PRIVATE FOR-HIRE TRANSPORTATION
BOARD OF REVIEW
Minutes for November 9th, 2011 meeting
1. Call to Order
Present: Ryan Hashagen, John Case, Kat Wilkes, Steve Entler for Raye Miles, April Murchinson for Michael Huggins, John Vater, Gail Bauhs, Red Diamond, Yassin Mohammed, Ramon Corona, Jeff Blosser, Jon Putman, Al Ochosa, Kathleen Butler, Frank Dufay, Patrick Kramer, and Lauren Wolfe
Absent: Muzafar Rasheed
Others/Audience: The list of other attendees is available from the Revenue Bureau.
Motion to move items 9 & 10 up to 7 & 8 and 7 & 8 down to 9 & 10: Bauhs
3. Approval of Minutes from September 28th, 2011
Motion to approve the Minutes: Corona
4. Announcements Regarding Private For-Hire Transportation Board Election for Industry Member Representatives
Kramer briefly discussed the upcoming elections for Board Representative Positions which terms expire December 31, 2011. The positions on the ballot for the upcoming election are; SAT Company Representative, a Taxi Company Representative, LPT Driver Representative, and Pedicab Representative. Pat Montgomery, Manager of New Rose City Cab, and Steve Entler, General Manager of Radio Cab are the Taxi Company nominees. The nominees for the LPT Driver Representative are Yussin Mohammed and Tony Tabrezi. The nominees for the SAT Companies are Kirk Foster and Saied Mohammed. For the Pedicab Representative, Ryan Hashagen goes uncontested.
Ballots will be accepted at the Revenue Bureau Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, November 15th through November 17th from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm each day. The election will be held during the Company Standing Committee Meeting on Wednesday, November 16th from 1:30 to 3:00 pm for the Company positions. There will be a second meeting starting at 3:30 pm for the LPT Drivers. The meetings will allow the nominees for each position to briefly talk about why they would be a good representative for the position. Votes will only be accepted for the industry from which that person has a permit. For the Company representatives there is only one vote per company allowed and all voting LPT drivers must be currently permitted and working for a permitted company. Drivers must have their permits and photo id available before they are allowed to vote. If drivers are permitted for multiple categories then they must choose only one category to vote for.
5. Public Comment
Dufay talked about Yeller Cab Pet Taxi Company. Although the Company is called “Yeller Cab”, and they do occasionally transport people, they are primarily a company that transports pets to receive medical care. Dufay asked the founder of the Company, Nancy Wolske to make a brief presentation to the Board and provide some background information on her company and its operations.
Ms. Wolske said that she got the idea of transporting animals for medical help many years ago and it was very exciting when the company and her idea started to come together. She said that “many animals do not get the adequate care they need often because of lack of transportation.” People started to help fund the concept of Yeller Cab Pet Taxi and the company grew with it. Ms. Wolske explained that had she been aware that the use of “Cab” or “Taxi” is a Code violation she never would have invested as much as she did with the current Company name. The name is to represent the company’s main purpose which was is to transport pets for individuals who may not have the capability themselves. If people are not entirely comfortable with allowing their pets to be transported alone, their owners could accompany them as well. The intention was never to pick up random people off of the street but to specifically offer a transportation method for pets and owners in need.
Entler pointed out that it doesn’t seem fair to allow the company to carry passengers with the pets because other drivers may see it as more competition for the passengers that they are fighting to get for in the first place. The other issue is how the return trip gets arranged.
Butler replied that there are two issues that the Board is going to need to address. The first question is to address whether or not the Company is eligible for an LPT permit, and if so, what LPT category would the company fall into? If the Board where to exempt the company from the Moratorium the second issue would be the use of the name “Taxi” and “Cab”.
Ochosa brought up insurance concerns and whether or not the insurance will have specific exclusions for PFHT auto policy. It is important to consider that if the insurance company policy is only for pets then the policy would cover property and would not fully cover passengers.
Ms. Wolske replied that she has worked very hard to build up the reputation that she has from years of medical service and takes the safety of the pets and their owners that they are transporting very seriously. The support and funding that she has received for the Company is mainly because of that credible reputation and medical experience. Pet owners can often times be stressed due to their animal’s need for medical attention and therefore should not drive for their safety and the safety of others. Ms. Wolske said that they are taking every precaution to assure the safety of their riding passengers and are willing to comply with City regulations.
