don’t get a share of the excess profits that the company owners get from the limited supply of taxis).

      Plus, maybe drunk people will take Uber given the long waits for taxis on Friday and Saturday nights. Getting more drunk people off the road would be a real benefit to low-car life.

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  • Craken July 19, 2013 at 8:02 am

    “Those laws require taxis to accept any ride, however unprofitable.”

    Would someone please explain how or why a taxi ride might be unprofitable? Too short?

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) July 19, 2013 at 8:17 am

      Or too long — leading out to a neighborhood where a taxi is unlikely to pick up a fare in the other direction. That’s what kills your revenue as a cab driver (or a transit agency, for that matter): driving empty.

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    • gutterbunnybikes July 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      I use to drive/own a cab about 15 years ago. The best rates I had was the $2 sit down fee +1 for each extra passenger. If I had my way, each ride would have been 4 people going 2 blocks with another party of 4 waiting where I dropped them off. (that’d come out to a gross of about $1.00 a minute if everything went smoothly). But that doesn’t happen here.

      This is partially the reason it can be hard to get a cab. At peek hours at night, most head downtown and cruise for bar hoppers. Some areas don’t ask for cabs enough to make hanging out worth while (like St. Johns, Sellwood, Clack County, Washington County) remember your drivers aren’t making hourly wages, all thier money is about getting trips. Noones gunna hang out in (pick any of the above mentioned areas for 3 hours for that 6 block grocery run.

      Dispatch might have 6 cabs marked in a zone, but at say bar rush, all 6 have picked up “flags” (people waving from the sidewalk who suposedly didn’t call), they don’t mark out of the zone becasue they’re busy, dispatch is busy, and they loose thier place in line for a called in order.

      The flip side is that durring that same bar rush, if you wait for a call. Odds are you’re chasing people that other cabs have picked up becasue after asking the bartender to call you a cab, you walk out of the bar and flag the first one down that passes. You learn quickly not to bother with dispatched calls anywhere at peek times from downtown to 82nd.

      And should your fair need to go to Wilsonville durring this rush, you’re really screwed. Sure it’s a decent ride (when it’s not busy) but now I’ve just lost an hour of bar rush, and chasing 1 hour old dispact calls at 1 am in the burbs is alwasy a losing proposition. Again remember the drivers don’t get an hourly wage or a salery. If they are sitting, they’re loosing money.

      If you take alot of cabs, get the drivers phone number. After about a year I was getting enough “personals” that I seldom even checked in with dispatch (another reason there seems to be a lack of cabs).

      It’s easy to judge the drivers and the industry from the outside where it looks pretty simple, but as a whole it’s alot more complicated than it looks. And no offense, but having driven cab (and for a short time Towncar as well) I was already giving out about 40-70% of each trip to the companies I worked for and gas (yes we had to buy our own gas as well). 30% is really too much for what basically amounts to a cel phone call/text message.

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      • Alex Reed July 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

        I’d guess that the companies are able to take such a large cut of the fares that drivers take in because the companies are the only ones that hold taxi licenses. If Portland liberalized taxi licensing like Washington, DC has and allowed as many taxicabs as can fulfill the requirements (I’d imagine these include safety, adhering to fare structure, limited complaints) then I’d suspect that the “cut” that companies take would go down. Drivers in Washington, DC can easily go out on their own if the cut gets too high!

        Gutterbunny, do you think that allowing more taxi licenses so drivers weren’t as dependent on their companies would make things better for taxi drivers here?

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        • gutterbunnybikes July 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm

          I think that other than at a few peek times (mostly around the holidays and Fri & Sat bar rushes) there are probably too many cabs/driver services in this town as is. Just look at the backlot at PDX, drivers sit there for many hours waiting in line for what should be one of the busiest places in the city. Go to the Amtrack station when a train arrives, a block or two of cabs waiting for it to unload, usually you’re only going to get a fare if your in the first 5 or 6 to line up there and often you’re lucky if there is even one person that wants one there. Sit around and look at the cab stands by the hotels, I bet you loose patience and walk away before the first cab gets a fare off the stand.

