1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204
(April 17, 2015) Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick today proposed a 120-day pilot program that will modernize for-hire transportation in Portland and ensure fair competition between all private for hire operators, including both taxis and Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft.
The proposal builds on the recommendations by the Private for Hire Innovation Task Force, which Novick appointed in December to examine the issue and recommend how the City should modernize its regulations. Evolving consumer interests, population growth and a booming tourism industry have generated more demand for taxis and other for-hire transportation service. In addition, Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have emerged as a new model of for-hire transportation service.
Under the proposal by Hales and Novick, the City would lift the cap on taxi fares, so taxis and TNCs could both set their own fares without city regulation. Both taxis and TNCs would be required to provide service to people with disabilities, provide service 24 hours a day/seven days a week and certify that their drivers have passed City-approved background checks. The City will audit these records to enforce compliance. The resolution directs Transportation Director Leah Treat to create and sign an administrative rule launching the pilot program.
“This is a historic deal,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “We were able to move from confrontation to collaboration, with an open process and tough negotiations that have come up with a result that will improve our transportation system and creates a real win for consumers.”
“The existing taxi companies have had two lines of argument against the pilot. One is, simply, that they should be protected from competition in order to ensure a living wage for drivers and good service for people with disabilities. Given that our best information is that the average net hourly income of Portland taxi drivers is $6.22 an hour, and given the complaints people in the disability community have about taxi service, we are not entirely persuaded by that argument,” said Commissioner Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “But the other line of argument is that any competition needs to be fair competition. We agree with that, and in order to ensure fair competition, the proposed framework makes some changes to the task force’s recommendations – and underscores certain features of those recommendations that might not have been well understood.”
The Portland City Council is scheduled to conduct a public hearing and vote on the resolution by Hales and Novick (attached) on at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21. The hearing will be held at City Council Chambers, Portland City Hall, 1221 SW Fourth Ave.
Under the proposed framework:
The framework differs in some respects from the private for hire task force recommendations the City Council heard last week. It does not include a cap on taxi fares. It also includes specific language on TNCs’ legal liabilities.
The Task Force is recommending a two-phase approach, which still guides City action. Phase 1 includes a 120-day TNC pilot program, during which time market data will be collected and analyzed. During Phase 2, the Task Force will assess the market data and solicit public input that will inform recommendations for an overhaul to all of the City’s PFHT rules. The Task Force’s final report is expected this summer and will include recommendations for all modes of for-hire transportation, including taxicabs, TNCs, accessible for-hire transportation service, Limited Passenger Transportation companies, pedicabs and shuttles.
Hales and Novick thanked the Task Force for its recommendations, which were the basis for the resolution. “This task force did the City an incredible service by tackling these tough issues in a very tight timeframe,” Hales said.
“Thanks to the task force, the City Council can rest assured that our pilot program has been thoroughly vetted,” Novick said. “The task force did groundbreaking work, and I look forward to their report this summer on broader for-hire transportation issues.”
The City of Portland has been regulating private for hire transportation for more than a century, and that responsibility was moved in July 2014 from the Office of Management and Finance to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. For more information about private for-hire transportation, visit: www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/pdxrides.
To file a complaint about taxi service, call 503-865-2486 or email email@example.com.
As you know, the United States spends far more on health care than other industrialized nations. That excess spending is a drag on our economy. So I see one of my jobs as a City Commissioner as looking for ways to reduce unnecessary medical spending. And as Commissioner in charge of Portland’s 9-1-1 system, I have a little piece of the health care system, because many 9-1-1 calls are medical calls. And although many callers absolutely need to get an ambulance to the emergency department (ED) right away, research shows that our system generates a fair number of unnecessary emergency room visits.
Some jurisdictions have reduced unnecessary ambulance trips to the ED by having 9-1-1 direct some callers to a “nurse triage” line. Last week, I joined a group from the Portland region on a trip to Reno, Nevada, where a Nurse Health Line offers 24/7 access to assessment, clinical education, triage, and referral to health care and community services. Reno believes that this service ensures that people get the right kind of care at the right time when they call 9-1-1 with a medical concern. The site visit offered some important insights that we can use here in Portland.
Reno’s program, which is managed by REMSA (Regional Emergency Management Services Authority, a nonprofit ambulance service), provides patients with quicker access to medical information and more care choices from a team of specially-trained experienced registered nurses. REMSA’s nurses don’t substitute for primary care, but they help patients access the right level of care, including connecting uninsured patients with available resources.