6. Pending Requests for Relief from the Moratorium (Recommended Postponement to the January 2012 Meeting)
Butler briefly talked about the reason for the postponement and explained that our goal was to present the results for the study of the driver working and economic conditions. Many Companies have been diligently working on providing operating and financial data. What has been realized is that one question tends to lead to many more questions and because of its long term importance, it is vital that the results of the study be as accurate as possible. Our goal now is to have the full results available to the Board by the January 2012 meeting.
Motion to Postpone Requests for Relief from the Moratorium until the January 2012 meeting: Putman
7. Discussion of 15-year Versus 10-year Age Limit for Accessible Vehicles
Kramer said that “according to our records, it appears that changing the age requirement for ADA vehicles to 10 years will have little effect on the industry.” Most of the currently permitted vehicles are already under the age requirement which will possibly help the financial strain with purchasing new vehicles.
Putman stated that although it is good that many of the ADA vehicles will already be in compliance with age requirement of 10 years, it is important to attempt to get the older vehicles with too many miles out. Putman said that a 10 year age requirement for every type of PFHT vehicle is a good standard to set and where the industry as a whole should be.
Bauhs added that Tri-Met has always tried to follow Code when it comes to the age requirements. When a vehicle reaches the age of 10 years and forADAvehicles 15 years, it is automatically put out of service.
Butler asked Bauhs if she anticipated any problems if the age requirement for ADA vehicles was moved to 10 years?
Bauhs replied that if the age requirement changed then the providers should be given time to transition to the new standard. When the 10 and 15 year age requirement was first implemented, there was a period of about one year for providers to purchase vehicles that were incompliance with the Code.
Butler said that the idea of a transition period is a good one because originally, the age requirement went the other way around so there was no major incentive for the companies to change their vehicles out as quickly.
Putman stated that a lift that is 10 years or older is usually unsafe for what it is required to do. A ramp is built to last longer then a lift but neither should be more than 10 years old and still be considered acceptable. Putman asked “what is the life cycle for Tri-Met sedans?”
Bauhs answered that generally the vehicles are used until they can no longer be repaired or if there is no available funding to repair the vehicles.
Butler added that although a report hasn’t been made that tells the exact amount of vehicles that would be over 10 years, a brief review seemed to show that there are about 60ADAvehicles and less than 10 were over 10 years old.
Wilkes said that even though she would rather keep the age requirement at 15 years, if the 10 year requirement were to pass, the City should up their inspection standards.
Butler replied that many of the vehicles have a hard time passing City inspections and City requirements are continuing rise. The City inspects the aesthetic and basic services and is not responsible for lift and ramp inspections. Even after we receive the mechanical inspections and the vehicle has passed, it is sometimes more difficult to pass the City inspections.
Bauhs asked if a year would be an adequate amount of time for providers to get the vehicles they need to meet the 10 year age requirement. For the providers that have purchased vehicles and fully paid for the annual inspections and permits, it doesn’t seem fair to have to make them pay for a new vehicle if that vehicle has only a year left to be in compliance. It is expensive to replace ADA vehicles and is a year enough time to be able to replace vehicles that were purchased to meet the previous age requirement?
Butler replied that one option that other Cities have done to address the age requirement change is to have the vehicles with permits that were issued during the current age requirement to continue to operate under that age requirement while any new or replacement vehicles would then automatically fall under the new age requirement of 10 years. It is up to the Board to say if a year is enough time or if exempting the companies who already have invested under the 15 year age requirement is the better way to go.
Bauhs said that she agrees with reducing the age limit for ADA vehicles. However, from a business perspective, there needs to be an adequate amount of time for businesses to transition from the 15 year age limit to the 10 year age limit in order to replace those vehicles. Without an adequate amount of time, it may prevent transportation companies from providing wheelchair accessible transportation services for customers and as a result have an even greater negative impact.
Case asked what a brand new lift vehicle would cost.
Entler replied that brand new lift vehicle would cost about $35,000. A new sprinter van would cost about $46,000 and another $10,000 to add a conversion while some of the higher end vehicles can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $65,000.
