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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

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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.

Uber and its drivers may face penalties, fines for operating illegally in Portland, Transportation Bureau warns

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has learned that transportation company Uber has said it will start offering taxi service in Portland illegally on Friday night.

City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees PBOT, said the City is prepared to issue civil and criminal penalties against Uber and its drivers for operating without required permits and inspections. The City of Portland requires permits for drivers and companies that offer taxi or executive sedan service within the city limits.

“There’s nothing sharing about this so-called ‘sharing economy’ company: They want to profit in Portland without playing by the same rules as existing cab companies,” Novick said. “People who pick up passengers for Uber in Portland should know that they are operating illegally and could be subject to penalties. Public safety, fairness among competitors and customer service are our top priorities. Unlike permitted drivers, Uber drivers do not carry commercial insurance, putting Portland customers at great risk.”

Portland and Vancouver, Wash. are the only cities in the metropolitan area that regulate taxi companies. Uber recently started operating in Vancouver without permits and in other area cities that do not regulate taxis.

Since the City Council moved taxi regulation from the Revenue Bureau to PBOT, effective July 1, Commissioner Novick and transportation officials started a top-to-bottom review intended to update the City’s taxi and executive sedan regulations.

Commissioner Novick is convening a task force to reexamine existing taxi regulations and see if those regulations should be restructured while protecting consumers and drivers.

“We have told Uber and Lyft that they are welcome to offer ideas for regulatory changes,” Novick said. “Uber has chosen instead to break the law.”

It is illegal for motorists to pick up passengers for a fee in the Portland city limits without proper permits. Taxis that pick up passengers outside of Portland may drop off those passengers in Portland without a permit.

Anyone in Portland can use the smartphone app Curb to call taxis from Broadway and Radio Cab, which are two of the largest permitted taxi companies in the city.

The three most common violations of City Code that city enforcement officers find, and which Uber and its drivers may be in violation of, are: 

Code Section

Requirement

1st Offense

2nd Offense

Subsequent Offenses

16.40.090 A.

LPT and Taxi Driver Permit

$1,000

$2,500

$5,000

16.40.150 A.

Taxi Company Permit

$1,500

$2,500

$5,000

16.40.190 B.

Taxiplate

$1,250

$2,500

$5,000

Full City Code Citation: http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/?c=28593#cid_408153 

The Limited Passenger Transportation and Taxi Driver Permit requirements ensure the public that drivers have passed annual City-required annual background checks.

The Taxi Company Permit requirement ensures the public that licensed companies have appropriate commercial insurance that will cover passengers in the event of a crash, and that the companies’ drivers have annual City-required background checks and inspected vehicles.

The Taxiplate display requirement calls for posting of a metal plate on the vehicle with an identification number. It helps customers and enforcement officers identify permitted operators.

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 calling 503-865-2486 or emailing Regulatory@portlandoregon.gov

Socially Responsible Investing: Draft Proposal for Public Comment

Portland’s financial investments should speak up for our community’s values.   Last year, the City Council took a first step toward this goal when we unanimously adopted a policy that included social responsibility principles for the City’s own financial investments.  The resolutions established a temporary committee to take a look at how the City should apply these principles and immediately added one company, Wal-Mart, to a “Do-Not-Buy List.” 

The temporary committee met through the spring of this year and developed a recommendation, which they presented to City Council on August 6.

I have developed a resolution to implement the committee’s recommendation.  The resolution would create a standing permanent committee to recommend companies for inclusion on, or removal from, the City’s Do-Not-Buy List.  In addition, the resolution would authorize the City Treasurer to purchase a subscription offered by a research firm that specializes in supporting investor decisions about social- and values-based investment.

The draft Council documents are available for review here:

I plan to bring this resolution to City Council for consideration along with a resolution to renew the Council’s direction that the City shall not purchase Wal-Mart securities.  I welcome any comments about these two draft resolutions.  You can, of course, contact me with your thoughts at any time, but sending me your comments by Tuesday, December 9, will ensure that I will have time to consider them before I file the resolutions with the Council Clerk.

Please contact my policy director, Katie Shriver, if you have comments or questions about these resolutions.  Katie’s phone number is 503-823-4682, and her e-mail address is Katie.shriver@portlandoregon.gov.  