In Portland, a similar initiative would require collaboration between Multnomah County, which is responsible for providing Emergency Medical Services, and the City, which is responsible for providing 9-1-1 service. It would also require an investment - both financial and non-financial - from the health care community. The group that traveled to Reno included:
My personal observations after reflecting on what I learned in Reno include:
Star Trek is literally the first TV show I remember watching, and I was always a Spock guy (maybe all of us were). I took comfort in the fact that Leonard Nimoy was still with us. It is strange to have him gone. The Oregonian’s Kristi Turnquist does a great job of capturing the significance of his character, and of the show:
"While aspects of the original 'Star Trek' series have inevitably dated -- those papier-mache boulders on strange new worlds, the new life and new civilizations that regularly consisted of babe-a-licious alien women with big hair and skimpy outfits -- Spock was a revelation.
He was a revolutionary character for the mid-'60s, in that his superior intellect and emotional reserve made him more elegant than Captain Kirk, with his womanizing ways; Chekhov, and his emotional outbursts; and Scotty, with his cries that the engines can't take any more strain.
Only Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) and Sulu (George Takei) came close to Spock's level of dignity, and all three characters stand as examples of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry's goal of using sci-fi to comment on the need for equal rights and to condemn intolerance of those considered 'different.'"
I do not dismiss the threat of terrorism – I once tried a case in the courthouse next to the Oklahoma City Federal building that was blown up by domestic terrorists. And I think that in the abstract, the idea of local law enforcement, with their broader knowledge the community, working with the FBI is a good one.
I do not think we should make decisions about working with the FBI now based on how bad J. Edgar Hoover was.
I have met with the local Special Agent in Charge, Greg Bretzing, and his leadership team, and I think they are good, well-intentioned people.
I was impressed by the argument that if we have police in the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), they are in a position to raise concerns about FBI operations that seem inconsistent with Portland values. And I very much appreciate the Mayor’s statement about the conversation he would have and the instruction he would give to officers participating in the JTTF.
In short, I think there are good arguments for joining the JTTF.
But I also think there is a strong argument against joining the JTTF.
One of the main arguments for the value of having the Portland police in the JTTF is that the police have a broader knowledge of our community and the stronger relationships in our community than the FBI.
But we have heard from representatives of some communities in our city that joining the JTTF would weaken the relationship that they have with the police, and formally leaving the JTTF would strengthen those relationships.
We received a letter recently from a number of groups with Muslim constituencies expressing their concerns. The letter was signed by the Islamic Center of Portland, Islamic Society of Greater Portland, Muslim Community Center of Portland, Bosniaks Education and Cultural Organization, Oregon Muslim Citizens Alliance, Islamic Community Center of Hillsboro, Oregon Islamic Champlain’s Organization, Muslim Educational Trust, and Islamic Social Services of Oregon State. I encourage you to read the letter in its entirety: READ HERE.
Now, I know that not all Muslims in Portland feel the same way. We received a letter from the Somali American Council of Oregon urging us to join the JTTF.
And I am sure the FBI would take issue with some aspects of the Muslim coalition’s description of the FBI’s activities.
But I cannot ignore the fact that the leaders of numerous organizations in the Muslim community say that many Muslims do not trust the FBI and would trust the Portland police less if we joined the JTTF. I do not want to take the risk that people might not warn us of real potential threats because they don’t trust us.
I am also encouraged by the message that these Muslim and Arab leaders are interested in reviving American Muslim Police Advisory Committee (AMPAC), especially if we withdraw from JTTF. And I think we should take them up on that, and hope that can happen even if we join the JTTF.
If my view had prevailed today, I do not think it would have had to be the last time we considered this issue. As I said, I was impressed by Special Agent in Charge Bretzing, and I expect that he will work to improve relations with communities throughout Portland, including the Arab and Muslim communities. It may be that a year or two down the road, there would not be such community concern about joining the JTTF.
And again, I do not think this is an easy decision. I have been making calls and reading letters on this issue up to the last minute. Just this morning, I called Laura Dugan, a University of Maryland criminologist (and former colleague of my wife’s) and a member of the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and the Response to Terrorism. She told me that other things being equal, participating in the JTTF would be a good idea, but when I told her about the concerns raised by members of the Muslim community, she said that those relationships are very important and those concerns have to be taken seriously. She added that regardless of whether we formally participate in the JTTF, we could do emergency preparedness drills with the FBI; she said that in Boston, local law enforcement’s history of engaging in such drills was a key factor in the effective response to the Boston Marathon attack.
Again, I very much appreciate the approach the Mayor is taking to membership in the JTTF. But I respectfully vote Nay.
The taxi industry faces growing challenges to meet the needs of consumers and adapt to new technology. Accessible, reliable and safe for-hire transportation options are an important part of Portland's transportation network.
Commissioner Steve Novick convened an Innovation Task Force to help modernize the for-hire rules of the road. Come meet the task force and share your ideas and experiences with private for-hire transportation.
PDX Rides Community Forum
Thursday, February 26, 2015 | 6 - 8:30 p.m.
Portland Building, Second Floor
1120 SW Fifth Ave.