          The real problem with driver services in this town is two fold. There just isn’t that much demand for them most the time. And honestly, becasue they aren’t used much people here don’t know what service is more appoperate for what they want.

          You want a ride at 2 am on a fri night. from your favorite bar. Don’t call just walk outside and wave a bill at the cabs that drive by. One will stop. Unless your in the Burbs or in the less popular commercial districts.

          You need to be at the airport at a certian time. Call a limo or towncar service (some towncars offer nice SUVs for big loads and big groups). They cost a bit more, but not that much more considering you have specific demands. And if you do this tell them you have 10 people or 2 bikes or what not. They’ll make it work.

          Need to go a long distance, limo or shuttle is the best way to go. Rates are by the hour and not by the mile and they can be negotiated as well unlike with a cab where it’s not negotiable.

          If your not in the city core get to know your local drivers and get thier cel phone numbers. There are drivers that specialize in some of the burbs or harder to navigate (west hills Multnomah neighborhoods) areas. Call them, they rely on a steady stream of personals for thier business.

          When I had my business even on the nights I didn’t work, my personals were taken care of when they called me. Because the better drivers knew the other better drivers and I simply had to call another trusted driver to pick them up, as I would for them when they couldn’t take care of their personals (in a few cases I even called drivers I knew from the “other” company to take care of my customer.

          And reguardless of what service you use, be nice to the driver. I had been robbed, cheated, assulted, had people get-it-on and shoot up while in the back, everyone wants a free ride or trade for a beer, a hit, a bj or what ever, but none of which will pay the rent or buy me lunch. That’s not including just plain rude people, or people that the bouncers scraped off the floor and dropped in the back, the pukers, the people trolling for hookers, etc….. The HBO show barely scratched the surface of what goes on out there, but in a weird and twisted way – despite it all, I had a blast. And if there was any money in it, I would probably still be doing it today.

          To think that this service is going to help is silly. All you’ll be doing is paying 1/3 more the same service you already call for becasue all the companies (other than limo and a couple indepant towncars) are (well at least were as I’m a bit out of the loop now) ran through a dispatch service.

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          • John Lascurettes July 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm

            The tip on getting the driver’s cell number is a good one. I don’t ride a cab that often, but when I do, it’s because it’s a group of us where none wants to be a designated driver for the evening. Anytime we’ve found a driver that we like, we tip well and get his number so we can call him the rest of the evening “on call.” Works out great. I’ve never had to wait as long for a personally called taxi driver as I have whenever I’ve called dispatch (save for setting up a scheduled ride a day or half a day ahead of time).

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  • John Liu July 19, 2013 at 8:16 am

    So the Uber car will be a third more expensive than a taxi, and there is no particular reason why it should come any faster (except in the initial period where there are few users and many idle cars). Doesn’t sound compelling, unless it is important for you to ride in a black Town Car.

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  • Spiffy July 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

    88° high forecast for my neighborhood today…

    it’s the ice cream…

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  • Bjorn July 19, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I’ve nearly missed an international flight because a taxi I scheduled 2 hours in advance never came and when I called to find out if it was coming they dispatched a taxi too small to take our boxed up bikes to the airport. I’ve also waited well over an hour for a taxi home from a bar. The service in Portland is probably the worst of any city I have ever taken a cab in, we should just end the ridiculous medallion system. The idea that the current regulations are making anything better is laughable.

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    • Chris I July 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      It sounds like the current system is basically a huge subsidy to those in the suburbs, at the expense of everyone else. If there were no regulation, cabbies would turn down long trips from the city center during peak hours. Cabs are a good thing. Every frustrated user of our current system is a potential future drunk driver.

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      • John Lascurettes July 21, 2013 at 5:40 pm

        “sounds like … a huge subsidy to those in the suburbs.”

        Sounds familiar.

