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September 26, 2012: PFHT Board Meeting Minutes

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PRIVATE FOR-HIRE TRANSPORTATION

BOARD OF REVIEW

Minutes for September 26, 2012 Board Meeting

 

 

1.     Call to Order

Time: 1:30pm

 

Roll Call

Present: Ryan Hashagen, John Case, Kirk Foster, Steve Entler, Michael Huggins, Red Diamond, Ramon Corona, Tony Tabrizi, Veronica Rinard, Jon Putman, Kathleen Butler, Frank Dufay, Patrick Kramer, and Lauren Wolfe

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

2.     Agenda

 

Motion to Accept the Agenda: Putman

Seconded:Rinard

No Discussion

Passed Unanimously

 

3.      Approval of Minutes from July 25, 2012 Board Meeting

 

Motion to Approve Minutes: Corona

Seconded:  Diamond

No Discussion

Passed Unanimously

 

4.     Recommendations Regarding Taxi Permit Applications

 

Butler apologized for the suspense and last minute reveal.  It was in no way our intention to draw out the suspense.  It was our intention to release the document ahead of time to allow for your review prior to this meeting.  There were various necessary reviews and edits occurring at multiple levels that while causing delays, ultimately resulted in a the best possible product for you .  We recognize that this decision impacts the livelihood of many and we respect that.  In no way was it our intention to draw out the suspense.

Going forward from today there will be a Board Meeting on October 10thin which the Board will provide their recommendation on these applications.  From there the recommendations being presented today as well as the Board recommendations which will occur on October 10th will be brought to City Council for a public hearing and final decision on the applications.

Dufay announced that John Hamilton, Dufay’s predecessor as PFHT Administrator, passed away over the weekend.  Dufay provided information regarding the arrangements for a service in memory of Mr. Hamilton.

 

Dufay presented an introduction to the recommendations.  It’s been 14 years since new taxi vehicles have been added.  In that time a lot has changed in Portlanders’ transportation use and demographics.  Population is increasing while vehicle registration is declining.  Our society is aging, resulting in taking alternate forms of transportation such as mass transit.  Fareless Square is gone.  The metro region is growing at the edges of the urban growth boundary.  Portland’s increasing number of medical facilities is drawing patients from all around the State.  The taxi industry itself is changing.  There is increasing pressure on taxi drivers trying to make a living.  There are higher gas prices and increasing kittys.  Portland does not have enough taxis to service the market.  Our office is getting complaints regarding slow service times and no shows.  Smaller companies are having to refer rides to larger companies because they don’t have the resources to cover the call.  Illegal operators are finding rides, especially on the weekends.  Dufay went on to say that changes are necessary.  The industry needs technological updates, make a concerted effort to improve the working conditions for our hard working taxi drivers. 

Butler spoke to how the Revenue Bureau came up with the recommendations.  In April 2011 we received three applications for new companies: Always requesting 15, Portland Electric requesting 50 later reduced to 25,  and Solidarity Cab Cooperative dba: Union Cab requested 50.  At the same time we had requests for additional permits from the existing cab companies: Broadway Cab requested 30, Green Cab requested 32, New Rose City Cab requested  30, Portland Taxi requested  24, Radio Cab requested 38(was originally lower), and Sassy’s Cab requested 13. Partly as a result of issues brought up in Union Cab’s application, the Mayor and City Councilors asked the Revenue Bureau to investigate the working conditions of taxi drivers in Portland.  This resulted in the Taxi Driver Labor Market Report which found many drivers were working long hours for low wages and no benefits.  There were a series of workshops following the release of the report.  In developing the recommendations, we took into consideration all the comments from the public comment period of those workshops.  City Code criteria is very broad in the factors determining whether an application is approved or not.  Butler read the factors from Code.  A few of the factors applied directly to the working conditions of the drivers.  When all the factors that had previously been considered since 1998, there was a very clear progression that showed growth in each of these sectors.  Many may be wondering, then why were there not any taxi permits issued in 2008 when a demand study was done?   The economy took a nose dive right as that Demand Study was being done.  By the time the Demand Study had been completed, the applicable financial sectors were showing losses.  One of the things Sorin Garber stated in the Demand Study he did was that prior to this economic downturn there was a need for more taxi permits.  Once the indicators rise to the 2004-2006 levels it will be time to consider issuing more permits. 