Snow and Ice in Forecast: Are You Prepared?

Meteorologists are predicting severe winter weather in the Portland area tomorrow. 

Winter weather in the Portland Metropolitan region can change quickly and without warning, making travel unpredictable. The intensity of a single snow and ice storm can vary significantly throughout the region because of the area's unique weather patterns and geography. The time of day the snow strikes also will influence winter travel.

Portland averages at least one significant snowfall annually. The next time it happens, be ready. Every resident and business should be prepared for the worst possible conditions to provide for your safety. Essential equipment includes chains, snow shovel, and sand or de-icing granules.

Delay your trip until conditions are better

The best advice for traveling in bad winter weather is not to travel at all, if you can avoid it. Wait until conditions improve before venturing out in winter weather. Allow the snow plows, sanding trucks, and other emergency vehicles to get out ahead of you to treat conditions. Allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

Take transit

Plan to commute by public transit in bad weather. Information about bus and MAX light rail is available online from TriMet or by calling 503-238-RIDE. TriMet advises riders to expect 20 to 30-minute bus delays, so plan accordingly, dress warmly, and be cautious crossing the street to your stop.

Check weather and street conditions

When you head out, give yourself extra time and check weather and traffic reports before you go. Check PublicAlerts for breaking news and information on major service disruptions. It will provide links to ODOT's TripCheck for highway road conditions. Remember, freeways, major arterials, and bus routes are your best bets for winter travel.

Prepare your home and family

Develop an emergency plan with your family that includes an alternate way home. Identify where each member should go if getting home is not possible because of snow conditions. Make sure there are provisions, food, and blankets at your contingency location.

Familiarize yourself with school, daycare, and employer snow policies.

Chains - your link to safety!

Buy chains, dry fit them, carry them in your vehicle, and use them. When ODOT issues a requirement to use chains on all State roads, remember that several highways run through Portland: 82nd Avenue, Powell Boulevard, Lombard Street, Barbur Boulevard, Sandy Boulevard (outer east side), McLoughlin Boulevard and Macadam Avenue.

Have a well stocked emergency kit in your vehicle to keep you safe and more comfortable during long waits. Your kit should include chains, shovel, bag of sand, battery jumper cables, first aid kit, basic tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver and knife), blanket, extra clothing (hats, socks, boots, mittens), flashlight, and cellular phone or CB Radio.

You are responsible for your vehicle

If you choose to drive, stay with your vehicle in a snow and ice storm. Any abandoned vehicle is subject to being cited and impounded. To locate your vehicle, call Police Auto Records at 503-823-0044.

Any vehicle creating a safety hazard is subject to towing. If you are driving and visibility and conditions are getting worse rapidly, do not stop in a travel lane. Look for an opportunity to pull off the road into a safe parking area and wait for conditions to improve. If you cannot reach your home, move your vehicle off a major street or plow route onto a side street so that plows can completely open up major streets. If you become stuck or stranded in severe weather, stay with your vehicle for warmth and safety until help arrives. While you wait for help to arrive, open a window slightly for ventilation, run your motor sparingly, and use your emergency flashers.

Recover your vehicle as soon as possible

Parking regulations and other road safety regulations remain enforceable during a winter storm. If you leave your vehicle parked in a metered parking space or other time zone during a winter storm, recover your vehicle as soon as possible when conditions improve. If you receive a citation, follow the instructions on the back of it to resolve it or contest it with the County Circuit Court.

In the aftermath

As soon as possible, clear your catch basins, sidewalks, and driveways across pedestrian paths of snow and ice, slippery leaves, and debris. Remove icicles hanging over doorways and walkways. By City Code, property owners are liable for personal injury and property damage caused by snow, ice, and other debris on sidewalks and driveways.

As the snow plowing operation proceeds, a snow berm develops. It is impossible to plow without leaving a berm. Individual property owners are responsible for clearing away the snow berm from driveways and entrances. Pile shoveled snow where it can be absorbed into the ground, not on the street and public right of way. Businesses hiring contractors to remove snow from lots should store the snow on your property, not dump it on the street.