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  • lazyofay July 19, 2013 at 9:44 am

    “I want Uber because I’ll pay a little more to not wait an hour in the pouring rain for a 2 mile ride!”
    Even a lazyofay can walk 2 miles in less than one hour…jeez.

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    • GlowBoy July 19, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Not with kids and a bunch of baggage.

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      • lazyofay July 21, 2013 at 7:03 am

        Raincoats? Dry bags? Kids are not made of sugar, they aint gonna melt in the rain. In twelve years of travel with a child, and living in Portland I never once used a taxi for transportation…. I just never consider them as an option for some reason….

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  • Anne Hawley July 19, 2013 at 10:13 am

    The rare occasions when I call a taxi usually involve activities with my elderly mother, a child, or an out of town guest. I’d happily treat them to a luxury ride. Portland taxi service is pretty awful.

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  • spare_wheel July 19, 2013 at 10:24 am

    i’d pay money to never have to ride in a linoln town car. imo, the city should require that every taxi for an able bodied person be an e-vehicle or have a combined fuel efficiency of 45 or better.

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    • q`Tzal July 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      All those old cars still smell lie decades old ashtray whether someone is smoking in them or not.
      Barf

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  • Brad July 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Portland cab service is terrible! Towncar service and SuperShuttle are reliable and readily available in other cities. Worth the cost to not miss a flight or to get an entire dinner party home safely.

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  • Todd Boulanger July 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

    It is all relative…years ago Portland service was worse than Honolulu but better than Vancouver WA. (I was shocked when I first moved here that it took 45 minutes to get a cab on demand vs. Honolulu’s 10 minutes…but at least in Vancouver I have had excellent cab service over the last 5 years. (No longer are the cabs that meet me held up with bailing wire and the seat is propped up with a broom handle.)

    One option may be for the city to create more taxi stands…this may generate more in town use of the cabs…I as a transit rider will use taxis more often if they are right there at hand after I just missed my bus or transfer and its 20 or 40 minutes to the next bus arrival.

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    • John Lascurettes July 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      If they create more taxi stands, I’m fine with that. I just wish cops would enforce taxis not parked in the stands (and blocking the bike lane) more. This is what I see nearly every day at the corner of SW Oak at Broadway on my commute: http://cl.ly/image/1o3F320B0O32

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  • Todd Boulanger July 19, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I stopped using Blue Star Shuttle after spending 30 minutes lost in a subdivision looking for an address. Taxis are my choice for the airport runs.

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  • kittens July 19, 2013 at 11:59 am

    To those who think we need more taxis please note: The City of Portland Revenue Bureau published a report in January 2012,
    the Taxi Driver Labor Market Study finding that many contracted taxi cab drivers in the City of Portland work for low wages under poor working conditions. The study confirmed Portland taxi drivers’ reports of long hours with low net income after expenses. Most drivers work without benefits, vacation, medical or accident insurance.

    The impacts of these working conditions are not limited to drivers
    and their families: the study also noted that passenger safety declines
    and costs to the community increase when drivers work long hours for inadequate wages.
    (entire report: http://nwlaborpress.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/2012.09.26-Staff-Recommendation-Report-City-of-Portland-Taxi-Vehicle-Permits.pdf )

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    • Alex Reed July 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      Taxi drivers’ plight in Portland is real and important, but the economics of the situation mean that they are better served by allowing MORE taxis and taxi-like businesses.

      Most Portland taxi drivers do not own their own businesses or licenses. Therefore, drivers’ wages and working conditions are not the result of the market but rather they are what the drivers can negotiate with taxi business owners.

      In a system like Portland’s, where there are high barriers in the way of disgruntled drivers who might want to work for themselves or start their own company, the drivers have no recourse and little bargaining power. This means business owners can offer them lower wages.

      If Portland allowed more taxis and taxi-like options, drivers would have more places they could work and indeed they could start their own taxi businesses. Thus, a driver getting a raw deal from his or her employer could credibly threaten to go elsewhere (they pretty much can’t now because there are so few licenses). It’s quite probable that increasing the number of taxi licenses and taxi-like businesses, such as Uber, would increase the wages and improve the working conditions of drivers.

