Portland threatens rideshare company Uber: Get up to code or get out of town
The city of Portland sued rideshare company Uber on Monday and ordered it to stop picking up fares within city limits, Buzzfeed reported.
“If Uber thinks there should be no maximum price on what they charge Portlanders, they should make their case to the Portland City Council,” Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) head Steve Novick said in a statement. “If Uber thinks taxi companies shouldn’t have to serve people with disabilities, they should make their case. If Uber thinks taxis should not have to have proper insurance in case of a crash, they should tell us why we should allow that.”
The lawsuit calls for the company to stop operating in the area. The city also issued a cease-and-desist order giving Uber until 5 p.m. local time on Thursday to stop accepting fares.
City officials said that, to operate within the city, Uber drivers need specialized license plates and permits like those required for taxis and “executive service” vehicles. The city also requires such services to perform annual background checks on their drivers and extensive mechanical inspections for the vehicles being used.
According to a bureau spokesperson, Dylan Rivera, the company currently runs a heavy amount of drivers in the areas outside the city limits. Rideshare services are not allowed to pick up fares inside the city, but are allowed to drop them off there.
“This isn’t unprecedented for [Uber] to enter the market like this,” Rivera told Buzzfeed. “It’s happening in other parts of the country. So we’re not surprised but we’re certainly frustrated and disappointed.”
Rivera said Uber has not contacted the bureau to discuss how it could work within city regulations. Brooke Steger, general manager for Uber’s office in nearby Seattle, told Geekwire that it launched in Portland in response to an “outcry” from local clients.
“I think launching is not an act of aggression on our part,” Steger said. “It’s actually a hope to serve those people’s needs.”
Monday’s lawsuit comes after local code enforcement officers contacted Uber drivers to attempt to catch them operating within the city. Rivera told The Oregonian that two drivers first accepted a fare, then canceled it.
“We believe that, if we have evidence of an Uber driver agreeing to pick up a passenger in the city limits of Portland, that constitutes a violation of city code, and we will hold the driver and Uber accountable,” Rivera said.
Uber launched an online petition in response to the city’s lawsuit calling on Mayor Charlie Hales (D) to stop the city’s opposition to the company.
“Despite our steadfast efforts to give the people what they want, some local officials are working to keep Uber out of Portland and protect a status quo that simply doesn’t meet the city’s needs,” the petition reads. “The bottom line is this: Drivers deserve an opportunity to earn a living and Portlanders deserve a safe, hassle-free transportation option. And we will fight for you to have that right until it’s a reality.”
A Nevada judge ordered the company to stop operating in that state last week after ruling that it was breaking state regulations regarding taxis. Uber also came under criticism last month after an executive suggested fighting negative coverage by digging up information that could be used against journalists.
Watch the Oregonian‘s report, as posted on Monday, below.