Case asked Bauhs what type of financial impact the new age requirement would have on businesses. Would it be challenging for some companies to purchase ADA vehicles that meet the age requirement?
Bauhs answered that some of the smaller providers would have a difficult time finding a vehicle that would meet standards if they are not brand new vehicles. Lift vehicles are often times more difficult to find if they are new, it is costly to purchase.
Ochosa replied that he agrees with everyone and that there needs to be a change for the sake of public safety. The number of years and the timeline needed to make the change is going to be the main question. At the same time, it is time to take the fourteen and fifteen year old vehicles that are unsafe off of the streets.
Entler said that one thing he doesn’t agree with is the idea of keeping the current vehicles in service until you replace them. There needs to be a firm deadline that applies to all drivers or else it will not work.
Ochosa suggested that the time limit be based on the month of the renewal, that way everyone have the same amount of time to get in compliance with the new age requirement.
Kirk Foster gave some information about the difference between commercial vehicles and consumer vehicles. The age of the vehicle doesn’t always matter and it is important to consider that millage tells a lot more about the wear of a vehicle. Anytime a provider purchases a wheelchair accessible vehicle with over 125,000 miles, the cost is typically no more than $4,000. There is a difference between commercial vehicles and consumer vehicles.
Motion to pass the Ten Year Age Requirement for ADA vehicles with a one year extension based upon the renewal period effective January 1st, 2013: Putman
Montgomery stated that the smaller companies cannot pay for new vehicles and there isn’t enough time. New Rose City Cab just purchased two used ADA vans that would be good for four more years with the current age requirement. If the ten year age requirement passes then the vans will only be good for two more years. For the companies who have recently purchased ADA vehicles in compliance with the current age requirement, they should be given more time to readjust to the ten year age requirement.
Butler explained again that it would seem like the best possible solution may be to allow providers who have recently purchased vehicles to be in compliance with the current age requirement and the ability to continue that life cycle. If the vehicle is replaced then that vehicle’s life is done. If a new vehicle is put into place then that new vehicle would then go by the ten year age requirement.
Bauhs said that this solution would help Tri-Met maintain a more consistent service. If there is a longer transition period than just one year then it would be much easier to comply with the new standard.
Motion to pass the Ten Year Age Requirement and that it applies to all new and replaced vehicles effective January 1st, 2013; with the provisions that ADA vehicles purchased prior to January 31, 2013 may be used and renewed until the are fifteen years old: Putman
8. Discussion of Proposed Exemption for Out-Of-Area Agency-Contracted Transportation Providers
Butler briefly read aloud the proposal for an exemption for Out-Of-Area Agency-Contracted Transportation Providers. The proposal is primarily for the companies who provide transportation services primarily outside of the City of Portland Metro Area and who want the ability to take their customers back home without having to get a permit. The exemption is to prevent refusal of service for those providers who come into Portland occasionally as opposed to the providers who frequently provide service in Portland.
Bauhs explained that there are eight medical transportation brokerages in the state. Each brokerage covers a particular region ranging from one county to eight counties depending on what part of the state they are located in. Tri-Met brokerage covers Multnomah county, Washington and Clackamas counties.
There are contiguous brokerages that exist in places including Astoria, Salem, and Vancouver Washington. These brokerages are in and out of Portland providing medical transportation trips. Medical transportation trips are generally considered a round trip service.
There are four brokerages that are noncontiguous with the Portland Metro area within Oregon. They are located in Eugene, Albany, Medford, and Redmond. Medicaid requires transportation to and from the closest medical provider who is able to provide that service. For many of the complicated medical issues, that next closest place is Portland. The brokerages are required through their contracts through the Oregon Health Authority to take these clients to Portland for the medical appointments and then bring them home. The main difficulty that the transportation providers run into is that the Private For-Hire Transportation Code says that a service provider may drop off in Portland but not pick up in Portland. The exemption would allow the providers from noncontiguous brokerages to bring clients to Portland and take them back home again. If they are not allowed to provide these services then Tri-Met would then be required to bring the individuals home. Tri-Met does not have capacity to be taking people all over the State when there is already a driver who drove that client to their appointment in the first place waiting and ready to take them home. It is difficult for people to come to Portland. We do not want to create a barrier for those companies who provide that transportation and we do not want to create a barrier for the individuals who are in need of the medical treatment that they may only be able to get in Portland. We are only trying to exempt those in noncontiguous areas who come to Portland only occasionally.