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      • gutterbunnybikes July 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm

        There is no bargining with the companies, there is their way or “no way”.

        And one company for sure has owners, you buy the car and the number. You usually have a partner who has the cab for the other 12 shift you can’t work. On days you take off you give the car to the “company” and they then rent it out to “extra” drivers mabey (depends on if there are drivers available and if the “company” likes you or not). You pay a kitty for things like group auto insurance, dispatch services, commercial accounts, rental cabs for when your cab, is in the shop getting fixed or when you’re between cars, to be able to rent it out for a few bucks on your shifts off.

        The extra drivers are hired as independant contractors, and the services the companys offer them is that of a rental company. They don’t really hire them. Though you are scheduled, you can skip shifts or come in late or what not. And though it frowned upon all that will usually happen is that you just get rented a crappier cab, or are put at the back of the list of drivers waiting for cars (which can be hours of sitting around the garage waiting for a cab to come in).

        Allowing a driver to go out on there own is a recipe for disaster. Insurance would be insane, you don’t have a lock on the bars or other commercial businesses that you rely on. Red Cross isn’t going to let you deliver blood and livers unless you are a company and can respond instantly.

        Solo cabs are great in high cab cities like NY where you can cruise for fares. But Portland is a far cry from that. As much as I don’t like the Portland taxi kabal in Portland there really isn’t really a better alternative.

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      • kittens July 19, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        Let me make this even simpler, this is a classic issue of supply and demand. The office charged with regulating taxi permits does does studies (last one in 2009 http://www.portlandoregon.gov/revenue/article/295530 ) which concluded that demand was flat-lining due to the recession. The report recommended issuing new permits when demand resumed. The city issued 50 new permits for a new company, Union Cab, last year. This represented a 14% increase in supply.

        As to competing companies making things better for drivers, in Portland, taxi drivers work as independent contractors and therefore are not subject to Oregon wage laws. Meaning taxi companies do not pay their drivers or provide any benefits. Low hourly wages are consistent with those found in recent studies in other U.S. cities.

        Portland should focus on dramatically improving fleet mpg, age and mandating bike racks on a certain percentage. Not diluting the market with more taxi permits, companies or drivers.

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        • gutterbunnybikes July 19, 2013 at 5:00 pm

          Just because you make 50 more cabs available for rent to the “cabbies” in the city doesn’t mean you have 50 more cabs on the streets on a sunny Sunday afternoon when you’d be lucky to get a call at all for that afternoon and early evening. And if they are out there they’re sitting on the airport backlot, not servicing the neighborhoods but simply making the already long lines there even longer. Which takes more money out of the pockets of the drivers that are there already. And once you’re in line at the airport you’re locked in and can’t get out anyway (plus you’ve paid for that spot in the line as well).

          And even thought 50 more cabs are available, doesn’t mean there is anyone looking to rent one most the time.

          You do get 50 more cabs durring the peak hours, but that only hurts the existing drivers. The companies don’t care if you get one fare every 10 minutes or 10 hours. 50 more cabs is just 50 more cabs cruising the bar rush downtown. It doesn’t help any of the surrounding areas. Most nights even the bar rush is (was) taken care of within an hour to an hour and a half. New Years was the exception, but you’re nieve if you think you’re just gunna get a cab immediately anywhere on NYE.

          If you have a problems getting a cab in your area, the reason is simply that no one uses cabs in your area and it’s not worth waiting in say in Aloha, St. Johns, Parkrose etc for that call might not come at all in a shift. Especially when for all that waiting, it’s 90% of the time a grocery/corner call or a local wateringhole, all of which are usually short rides.

          When I frist started I had to try to make less $150 (usually it was more like $200) a day in my pocket on a 4-8 hour shift (late 90′s it was great). Then the city becasue of complaints from some neighborhoods the city allowed two new companies (funny if I remember right it was 50 cars too) in the city, expanded shuttle services, and allowed the town cars. Once that happened, I was lucky if I took home $50.00 from a 12+ hour shift.

