If Portland’s street safety advocates hope to put special requirements on Uber drivers, they’d better move fast.
On Thursday afternoon, city officials reached a deal that will make Uber and similar ride-summoning services legal by April 9. In exchange, Uber promised to suspend its service in the city starting on Sunday.
According to Willamette Week, the first local outlet to report on the city’s deal:
If you get hit on a Portland street by a commercially operated vehicle, you don’t want it to be an UberX on its way to its next fare.
On the other hand, you’ll be better off than if you had been hit by one of many normal private cars.
As the ride-hailing mobile app unexpectedly lauched Friday night in defiance of a city where the possible penalties for operating an unlicensed taxi can include jail time (but are reportedly more likely to involve up to $2,250 in fines), it raised a side issue for other users of the city’s roads.
It’s one we discussed briefly in our September Q&A with Uber’s regional manager, but Friday’s development gives it fresh urgency.
The 14-person stakeholder committee that advises Portland City Council on taxi regulations has one representative of a taxi company: Steve Entler.
Entler is the general manager of Radio Cab, the city’s oldest and largest taxi company and the only one operated as a collective by its drivers. After talking to the regional manager for Uber, which now operates in almost every major U.S. city except Portland, we sat down with Entler for a frank discussion about the taxi business and what it feels like to watch a startup willfully ignore a set of regulations he’s spent decades navigating and helping create.
Portland is now one of just two major U.S. cities where you can’t hail a ride with either Uber or Lyft — and that’s something the car-summoning companies would, of course, love to change.
The services essentially let anyone who passes their background checks become a paid cab driver using a personal car. But Uber has balked at expanding illegally into Portland, where you can be thrown in jail for six months for operating an unlicensed taxi.
We’ve been watching these trends closely because services like Uber are already having a huge impact on low-car life in other cities. Last week, I met a young Chicagoan who gets around by bicycle in nice weather but said she’s spent $2,000 on Uber this year for foul-weather commuting and late-night rides home; two years ago, she probably would have bought her own car by now and started using it for most trips.
The ride-hailing service Uber has hired contract drivers and is providing rides in Vancouver, Wash., illegally, according to a July 25 memo from the city attorney’s office.
“Essentially,” assistant city attorney Brent Boger wrote in the memo to city council and staff, transportation network companies such as UberX and Lyft “are taxi services operated out of personal vehicles.”
UberX costs about 35 percent less than a traditional taxi ride. Last month, Uber’s CEO said he hopes “to get UberX pricing below the cost of owning a car.”
As Uber launches in Vancouver WA, Portland is one of just two major U.S. cities without ride-hailing
Uber Vancouver, WA launched last week, just ahead of today’s vote by Seattle City Council to fully legalize the services, which remain illegal under Portland’s taxi regulations.
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.