Putman asked if we had any idea how many trips they are providing?
Butler answered that according to the numbers from 2009, a contiguous brokerage in Astoria made approximately 6,000 round trips per year. Salem made approximately 4,000 round trips and Vancouver had about 7,000 round trips. The non contiguous brokerages take a significantly fewer trips per year. The Dalles make about 12 trips in a year. Medford brokerages made approximately 390 trips, Albany 616 trips, Redmond 340 trips and Eugene 326 round trips per year. This is less than 1/10 of the amount of trips that the contiguous providers make annually.
Bauhs added that since this time, there has been a specialty care hospital that has opened up in Eugene resulting in an even lower amount of trips from the noncontiguous areas in Oregon.
Dufay asked if the other agencies are as rigorous with background checks as Tri-Met.
Bauhs answered that the standards for the vehicles and drivers are state standards so they cover all of the brokerages. Every driver must have a criminal and driving background check and all vehicles must be inspected with the same kind of standards. Tri-Met was the first brokerage and set the standards and then spread them to the different brokerages as they were established across the state.
Putman suggested that we try the exemption for one year to see how things go for the noncontiguous brokerage providers.
Motion to Approve the Language for the Exemption in Item Number 1 and Forward the Proposed Language to City Counsel: Putman
9. Discussion of Possible Exemption for Secured Transport and Non-emergency Stretcher Transport Services
Butler read exemption number 2 for secured transport which would exempt providers who are certified with the state. Exemption number 3 would exempt non-emergency stretcher transport service that is provided by and Ambulance Company that also provides basic life support and advance life support services.
Bauhs explained that secured transport is involuntary transport and is not the same as “For-Hire”. An individual cannot call for a secured transport but can be transported in a secured vehicle. Secured transport used to be an exclusive provision of the police and sheriff department. When someone has a mental health crisis, or are a danger to themselves or others, they would be transported in a secured environment. In many communities this is not an issue because much of the secured transport comes from the police or sheriff departments. In Portland there are two secured transport providers so that the police and sheriff department do not have to be the only providers. The secured transport providers in Portland are licensed by the State Department of Human Services Drug and Alcohol and Mental Health and go through an extensive certification process. These providers and transportation vehicles are transporting within the City of Portland and because they do not fall under the definition of a “For-Hire” transportation method and do not provide the same kind of transportation, they should be exempt. As far as the safety issue for these providers, due to regulation by the State, they already go through safety standards similar to City of Portland permitting requirements.
Bauhs continued saying that for non-emergency stretcher transport, these services are from transportation providers that offer ambulance services under contract with a government or public agency. These providers are also certified by the State of Oregon and provide ambulance services to individuals. Non-emergency stretcher transport is not the same as “For-Hire.” Because they are required to be state certified, go through an extensive safety evaluation, and do not fall under the Private for-hire Transportation category, they should be exempt as well.
Motion to Approve the Language for the Exemption of Item Number 2 and Forward the Proposed Language to City Counsel: Bauhs
In Favor: 7
Motion to Approve the Language for the Exemption in Item Number 3 and Forward the Proposed Language to City Counsel: Bauhs
10. Driver Safety Fund
Butler addressed the Safety Fund Issue and went over the packet of information that was handed out to the Board members. The Safety Fund was created along with a surcharge for the company and driver permit applications and the annual renewal fee for the drivers. Upon reviewing the documents, it was confirmed that the sole purpose of the Safety Fund was to repay the money that the City had loaned out to purchase the cameras for driver safety. The first year that the Safety Fund was in affect, there was around $80,000 collected. In the following year, $96,000 was collected and $246,000 was expended on the original camera purchase, which left a negative balance of $78,000. The Fund then continued to collect the surcharge to make up that negative balance and in 2006 and 2007, the Fund started to accumulate money. Due to the accumulation of money in the Fund, in 2009 it was then decided to end the surcharge with the company and driver permits and transfer the money into a separate account so that the Fund could continue to accumulate. When the Safety Fund was first implemented, Portland was one of the first Cities to require cameras in all of the taxi vehicles and therefore didn’t have a way of purchasing the cameras other than having the Companies and Drivers pay for them. Now, most major cities require the cameras and expect the taxi companies to provide them for all of their drivers. It is now up to the Board to decide what to do with the Safety Fund and whether or not they want to continue to use it. We need to figure out how we are going to use the money towards purchasing the new cameras. Whether all of the money is taken out and used towards the cameras or if only some of the money is taken out and the rest is paid for by the Company, the Board needs to decide what to do.
