FOUR MONTHS AFTER Uber and Lyft got permission to operate in city limits, Portland's taxi landscape may be on the verge of more changes.
The "pilot project" that gave those Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) the green light is winding down, and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick has pressing questions as the city works toward permanent rules. In an August 13 letter to TNCs and taxi companies, Novick posed those questions, and signaled a willingness to consider some interesting tweaks to the taxi landscape.
Novick said he'd be willing to allow cabs to purchase less insurance coverage for drivers who aren't carrying a passenger or on their way to picking one up—similar to the controversial arrangement Uber and Lyft have concocted.
He also asked TNCs if they'd want the right to pick up passengers who hail them on the street—something currently illegal for Uber and Lyft drivers—in exchange for agreeing to accept cash, install cameras, and paint their vehicles.
And Novick says he's open to reimbursing cab companies for money they spent on expensive wheelchair-accessible vehicles. Under Portland's old law, 20 percent of a cab company's fleet needed to be wheelchair accessible. That rule is probably going to be tossed out in favor of requirements that companies meet service goals for wheelchair-bound customers.
Lastly, Novick solicited ideas for new protections for TNC and cab drivers, a request that was met with derision by cabbies. Broadway Cab President Raye Miles responded to Novick that she found it "more than passing strange that this concern for drivers' economic well-being arrives after the deregulation experiment has already severely damaged the economic welfare of most branded taxi drivers."
City council is scheduled to consider recommendations for further policy changes on August 20. DIRK VANDERHART
A GROUP of 21 kids from across the country filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration on August 12, alleging government officials have knowingly continued burning fossil fuels—thereby making the earth potentially uninhabitable for future generations—even though scientists have known for 50 years about the catastrophic effects of human-induced climate change.
The suit asks for a court order declaring that the federal government continues to violate the "fundamental constitutional rights of youth and future generations to life, liberty, property, and public trust resources by causing dangerous CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere."
Philip Gregory, an attorney representing the group, says the court will decide whether or not the government has violated the kids' Fifth Amendment right "to have a climate system in which they can exist."
The group is particularly concerned about a proposed liquid natural gas facility that's scheduled for construction near Coos Bay. If completed, the Jordan Cove Energy Project will be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Oregon by 2020.
The group filed their lawsuit last week in the US District Court in Eugene. Gregory expects the first hearing will be sometime in November or December. SHELBY R. KING