There are a series of charts in our recommendations illustrating all the financial indicators considered.  Employment is slowly trending up, airport trips trending up strongly, dispatch is up, overnight visitors is up, medical transportation is up. Number of Taxis of comparable cities were looked at.  Portland was at the bottom of the scale when it came to taxis per resident.  Cities compared were: New Orleans, Atlanta, Arlington, VA, Boston, Minneapolis, Denver, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Sacramento, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and Charlotte, NC. 1998-2003 taxi number same, but SAT, Executive Sedan and Shuttle all increase.  A lot of the market previously being serviced by taxis were migrating into those other sectors.  One important finding in Garber’s Demand Study, is based on taxi dispatch numbers and airport trips one can make a estimation of the number of calls to taxi companies compared to executive sedan companies.  Garber concluded that 96% of people who are looking for a ride from the airport and 4% want an executive sedan.  That does not jive with the ratio of taxi permits to executive sedan permits we have issued.  We also looked at increasing wait times and dropped calls.  This admittedly is incomplete and anecdotal.  We will work to better track these types of complaints for better data in the future.  However, in field work Dufay did recently, he experienced long wait times especially in outlying areas.  We also noted a proliferation of illegal taxis which are filling the unmet demand for taxis.  One of the other important considerations is that smaller companies are not able to expand or innovate without being able to add vehicles to their fleet.  We believe that it is time to issue more permits to the smaller companies where it is justified by demand. Factors not contemplated by the Demand Study but incorporated into our decision are: How accessible is the service that is provided and quality of service provided to the taxi customer and the taxi driver by the company.  Along with the recommendations, there is another document containing proposed Code changes.  We realize some industry reform is necessary in order to be able to issue additional taxi permits.  One of the key proposed reforms is to create performance standards which will have a direct impact on a taxi company’s ability to renew their permits.  These proposed reforms will have a separate public process.  The exception would be the proposed prohibition of payments for fares.  This has already had a public process and has been approved by the Board.   Our recommendations are as follows:

 

Existing Companies:

 

Broadway Cab and Sassy’s Cab: Additional demand not demonstrated.  There also is an outstanding issue of SAT permits.  In our conversations with drivers, Tri Met and Broadway, we understand that there are some issues in how companies handle SAT business.  Meters not allowed to be in SAT vehicles per City Code.  Taxi companies have meters in their SAT vehicles.  However, after meeting with Tri Met we learned that meters collect key data to meet federal requirements.  Drivers told us that the administrative cost of those fares was being shifted back to them.  As part of proposed reforms, it is being suggested that SAT permits issued to taxi companies be converted to taxi permits.   The recommendation is denial, with the understanding that strong consideration is being given to converting their SAT permits to taxi permits in the future.  Application denied.

Green Cab: Applied for 32 permits.  Provided documentation of call for service that they had to refer to other companies due to lack of permits.  Contracts and other expansions of service provided.  First company to install back seat card readers which decreases credit card fraud and increasing convenience for passengers and has been shown to increase tips which increases driver income.  Recommendation of 32 permits over a period of 3 years; 11 each for the first 2 years and 10 in the third year.  At least  of these vehicles must be newADAcompliant wheelchair accessible vehicles, all drivers provided an additional kitty free week per year.  A proposal is submitted and approved for stabilizing and proportionally lower the kitty based on the additional permits.

New Rose City Cab: No evidence of unmet customer demand.  A review of their records showed that they dispatch a relatively small amount of call to the drivers and that the drivers spend a significant amount of time waiting in the airport backfield for fares.  We recognize that the small amount of permits issued to this company can limit their opportunity for growth and innovation.  However, we feel that the small amount of permits alone is not sufficient reason to issue additional permits.  We welcome evidence of demand for New Rose City Cab’s services and suggest future requests provide evidence of company investment in advertising and promotion and other investments that promote increased dispatched calls and increasing quality of services to drivers.  We do want to find avenues for smaller companies to expand but we do need evidence of corresponding demand and investments to provide better service to drivers.

