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Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

Frequently Asked Questions about Taxi and other Private for-Hire Transportation Regulations in Portland

What is the Private For Hire Transportation Program?
The purpose of the Private For Hire Transportation Program (PFHT) is to provide for the safe, fair and efficient operation of private "for-hire" transportation services. The private for-hire transportation means providing vehicular, horse-drawn carriage or pedicab transportation for compensation of any kind within the Portland City limits. The PFHT Program was formerly a division of the Portland Revenue Bureau, but was reassigned in July 2014 to the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to better align with Portland’s broader transportation network.

What is a Transportation Network Company?
A Transportation Network Company (TNC) connects drivers with passengers offering for-hire transportation service via an online-enabled platform or mobile app. Examples of TNCs include Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. The term “ridesharing” is often used to describe a TNC, however “ridesharing” more accurately describes other activities such as carpooling or shuttle service where drivers offer transportation to passengers to destinations and routes already planned by drivers. Ridesharing can be both a free and for-hire service. The transportation service offered by TNCs is always for-hire.

Portlanders wanting to request taxi service via an online-enabled platform or mobile app may do so with several permitted local taxi companies through the mobile app, Curb.

Did Portland City Council ban TNCs, including Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and others?
No. TNCs like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and others have not applied to be permitted to operate in the City of Portland. They have not agreed to follow City of Portland regulations that apply to PFHT taxi companies, including insurance requirements, fare regulation, citywide service, and access for people with disabilities.

In addition, the City currently limits the number of taxi permits and only approves new operators or additional permits to existing operators after the PFHT Board reviews permit applications that require a demonstration of sufficient market demand. Uber, Lfyt, Sidecar and others are welcome to apply for permits, so long as market demand is demonstrated and TNC operators agree to abide by rules other PFHT operators adhere to, such as those described above. The City has let TNCs know that the City remains open to discussing changes to PFHT regulations, but new rules would need to be consistent for all PFHT operators, rather than creating special exceptions for TNCs.

Only one formal request has been made to the PFHT Board to allow TNC service. That request was made by Uber in September 2013 to operate Uber Black without being subject to Portland’s executive sedan regulations. A subcommittee of the PFHT Board scheduled a meeting with Uber to discuss the request. Uber representatives did not attend that meeting or the subsequent PBHT Board meeting, at which point the Board denied Uber’s request to recommend to City Council that the existing regulations be changed. Nonetheless, City Council has had ongoing informal conversations with TNCs, including Uber and Lyft.

When will TNCs be allowed?
TNCs need to apply for City of Portland PFHT permits and adhere to regulations that provide important safeguards and standards to protect consumers, ensure accessibility, and allow for a fair, competitive market for drivers and companies. Commissioner Novick is convening a task force to review current PFHT regulations and make recommendations for changes that will include rules for TNCs. These new rules are expected to be adopted in 2015.

Do taxi, executive sedan, and TNCs that pick up passengers outside of Portland need a City of Portland private for-hire company permit to drop passengers off in Portland?
No. However, City of Portland PFHT permits are required for any company that accepts a ride request made in Portland city limits. Similarly, the Port of Portland requires separate permits for PFHT companies accepting rides at the PDX Airport. Companies operating in Portland also need to be registered with the Secretary of State, and need a City of Portland business license. Drivers also need a City of Portland business license.

Will passengers be penalized for requesting or taking a ride by a TNC?
Passengers should be aware that TNCs are not permitted by the City of Portland at this time. TNC drivers have not passed background checks all other PFHT drivers are subject to and TNC vehicles have not been inspected for safety to the City’s standards for PFHT vehicles, which includes a vehicle inspection by an ASE-certified master mechanic. Additionally, insurance that protects passengers, drivers, companies and the general public has not been verified for any TNC company operating in Portland. The Oregon Insurance Division that regulates insurance coverage has also not verified TNC liability coverage. Until Portland and other Oregon cities verify insurance and adopt appropriate TNC permits, passengers and drivers are at risk when using TNC services. TNC operators and drivers will be penalized for operating in Portland, though passengers will not.

