This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's Been Slow Going in Ironing Out New Taxi Reforms

Posted by Nathan Gilles on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 9:59 AM


Remember that damning study last year that spawned a whole bunch of taxicab reforms in Portland and also gave rise to a new company, the first in several years?

Nothing's really in place yet. But they're getting there. In a status report heading to the Portland City Council on Wednesday, the city's Private For-Hire Transportation Board lays out exactly where things stand. The board—which is composed of industry members, city representatives, and a taxi driver rep, and has authority over Portland’s cabs—also gives an update on the new permits approved last November. Below are some of the highlights.

Better Treatment for Drivers. Among the reforms is a new rule forcing cab companies to treat their workers well if they want to keep their permits or get new ones. But this treatment breaks down into an as-yet-incomplete series of “performance standards” that currently include requirements for better and more dispatching—something drivers frequently complain about—and improved vehicle maintenance. The board is expected to have picked and approved the entire package of standards by December.

Going After Corrupt Doormen. For years, less-than-scrupulous Portland hotel doormen have solicited bribes from cab drivers in exchange for steering them hotel fares, particularly lucrative airport fares. This dirty dealing was officially outlawed last November, but enforcement—which has been making tepid progress because the city has, so to speak, not that many cops on the beat—is still building momentum. Following earlier promises to crackdown on these “kickbacks”, the Revenue Bureau is now hiring additional enforcement officers.

Increased Fees. To pay for this redoubling of enforcement efforts, the city plans on increasing the cost of fees paid by taxi companies.

And the New Permits…

Union Cab. If you remember our coverage from last year, you’ll recall that the Union Cab cooperative faced more than a little opposition to getting approval for the 50 new permits it needed to get started. The city hadn’t approved a new company or new taxi permits in years. But nonetheless the scrappy startup won approval and received its permits.

Now the worker-owned cooperative is well on its way. Union Cab members are reportedly painting their vehicles at their new dispatch center. The company’s hit-the-streets date is now set to happen sometime before mid-April.

The Other Permits. Amid the hubbub over Union Cab’s permits, the transportation board and city council also approved 28 other new permits for three existing cab companies. Following an appeal by Broadway Cab, which did not get the permits it requested (and is expected to see a mass exodus of its cabbies to Union Cab), these permits are now in limbo pending a resolution of Broadway’s appeal.

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