Uber prepares for legal operations in Portland


A 3-2 City Council vote clears the way for a pilot program for ridesharing companies.

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BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Uber and its competitors now have a legal path to operating in Portland.

A 3-2 City Council vote Tuesday night cleared the way for a pilot program for ridesharing companies.

From OregonLive.com:

The pilot program was proposed by Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales, creating some of the nation’s tightest regulations on ride-hailing companies. Bryan Hockaday, a Novick policy advisor, said Uber and Lyft — which allow residents to hail and pay for private rides with the push of a smartphone button — will likely be operating in Portland “within days.” Among other things, the proposal for a 120-day pilot program, which builds on recommendations from a citizen for-hire transportation task force, would lift the long-standing cap on taxi fares. As a result, taxis and app-based ride-hailing services would both set their own fares, including Uber’s controversial “surge pricing” during high-demand periods, without city regulation.

In turn, Uber and Lyft would be required to provide service to people with disabilities, have vehicles on the streets around the clock and certify drivers using their private vehicles as de facto taxis have passed city-approved background checks — just like traditional cab companies. Ride-hailing companies will pay $20,000 for a single annual permit to cover all of their contracted drivers. At the same time, every driver will be required to obtain a business license from the city.

Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz were the dissenting votes.

Willamette Week reports:

Fish compared Uber to Airbnb, which he described as “another Silicon Valley juggernaut” whose short-term rental hosts have not gotten the city’s required safety inspections.

“I don’t like bullies,” Fish said. “A valet once told WinstonChurchill he was rude, and he replied, ‘Yes, but I am a great man.’ Unfortunately, that is Uber’s business model. Something still troubles me about companies that don’t play by the rules.”

Portland Business Journal details how Uber’s major competitor, Lyft, reacted to the decision.

A Lyft spokesperson praised the decision and said the San Francisco-based company will begin operating in Portland on Friday.

“The pilot program approved tonight will allow community-powered transportation to grow and thrive in Portland,” Chelsea Wilson said in a statement.

As expected, Portland cab companies protested the decision.

From the Associated Press:

Regular cabs have been operating in a system in which they can’t charge more than $2.60 per mile. They were not cheering their newfound freedom Tuesday, concerned that Uber — with few fixed costs and billions of dollars in capitalization — will undercut prices.

“They can really undercut during the day and then they can surge price at night to make up for it,” said Ron Knori, CEO of EcoCab. Surge pricing means boosting fares when demand is high.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, users who tried to access the Uber app were greeted with the following message:

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