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January 25, 2012: PFHT Board Meeting Minutes

City of Portland Revenue Bureau Regulatory Division

PRIVATE FOR-HIRE TRANSPORTATION

BOARD OF REVIEW

Minutes for January 25th, 2012

 

Time: 1:35pm

 

Call to Order

 

Roll Call

Present: Raine Frederickson, John Case, Kirk Foster, Steve Entler, Michael Huggins, Red Diamond, Ramon Corona, Gail Bauhs, Tony Tabrizi, Veronica Rinard, Jon Putman, Al Ochosa, Kathleen Butler, Frank Dufay, Lauren Wolfe, and Patrick Kramer.

Absent: Muzafar Rasheed

Others/Audience: The list of other attendees is available from the Revenue Bureau.

 

Dufay introduced recently added members to the Board.  They are: Veronica Rinard-Tourism Industry Representative, Tony Tabrizi-LPT Company Representative, Kirk Foster-Sat Company Representative, and Steve Entler-Taxi Company Representative.

2.     Agenda

 

Entler requested that we discuss suggested revisions of Code Chapter 16:40.440 Reports to the Administrator. Dufay suggested adding this to the Agenda following item number 6. Enforcement Report.

3.     Approval of Minutes from November 9, 2011 Board Meeting

 

Bauhs introduced some suggested changes of theNovember 9, 2011meeting minutes. Bauhs provided a copy of her suggested changes to the Board.  Bauhs suggested changes were to correct some of the figures provided in that meeting in Agenda items 8. Discussion of Proposed Exemption of Out-of-Area Agency-Contracted Transportation Providers and 9. Discussion of Possible Exemption for Secured Transport and Non-Emergency Stretcher Transport Services. These changes consist of adjustments to the number of providers and their location.

 

Roll Call taken-Unanimous Approval of Minutes with suggested revisions

 

4.     Preliminary Draft Report: Taxi Driver Economic and Working Conditions

 

Butler provided a brief background on the report.  Butler stated that this report began from direction of Mayor Adams in response to a group of permitted taxi drivers who asked for a new driver owned Taxi Company.  These drivers cited working and economic conditions of drivers as the impetus to start a new company. It was believed at that time that the most effective way to review the request for this new taxi company was to investigate taxi driver working and economic conditions.  Reports of taxi driver working and economic conditions of various cities-both with similar and dissimilar regulations to Portland-were reviewed to get a broader scope of the issues as it relates to our findings.  It was found that the issues in Portland were shared by various other municipalities. 

In reviewing the effect of regulations on taxi driver regulations, factors were identified that adversely affect the conditions of drivers.  The first factor is the market for drivers.  If there is a limited number of cabs with a large pool of drivers and a high unemployment rate it creates a market imbalance.  There is a lack of incentive for taxi companies to provide better conditions for drivers.  Although unintended consequences do occur in regulations, eliminating the problem regulation is not always the best solution.  Taxi driver income figures cited in the report were calculated using averages from Taxi Driver tax returns and adjusted for 15% under reporting.  15% is an accepted tax industry standard for under reporting of income.  Taxi companies were asked to share a large amount of financial data.  Drivers were also asked for their financial data.  These figures were used in aggregate form to protect the confidential information of both companies and drivers.  Companies were broken into two categories; non driver-owned (5 companies) and driver-owned (1 company).  It was found that income figures for taxi drivers for the driver owned company were significantly higher than for non driver-owned company.  Taxi permit caps are also an issue for taxi companies.  It is more difficult for smaller companies to provide better conditions for drivers since there is less opportunity to raise revenue to cover the cost of cost of creating better conditions for drivers, such as reduced kitty.  It is also more difficult for smaller companies to comply with regulations.  Kitty fees of non driver owned companies were compared with those of the driver owned company.  It was found that the driver owned company had significantly lower kitty fees for the drivers. While recognizing the value of the permit cap currently in place, it does contribute to issues of poor driver working conditions and challenges to smaller companies.  However, both deregulation and the issuance of additional permits to fill a need such as late night service has shown to have a negative impact on driver conditions as well. 

Going forward, additional regulations are necessary to mitigate the impact current regulations have on substandard driver working conditions found in the report.  Additional regulations to consider could include performance standards related to how companies treat their drivers as well as regulations to address issues regarding safety and customer service.  Both driver and company input will be a critical part of the process in the next couple of months.  We recognize their good performance under less than ideal circumstances.  A 30 day formal comment period will begin.  Any who wish can submit comments on the report through our website.  Written comments will also be accepted at our office.  There will also be a series of workshops with the Board.  We hope to move this process along with the next 60 days. 

Kramer read the Executive Summary from the report. 

Board Comments on the Report

Bauhs asked if there are any suggestions based on innovations from other cities.  Butler replied that the details of what other cities are doing can be found in the bibliography section.

Bauhs expressed she was pleased with acknowledgement of these issues drivers face in the form of a report that can hopefully be used as a basis for finding solutions for these issues.

