Portland is inching closer toward allowing ride-finding companies to operate inside the city limits.
After Uber pulled out of the city last year, officials set up a task force to develop rules for the app-based services, which allow users to pay for rides in private vehicles. On Monday, Portland residents got a first look at the new regulations.
Private For-Hire Innovation Task Force chair Mike Greenfield and member Joan Plank outlined the guidelines to the media.
“Generally, we operated along the framework of wanting to ensure safety and consumer to protection, service for people with disabilities,” said Greenfield. “We wanted to be as fair as we could.”
Recommendations on “key safety standards” — like driver background checks, vehicle inspections and insurance — will be presented to Portland City Council on Thursday, and council members are expected to vote April 15.
Since January, the 12-member task force has met 10 times for briefings and to draft recommendations
The first phase of the plan includes a 120-day pilot program. The task force recommended that the city eliminate its cap on the number of taxi permits, allow third-party background checks that meet city requirements, and require all ride companies’ fleets to have commercial insurance.
Some ride services have been accused of price gouging during peak travel hours, but the task force says they should be allowed to use surge pricing when they’re in high demand, except during emergencies.
Also during phase one of the proposed rules, the city will collect data from taxi and ride-finding companies on wait times, and where rides begin and end to analyze need in the city for both services.
During phase two of the proposal, the task force will look over data and take public comment on ride services for further recommendations to change Portland’s transportation rules.
“We believe these are recommendations that the industry can comply with, and that the city can gather this data from the companies involved in the industry,” said Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera. “These are realistic and really important data to comply with and important regulations for them to adhere to.”
The final report is expected to come out in July, at which point city councilors will consider overhauling current regulations. Those regulations would affect taxis, accessible for-hire transportation, pedicabs, shuttles and ride-finding companies like Uber and Lyft.
Kelliann Amico with the Transportation Fairness Alliance said the proposal still hasn’t leveled the playing field for taxi and for-hire drivers. Specifically, TFA members are disappointed that the task force didn’t squash Uber’s surge pricing or require ride-finding companies to have wheelchair accessible vehicles available.
“We believe that it’s up to City Council at this point to take a look at the task force recommendations and really consider whether they really serve the Portlanders well and visitors to the city of Portland well,” said Amico. “Our stance is they do not.”
In December, Uber agreed to suspend services for three months while the city created new rules for non-taxi services. The ride-finding company reports that there were more than 10,000 rides taken during the two weeks that service was available in Portland. Uber was fined $67,750, which Rivera said the company paid March 26.
Currently, Uber drivers are operating in Salem, Vancouver, Washington and several Portland suburbs. The Register-Guard reports that the company pulled out of Eugene on Sunday after the city announced that Uber is in violation of city code.
Lyft hasn’t launched in Oregon yet, but the company is starting to approve drivers in the region.