Mayor Hales, Commissioner Novick propose $46 million Portland Street Fund

After months of public input, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick proposed a Portland Street Fund that will more than double the City’s pavement maintenance budget. The Street Fund investments will also make it safer for children to walk to school and for seniors to walk to transit stops, by filling in missing sidewalks and making crossing improvements (such as flashing beacons) at dangerous intersections. Just under 40 percent of the first three years of safety improvements will be made in East Portland. Examples of the safety projects that will be funded include:

  • Safety and improved transit access along SE 122nd Avenue in East Portland. These improvements are prompted in part by TriMet officials, who have said they will upgrade bus service on that street to frequent service if these investments are made. 
  • Sidewalks around David Douglas High School, the largest high school in Oregon.
  • Sidewalks on SE 117th Avenue, by Mill Park Elementary;
  • Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway crossing improvements, from SW 30th Avenue to SW 65th Avenue, improving connections to Bridlemile Elementary, Hayhurst Elementary, and Robert Gray Middle School.

The fund will provide about $15 million a year for preventive maintenance for street pavement in the first three years – investments that are estimated to prevent the need for more than $650 million in costly rebuilds, over a ten year period. Portland uses the StreetSaver computer model, a model used by many jurisdictions to forecast pavement condition. According to the model, if street maintenance is funded at the current budget level, 56 percent of busy streets are forecast to be in fair or better condition in 10 years. With the Portland Street Fund, 67 percent of busy streets would be in fair or better condition in 10 years, according to the same computer model. 

Businesses will pay between $3 and $144 a month, with a 50 percent discount for non-profits, under an approach developed by a business workgroup, which included representatives from Venture Portland and the Portland Business Alliance. Individuals will pay rates related to their ability to pay. For example:

  • A couple making $40,000 to $60,000 will pay $5 a month.
  • A couple making $60,000 to $75,000 a year will pay $7.50 a month.
  • A couple making $75,000 to $100,000 will pay $10 a month.

The tax has a $5,000 per child deduction. For example, a couple making $65,000, with two children, would have an adjusted income of $55,000 and would pay at the $5 per month level. Higher income Portlanders will pay more, with couples making more than $350,000 paying $75 a month. "Which is still less than the average bill for cable television," Novick said.

"In addition, because this is a local income tax, these payments will be deductible on your State and Federal income tax forms, which means people who itemize deductions will be out of pocket less than the face value of the tax," Novick added. "For example, most people making between $75,000 and $100,000 a year itemize deductions, and pay a marginal Federal tax rate of 15% and a marginal State rate of 9%. Deductibility means that they'd actually only be out of pocket $7.60 a month."

The Portland Street Fund results from the Our Streets PDX transportation funding conversation that started in January. The City Council considered a Transportation User Fee in May, but decided to seek more public input on ways to reduce charges for low-income residents and businesses, and provide a discount for non-profits. 

“After months of thoughtful public discussion, we have a proposal that begins to address our longstanding maintenance and safety needs,” Hales said. “No one likes to pay more taxes, but we certainly can’t count on Congress to come and save us. The Portland Street Fund raises enough money to make a difference and provides the resources the community says we urgently need.” 

"The Portland Street Fund is a very different proposal than the City Council considered in May," Commissioner Novick said.

“Thanks to the input and hard work of three committees over the summer, we have a much better proposal now,” Novick said. “The Portland Street Fund is more affordable for middle-class families. We protect low-income residents with an exemption. And we have developed much more detailed information on the investments we will make."

The fund will allocate 56 percent of net revenue to maintenance, and 44 percent to safety projects, with the understanding that many projects accomplish both goals.

“Preventive maintenance saves money in the long run,” Transportation Director Leah Treat said. “The Portland Street Fund will provide $45 million in the first three years, and at that rate after 10 years, we can avoid spending more than $650 million in more expensive road rebuilds. Our crews are working hard to provide the right treatment at the right place, at the right time.”

The Portland City Council will conduct a first reading and public hearing on the proposal at 2 p.m., Nov. 20 at City Council Chambers. A second reading and vote are expected at 10 a.m., Dec. 3. 

Learn more at www.OurStreetsPDX.com or ask questions or provide comments at ourstreetspdx@portlandoregon.gov Talk about it on twitter, using hashtag #ourstreetspdx or see @pbotinfo

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