It was asked if the report is posted on the website.  Butler said that it is not yet but we hope to have it posted by the end of the day.  She said not only will the report be posted but there will be a link on the website for posting comments on the report.  We would like to maximize the number of comments we get on this report.  We will take comments in any form and will make ourselves available if someone wishes to schedule a meeting to discuss the report in person.

It was asked if it contains reports from other cities.  Butler directed attention to the Bibliography section of the report which refers to Taxi Library as an excellent resource. 

Case asked if Company Standing Committee meetings would be an appropriate format to have discussions on the report.  Butler felt that these would be good meetings to utilize for these discussions and hoped we could have more than the usual amount of Company Standing Committees for maximum opportunity to receive input.

Bauhs asked if the entire Board would participate in the workshops.  Butler would like to schedule numerous opportunities for folks to participate in the discussion without requiring everyone on the Board to attend all of them.  We will endeavor to distribute summaries of discussions to the Board to keep everyone informed.  Bauhs suggested companies or subsets of drivers may want to have discussions about their specific concerns or comments and then these more specific conversations be filtered back to the Board through workshops.

Audience Comments on the Report

Frank Choto, owner/operator A Alliance Towncar: Mr. Choto commended the City for examining this serious issue.  Mr. Choto hopes we can come up with a plan that helps all drivers not just those from one segment. 

Kedir Wako, Union Cab permit applicant: Mr. Wako expressed appreciation for the City examining this issue.  Mr. Wako related that many drivers have expressed concern about reprisals from the company if they speak up about this issue. Many immigrants came here to get away from oppression, leaving their families behind, and this issue is important to them because they need to provide for their family back home and prepare for future retirement.  Union Cab wanted to bring attention to this issue so that it can be addressed.  He implored the Board to come up with a fair solution to allow for him and all drivers to be able to work a reasonable amount of time to support their families and provide the opportunity to spend more time with their kids.

Motion to accept the Preliminary Draft Report: Taxi Driver Economic and Working Conditions: Rinard

Seconded by: Case

Passed Unanimously

 

BREAK-Approximately 10 minutes

Recommendations on Applications for Relief from the Moratorium

Dufay stated that the recommendation is to keep these applications active during the 30 day comment period and if necessary be held over until the next application period in April 2012.

Steve Entler asked if new applicants would still be allowed to apply during the April open application period.  Butler stated that new applications would still be accepted as we normally would.

Motion to keep current applications active through the 30 day comment period on the preliminary report and consider carrying them over to the April 2012 application period: Corona

Seconded by: Bauhs

Passed Unanimously

 

Enforcement Report

 

Dufay reported that Portland Police officers working the downtown entertainment district have been assisting in enforcement by providing reports of illegal taxicabs.  These reports have led to civil penalties being issued to these illegal operators.  In some instances, when these illegal operators have violated traffic laws, the police have pulled over these taxis and issued citations.  This assistance by the Police will likely serve as a heavy deterrent to illegal operators.  Four civil penalty letters were sent out as a result of reports received from last weekend.  In addition, we are working in conjunction with the City Attorneys office to make code changes allowing the impounding of illegal operators as well as increased collection ability to further deter repeat offenders. 

Rinard asked how the police identify illegal taxis and what happens to the passengers of illegal taxis.  Dufay answered that the police look for the city issued permit plate located on the back of every permitted taxi.  Dufay replied that in some instances police have asked passengers to exit the vehicle and have found alternate, legal transportation for them.  Rinard was concerned about the negative impact of this experience on tourists and wondered if there was any way to mitigate that.  Butler replied that although that is a valid concern, there is no way to know if the illegal operator has proper insurance and is a safe driver.  It is our understanding that these occurrences are happening in the entertainment district close to bar closing time so these are not hotel to airport business travelers.  Dufay added that he is under the impression that police are assisting the passengers in procuring alternate transportation and ensuring that they are not stranded. 

Bauhs felt that increasing collections efforts as mentioned in the Enforcement Report, such as the ability to impound vehicles, would have a much greater impact on these illegal operators and therefore would significantly increase the effectiveness of enforcement.  Butler added that we may need additional legal authority however; the City Attorney’s office is actively working identifying steps to take in obtaining the necessary authority.

Abdul Hussein: Mr. Hussein expressed concern about illegal cabs working on the weekends and asked what is being done about them.  Butler responded that there have been approximately 15 civil penalties issued in the last few weeks alone.

Ochosa asked if a list of violators would be available to the public.  Butler responded that although it is public record it is not our intention to release a list of violators to the public.  Some municipalities have chosen to do so.  However, many feel that this is sensationalistic and not appropriate for government agencies.  As of now, we have taken that viewpoint.  As an alternative, we choose to list permitted companies on our website.  Dufay added that there are alternate tools he is able to utilize.  Dufay reports the illegal businesses to the Better Business Bureau in the government reporting section and notifies the hotels of illegal or suspended operators.

Motion to accept the Enforcement Report: Entler

Seconded by: Bauhs

Passed Unanimously

Suggested Code Revision to Company and Driver Reporting Requirements

 

Entler felt that there was redundancy in the current code and had some suggestions to ease the burden on companies and drivers as well as the City.  Specifically, 16.40.440 Reports to the Administrator B.  This requires reports from both the company and driver.  Entler suggests removing “to the administrator and” thus requiring the driver to report to the company.  The company would then be required, as it is now in 16.40.440 A5, to file a report to the Administrator.