What is the difference between taxis and executive sedans?

There are currently 7 permitted taxi companies and 460 permitted taxi vehicles in the City of Portland. Customers may request taxi service by hailing a taxi on the street, requesting a ride by calling a company’s dispatch, or using that company’s mobile app. Additionally, rides may be requested via the mobile app Curb, which connects passengers with permitted taxi companies. Taxi drivers are required to pass annual background checks and display their license prominently in the vehicle. Taxi vehicles must pass annual inspections conducted by the City of Portland. Vehicles are also required to be equipped with an external display light, taximeters, and security cameras. Company information must also be displayed on the body of vehicles. Taxi regulations are outlined within Chapter 16.40 of Portland City Code.

Executive sedans, limos, shuttles and party buses are defined as Limited Passenger Transportation (LPT) by Portland City Code. Executive sedans, limos, and party buses are defined as Limited Passenger Transportation (LPT) by Portland City Code. LPTs are distinguished from taxis as being a reservation for-hire transportation service. In 2009, following disagreements between taxi and executive sedan companies, a regulatory compromise was negotiated by the City of Portland and agreed to by taxi companies, executive companies, drivers, and the Port of Portland that receives a great deal of PFHT traffic at the PDX airport. The new City Code adopted by Council in 2009 codified many long standing provisions that distinguish taxi and executive sedan services. Those include a required 60 minute advance reservation for executive sedan, limo, and party bus service with an exception for the Portland International Airport. Additionally, executive sedans, limos, and party buses are not required to be equipped with meters or display company information on the body of vehicles. LPT regulations are outlined within Chapter 16.40 of Portland City Code.

Do Portland taxi drivers have medallions?
Unlike other cities, Portland does not have a medallion system. However, drivers must pass a driver test and annual background check to receive a PFHT driver permit. Driver permits are not owned by companies and may not be sold or traded. Permitted drivers are eligible to work for any permitted PFHT company.

How are taxi drivers compensated?
Driver compensation varies by each taxi and LPT company. Taxi companies commonly charge drivers a weekly fee (called a “Kitty”) to operate as an independent contractor of that company and drivers are typically responsible for fueling vehicles. Fare revenue and tips made beyond the Kitty and cost of fuel is generally considered to be a driver’s compensation. A 2012 Taxi Driver Labor Market Study commissioned by the City of Portland found that Portland taxi drivers often work long hours and make a net hourly wage of $6.22 an hour, lower than the $9.10 Oregon minimum wage. Taxi companies that operate as co-ops appear to provide higher incomes for their drivers. Again, because Kitties vary by company, so does average driver compensation. Long hours and low wages for taxi drivers are associated with poor customer service, unsafe driving, increased cashes, negative impacts to driver health and family life, as well as increased costs to the community.

How are fares regulated?
Taxi rates are a maximum of $2.50 plus $2.60 per mile and wait time at a rate of $30 per hour. Additional passengers are $1 each. As a luxury service, executive sedan rates are 35% higher than the prevailing taxi rate. Shuttles operate with fixed routes and fixed rates 35% below comparable taxi rates.

What are the insurance requirements for taxis and executive sedans?
Permitted companies must carry a minimum of $1 million in General Liability insurance and a minimum of $500,000 in Auto Liability insurance.

Is carpooling subject to PFHT regulations?
No. Carpooling is done without an exchange of money and is thus not a commercial venture subject to regulation in the way that taxis, executive sedans and TNC services are.

Is car sharing part of private for hire transportation?
No. Private for hire transportation services sell rides, while car sharing companies rent vehicles to members to drive themselves. Car sharing companies in Portland are regulated by the City’s Car Sharing Administrative Rules. Companies that meet City requirements can obtain a permit that allows car share vehicles to park temporarily in the public right-of-way. Car share parking permit fees are set to recover meter and area parking permit fees for each vehicle in the car share fleet.

The public can report suspected unpermitted operators, file a complaint and direct questions to the City of Portland's Private For Hire Transportation Program staff by emailing Regulatory@portlandoregon.gov.