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Hales, Novick propose 120-day pilot program for taxis and Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies

(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 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 rules for fares will be the same for TNCs and taxis: The City will lift the cap on fares and, as always, have no minimum fare.
  • Background check requirements for taxis and TNCs will be the same. Both can use City-approved third-party background check providers and the City will audit random samples to enforce compliance.
  • Taxis and TNCs will implement service performance measures to ensure timely service for people with disabilities.
  • The TNC companies will not be allowed to pick up passengers until permits have been certified.
  • Taxis and TNCs will both be required to offer 24/7 service. Neither will be allowed to reject trip requests based on the shortness or length of the journey.
  • The City prohibits disclaimers of liability for negligence or other tortious conduct contained in Terms of Service and requires that all tort claims be governed by tort law in effect at the time of a claim.

Click here to read the full resolution.

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 pdxrides@portlandoregon.gov.

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