Ochosa recommended that a separate account be set up for the Safety Fund that would allow money to build back up and saved for future use.
Tesfeye Aleme suggested that the companies pay a certain amount of money annually that would go towards the Safety Fund.
Dufay noted that the taxi drivers and companies were the only ones who benefited from the current safety fund and it is important to consider all of the LPT drivers as well as the taxi drivers in the future.
Entler replied that the safety fund started initially for the safety of the drivers. As money was accumulated the numbers didn’t seem to add up. The City didn’t seem to be upfront about how much of the fees were actually collected for the Safety Fund. It wasn’t until some time later that it was discovered that there were a lot of hidden fees that were being charged 15% in fees charged by the City to manage the Safety Fund. Entler said that if the companies and drivers are able to take control of the Safety Fund then an account could get set up so that everyone could possibly get a group rate and eliminate the City’s involvement. Entler explained that the reason why all of the PFHT types were involved with paying fees for the Safety Fund was because the Taxi’s were the first type of transportation method required to get permitted with the City. Because all of the LPT transportation industry came after the taxi industry, and because they were taking away business from the taxi drivers, it was thought to be only fair that all PFHT industries pay towards the Safety Fund.
Butler added that the main thing is that the cameras have vastly improved drivers safety and what we need to continue to do is focus on getting them replaced when needed and that we do not back away from that requirement.
Ochosa suggested continuing the Safety Fund discussion to the next Standing Committee meeting.
Butler said that whether it is at a future Board meeting or Standing Committee meeting, what needs to happen is for everyone to agree that the City goes ahead and purchases the new set of cameras with the money that is already in there. We do not want to get into the position where we are proposing the expenditures of the funds at counsel and it ends up not being the right direction that everyone wants to go in.
Case recommended that we add the Safety Fund issue to the agenda for the next Company Standing Committee meeting on November 16th.
11. Discussion of Insurance Company Rating Requirements
Butler briefly talked about the insurance rating issue and said that in 2009, the City added two rating requirements; the A- requirement and a numeric requirement. The A- has to do with the overall reliability and stature of the company. The numeric has to do with the company’s financial size in terms of policy. Bauhs brought to our attention that there are a number of insurance providers particularly for medical transportation that cannot easily attain the second rating of 8 which is equivalent to a financial size of about 100 to 250 million dollars. Bauhs hopes that we can eliminate that second rating as a requirement.
Ochosa replied that the City of Seattle has the same requirement of A- and 7. If we are going to do anything to change the insurance rating requirements we should have the lowest possible base level because there are companies out there that are A- but are a financial size 4 which is only 5 to 10 million. “If insurance companies are primarily insuring the Para-Transit industries, it would take only a handful of catastrophic claims will wipe the industry out.” Distinguishing admitted and non admitted companies should be added to the requirements. Admitted companies, the companies who are covered by the Oregon Guaranteed Insurance Fund, pay a certain amount to the Fund so that in case of insolvency, they are protected. Many companies are not covered by the Oregon Guaranteed Insurance Fund so they are not covered. If we are going to reduce the financial size category, we need to make sure that we accept only admitted companies. Seattle requires only admitted companies with a rating of A- 7. Prior to the Code rewrite, there was no size designation.
Butler talked about adding another requirement relating to primary and non-contributory insurance. The Code currently says that the insurance has to be primary and non-contributory which means that in the case of an accident which is not covered by insurance, the City will not get sued. We understand that a waiver of subrogation may be necessary to protect public funds.
Ochosa explained that a waiver of subrogation is used when a carrier will wave the right to subrogate against the additional insured. Primary and non-contributory means for example, that if a provider doesn’t have enough insurance, they are not liable to pay for the claim.
Motion to adjourn: Case
Meeting was adjourned at approximately 4:36pm. The next meeting will be on Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 at 1:30pm.
Minutes Submitted by:
Regulatory Program Specialist