          More cabs wasn’t the answer then, and I doubt it’s the answer now. Even though the companies will agree, after all it’s that more cars that they can rent. Just like I’m sure the companies will push for this too, after all who doesn’t want to charge more for the same service.

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  • q`Tzal July 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Think Portland is bad with taxis?
    Read up on the fight the NYC Limousine and Taxi Commission put up starting sometime around last September (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/nyregion/as-ubers-taxi-hailing-app-comes-to-new-york-its-legality-is-questioned.html) culminating in court battles ending only recently (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/01/nyregion/uber-companys-app-for-hailing-yellow-taxis-is-available-in-new-york.html?_r=0)

    If you think the Portland taxi companies weren’t watching NYC’s woes and preparing litigation in advance you are naive. It may be quite a long while before we see Uber service here.

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  • mikeybikey July 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I’m all for the competition and for services like Uber coming to Portland and we certainly do need better taxi services and on demand car services here. (I would like to see something like jitneys allowed) However, something sours me about an out-of-town company coming in and PR blitzing the city in an attempt to get city hall to rewrite our taxi regulations to favor their business model. I have no doubt that the taxi regulations need to be modernized, but I think the the changes need to come from a well-thought-out transportation, economic and labor policy perspective and not simply short-sighted changes based on an emotional response to a PR campaign and for the benefit a single company’s business model.

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    • gutterbunnybikes July 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      Regulate all you want, but most the city doesn’t use cabs. Night drivers make most thier money in the afternoon rush with company accounts (hosptials, Red Cross, VA, PPS, PPD many are deleveries and not passengers which is nice) and the late night bar rush. Day drivers make most thier money from the company accounts like those listed above. Medical emergencies, and coperate accounts have prefrence at dispatch. Before reservations and call ins. Other than medical emergencies I could refuse any order I wanted.

      99% of the time if my gut said something was going to go wrong it was right, that guy that robbed me from Emmanual ER dock, or the guy that assulted me in Mult Village, to the countless runners – I knew by the time they told me where they were heading something was gunna happen. And once you realize that I have that right to refuse a fare and that I don’t make “wages” as a driver, you will realize that it takes alot for a driver to pass up a fare. Because I don’t make wages I almost didn’t even report my robbery because I didn’t want to loose the time for the investigation and reporting cause I still had to pay my lease and that was all unpaid time when I might get an extra fare or two before the night was done. After all the guy only got $20 or so.

      More regulations only ever hurt the drivers. The companies don’t loose becasue they rent the cabs and/or thier services to “independent contractors”. They actually don’t make any money in the ride transactions, they make thier money from rent.

      This allows them to not pay them a wage, but it also means they can’t tell you that you have to drive into “X” neighborhood at 2 am to pick someone up if you don’t want too. Untill the company hires all the drivers and can force them to accept any or all fares, service in Portland will never improve. But there isn’t enough money in the business to do this, because as a driver I’d need to be paid pretty good none of that waiter/waitress docked tip pay.

      Part of the reason I was sucessful at it was that I grew up in Detroit Mich, and by compairison Columbia Villia at 2 am seemed pretty tame (I use to joke that I wasn’t affraid cause the gangs here still only used hand guns). So I was able to pick up lots of rides that others wouldn’t chase, which often got me better orders later cause dispatchers liked us runners and would feed or hold us better orders for helping them clean up their boards late in the shift.

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      • Alex Reed July 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm

        Maybe better regulations would require the cab companies to hire drivers as regular employees rather than questionably independent “contractors?”

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        • gutterbunnybikes July 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

          That would then probably drop the number of cabs on the streets by 2/3′s at any given time.

          Truth is that it’s demented but the whole system from the person calling for a cab to the driver is completely an honor system. So lets say you own the company and you hire me ok, I’m logged in making say $12 an hour and tips. I’m sitting on the east side somewhere and in 3 hours you give me one grocery call (almost always alot of time for a 5 block ride, usually someone that needs help). I clock in $5.00 on the fare box. So you get 5 bucks, I as the driver get $36 plus tips.