Portland Taxi: Applied for 24 permits.  Provided evidence of significant calls referred to other companies due to lack of permits.  Improved technological and administrative support.  Recommend approval of half, 12 permits over 3 years.  4 vehicles each year.  At least  3of these vehicles must be newADAcompliant wheelchair accessible vehicles, all drivers provided an additional kitty free week per year.  A proposal is submitted and approved for stabilizing and proportionally lower the kitty based on the additional permits.

Radio Cab: Applied for 38 additional permits.  Documentation shows steady increase in calls for service as well as contracts for services shows strong evidence of need for additional permits.  They invest heavily in marketing and advertising.  Provide strong support of drivers, their drivers work fewer hours and have higher income.  Drivers have significant input in the operations of the company due to driver owned.  Recommend approval of all 38 permits to be issued over a period of 3 years.  13 permits in the first and second years and 12 in the third year.  At least 8 of these vehicles must be new ADA compliant wheelchair accessible vehicles

 

New Cab Company

Always Cab Company: Applied for 15 vehicle permits.  They were operating and advertising taxi service in Portland.  Several penalties have been issued and upheld by the Code Hearings Officer.  Penalties have not been paid.  For that reason they are not eligible for permits.

Portland Electric Cab LLC: Applied for 25 permits.  Proposal for all electric vehicles to be operated by Broadway Cab.  Overall impact would be to dilute the number of fares available to current drivers.  No demand being met by this company that could not be met by existing companies.  No driver service improvements.

Union Cab: Applied for 50 vehicle permits.  Group made up of current Portland taxi drivers.  Goal to have opportunity to improve driver working conditions and income.  They assert that a new driver owned company will improve conditions for all drivers created by increasing competition for drivers between companies.  Company also has goal of health insurance and paid vacation for drivers.  Have committed in making investments in advertising and marketing.  Connections have been made between improving driver conditions and improved service and safety for passengers.  In other cities this has resulted in a reduction in kittys for all drivers.  We recommend approval of all 50 vehicles.  The recommendation is to issue them all this year, not to be phased in due to challenges of entering the market. 

 

In the work sessions we had many felt that we should change the way we issue permits.  Changing the way we issue permits was considered but it has been shown from the experience of other cities that reforms to the industry should be done gradually.  We feel that the recommendations we have in place will spurn changes in the industry to improve working conditions and income of drivers.

Even with the recommended additional taxis, we are still below the other comparable cities in taxicabs per capita.

Rinard: Will there be proposed incentives and guidelines to promote the cities sustainability and ecological goals?  What is the plan for reevaluating Portland’s demand for taxis in the future?

Butler responded that we are finding that the cost of gasoline has led to more green taxi cabs.  However, federal law precludes us from requiring taxi companies meeting certain mpg goals.  Applications for additional taxi permits for existing companies are accepted twice a year.  There are more applications for additional taxi permits that were submitted after the taxi labor market review had commenced.  Those applications will be reviewed in the future. We recommend waiting until at least a year after we have added the recommended taxi permits and have implemented the proposed reforms before issuing any additional taxi permits.  That way we can evaluate the effects these changes have had on the industry.

5.      Public Comment

 

Several in attendance thanked the Board and City Staff for all the work that went into the Taxi Labor Report and the Recommendations for Reform as well as the recommendations for taxi permit applicants.

Areas of concern still outstanding were mentioned: SAT industry competing with taxis, lack of bodily injury insurance for drivers, lack of health insurance for drivers and restroom conditions at the Airport backfield.

 

6.     Board Member Comments

 

Diamond expressed disagreement with statistics contained in the Taxi Labor Report which show an increase of travel out of PDX.  Diamond stated that from 2001 to 2011 those numbers actually dropped a small amount. 

Rinard stated that there is a new funding stream that will soon available for a marketing campaign to significantly increase visitors to Portland.

 

7.     Adjourn

 

Motion to Adjourn: Huggins

Seconded by:Putman

Passed Unanimously 

Meeting was adjourned at approximately 3:30pm.  The next meeting will be on Wednesday, October 10th at 1:30pm.

Minutes submitted by: 

Patrick Kramer, Regulatory Program Specialist

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