Secondly, Entler suggested revision of 16.40.440 B1 “or any traffic violation”. 

Bauhs expressed reservations about taking out the language in 16.40.440 B1 regarding the reporting of any traffic violation.  Although, drivers may not be diligent in reporting the information, it is still valuable to have in the code.  However, when there is an issue, and they don’t report an incident, having that language helps to be able to make a case that this individual is not following through with what they are supposed to be doing. It seems in the interest of public safety that this language should be left in.  Butler asked Bauhs if this driver reporting requirement could be taken care of through their contract as opposed to City Code.  Bauhs stated that although that would be possible, there is value in the City receiving these reports to ensure that drivers remain within Code requirements for driving infractions.  Bauhs has found automatic traffic infraction reports from ARS have been helpful in keeping account of driver’s records to ensure they remain eligible to driver under their contract. Butler stated that we do have Code requirement with limits on how many tickets a driver has in a year however do not currently have a subscription for a reporting service.

Entler stated that his primary concern was with 16.40.440A. 

Entler brought out that in the case of the very common citation for photo radar, drivers are often not aware they received a ticket until they get it in the mail.  The issue is that the code requires reporting within 24 hours of its occurrence.  Corona suggested that you could change the language to state within 24 hours of the time you were aware of it.   

Butler stated that there would be value in having direct communication with the driver in cases of more egregious offenses.  In those cases we may want to continue to require driver reporting. 

Foster asked if the Code requirement considers 2 charges in a year of 2 convictions in a year.  Dufay replied that the Code refers to convictions.   Butler replied in cases of more serious charges such as theft or assault action may be taken such as temporary suspension of the driver’s permit.   Butler added that action on less serious infractions would be taken only once it became a conviction.  Foster suggested a reporting website to report in lieu of calling the administrator.

Butler suggested reworking the language and brining it back to the Board.  Entler added that A3 may also be redundant.  Butler suggested having the language state the driver must report to the company, the company in turn must report to us.  Then require the driver to be available to us if additional information is needed.

Public Comment

Mr. Choto expressed concern over the requirement to report which may lead to punishment.  He suggested directing energy to driver education on how to avoid traffic citations.  He also was concerned that drivers would not be able to work because of minor traffic convictions.  Butler replied that we do take into consideration the seriousness of the violations before suspending or revoking a driver permit.

Al Ochosa urged the City to add the rest of the for-hire companies to the website.  Kramer said that we anticipate this being done by next Tuesday.

It was asked if the City looked at tickets drivers get while off duty.  Butler responded that we look at all infractions regardless if at work or personal time.  Butler replied that it is rare for a driver to be denied renewal of their permit for 3 traffic tickets in one year.  We may ask them to take a driver safety class and be given another chance.  Issues do arise however when there is a pattern of unsafe driving.  In those cases a permit renewal could be denied. 

Reporting violations are an issue for the company also.  If the driver does not report to the company then the company has nothing to report to the City.  Drivers should be required to report to the City.  Butler acknowledged that reports from the companies and drivers are something we’re actively working on.

Foster provided a better contact number to reach him.

Foster stated he is interested in getting approval for dealer certified mechanics to be accepted for the ASE mechanical inspections.  

Foster stated that the rates being charged by SAT companies can be affecting safety on the vehicles.  The competition is so great that rates are going lower and lower.  This can lead to companies cutting back on needed maintenance to vehicles.  The year restriction is a step in the right direction; however, rates should be looked at.  Butler mentioned that in one meeting a cap on SAT vehicle was mentioned.  Foster said that can be problematic because of varying business needs.  Although he doesn’t have any specific suggestions for addressing this issue, Foster believes that it should get a closer look.

Ochosa asked if we regulated the rates on SAT vehicles.  Butler answered no.  Bauhs stated this would be problematic because these companies have contracts that may stipulate rates.

Ochosa inquired on how the rides are allocated.  Bauhs answered in general terms the criteria are: mode of transport, individual needs of passenger (do they need oxygen, need wheelchair-lift or ramp…), where they live, where they are going, and of the providers who can accommodate the individual needs, which are available.  Then, out of the providers who are able and available, cost is considered as well as the number of vehicles they have at the time transportation is needed.  So, cost is one of the factors but not the exclusive factors in determining the transportation provider. 

Future Agenda Items

Ochosa suggested a follow up on discussions regarding the insurance financial size rating requirements.

Upcoming Board Meeting Schedule

Butler said the plan is to publish a schedule of meetings for the general workshops.  We will endeavor to post results of those meetings on our website so everyone can be up to date on the discussions.

Butler suggested another regular meeting of the Board in the month of February.  The date agreed upon for the next Board meeting was Wednesday February 22nd, 2012 at 1:30pm. 

Adjournment

Motion to Adjourn: Ochosa

Seconded by: Corona

Passed Unanimously

 

Minutes submitted by:

Patrick Kramer, Regulatory Program Specialist

 

                                         

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