          Perhaps while I’m picking up that person someone walks up and also needs a ride, I ask the caller if it’s ok to double them up. Caller agrees. That person is close and once the grocery person is dropped off I just say hey, how’s $10.00 sound (it’s illegal – but it happens all the time). Now I $46.00 + 2 tips and you the owner got $5.00.

          Reguardless at rush times like holiday airport runs and bar rushes, many drivers won’t call into dispatch because they have their own customers to take care of (who are always more pleasent and usually tip very well) and so now I’m making all this money and not logging into dispatch. And you’re still paying me $12.00 an hour even though I might only drop the flag on the fare box once for every three fares I pick up. Can’t go by milage, cause you know I was cruising the zone for flags.

          The opposite is also true, as the owner you’re loosing everytime someone calls you from a bar and just takes the first cab to pull up. You’re paying a guy to go and chase fares that aren’t there anymore, and forcing your employee (if s/he is honest) to pass up fares to chase these bad orders. You could easily on a busy Friday or Saturday have half your fleet chaising people that aren’t there.

          As much as I hate to say it, the indepentant contractor method is really the only way to go. It keeps the motivated drivers busy and hungry and the unmotavated drivers in the Airport backlot or packing.

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          • gutterbunnybikes July 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm

            I should add that 3 hours for a $5.00 fare isn’t that uncommon even in areas that you’d think are busier than they are like the Hawthorn district (the Barn for you old school RC’rs). Inafact it’s wasn’t uncommon for most the town most the time.

            That’s why if you were smart you worked really hard at building your personals. That bartender that went to work at 6 pm, the stripper that went to work at 8, the DJ who went to work at 7 for set up. etc etc. If you took a ride to work with me I’d give you my card. If you rode to work with me twice, I’d just offer to be there when you left your house no call needed just give me your hours.

            It hurt a little at first cause I would end up dropping out zones with dispatch to take care of $5-$10 rides and I’m sure I lost a few good orders that way, but eventually I had a fairly busy schedule. But I knew going for a steady income was better than gambling on that one long ride or delevery.

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  • dwainedibbly July 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Competition is good, right? I wouldn’t mind having options for those times when I don’t want to bike, walk, take transit, or drive.

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  • hroðberacht July 19, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    I spent a few years living in a couple of cities in South Korea. One was a affluent Portland-sized district of a larger city-satellite of Seoul, on the edge of farmland and tiny villages. It had incredible bus and subway service. The other was a provincial, massively auto-centric city (also Portland-sized) with very poor public transit, out in the middle of nowhere. Both cities had cheap, readily-available taxi service, at any time of day. Never had to call for a cab or wait more than a couple of minutes. There were cabstands on arterial streets every few blocks. The way I see it, the key is entirely density. Most of Portland lacks the density and 24-hour vibrancy to support a stellar cab service.

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    • Alex Reed July 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      Dallas and Atlanta have more cabs and lower taxi prices than Portland ( http://daily.sightline.org/2011/08/05/freeing-taxis/ ) So density must not be the only factor (Portland ~4,400 people per square mile; Dallas and Atlanta ~3,500 and ~3,200 respectively).

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  • Steve Brown July 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I have used Uber in several cities. It is a great service, especially if you are visiting a city. Many times you are in an area that does not have a lot of cabs or it is a peak cab time. It is a modern service Portland needs.

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  • Adam Messinger July 25, 2013 at 8:31 am

    I’m an Oregon native now living in SF. As with PDX, the taxi service here has been remarkably bad, bad enough that a lot of people just have up and drove instead. With Uber the service is much better, you get cars quickly, they always actually show up, and when you talk with drivers, they tell you they can make more money because efficient centralized dispatch keeps them busy. They started with towncars, but now also offer Prius as well (UberX) and these are actually cheaper than taxis. It is a great service — I wholeheartedly recommend PDX do whatever is needed to make it work there too.

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