If you're one of those cheering because Uber breached Portland, maybe get that ride while you can. The City of Portland this afternoon asked a Multnomah County judge to put the brakes on the ride-share company's nascent operations here, arguing the popular service is contravening more than 20 rules and regulations, and may be putting its passengers at risk as a result.
In a 20-page filing [pdf] in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the City Attorney's office also argues California-based Uber is flouting state law by not having a valid Oregon business license.
“Our main concern is public health and safety, because the state invested in the cities the responsibility to do that,” Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement. “Beyond that, though, is the issue of fairness. Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety. So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers. Because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community. Uber disagrees, so we’re seeking a court injunction.”
And for all Uber's crowing about giving the people what they want, the city says Uber provides its service inequitably because customers need a smart phone or computer to benefit.
The suit came hours after Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat sent a cease and desist order [pdf] to Brooke Steger, a Seattle-based manager for Uber, ordering the company to halt services "until such time as appropriate permits are obtained and Uber is in full compliance..."
It's unclear if Uber drivers are operating in the city this afternoon. The Uber app, on a recent check, showed only one driver, on Interstate 84, but said pickup was available within 5 minutes at a downtown location. The company hasn't answered our inquiry.
Update, 5:43 pm: An Uber spokesperson got back to us with a "statement." It doesn't directly address whether drivers are still operating within the city, or really anything we asked. It's actually very, very unhelpful, other than to point people to an online petition the company started. Thanks, Uber.
Here's the statement: "Uber has received a tremendously warm welcome from riders and drivers in and around Portland. We appreciate the way residents have welcomed Uber into the Rose City, their support illustrates why it’s time to modernize Portland transportation regulation. In less than 4 hours, nearly 7,000 Portland residents have signed the petition in support of Uber and we remain hopeful that the city will listen to Portlanders who want safe, reliable, hassle free ride options now."
By forcing itself on a city with stringent taxicab oversight, the lawsuit argues Uber has violated a host of laws, and is liable for hefty civil and criminal penalties. According to the Oregonian, the city has yet to actually issue a ticket for those violations, but is monitoring Uber's activity for potential citations. Some examples of the lawsuit's claims:
In Portland, all taxicab and for-hire vehicles must pass regular inspections showing that they are safe, clean and comfortable, tasks which the drivers themselves typically must complete although they do not earn fare revenue. Similarly, drivers are prohibited from providing taxi or for-hire service unless their vehicles are equipped with a digital security camera, and fare meter. The company is required to carry commercial liability insurance and vehicle insurance. Upon information and belief, the vehicles dispatched by Uber do not comply with these requirements, avoiding the costs imposed on drivers and other companies.
Uber drivers are drawn from the general public and use personal vehicles which are personally insured. Uber does not require Uber drivers to purchase commercial auto insurance or have local business licenses or permits.
Uber exempts itself from any duty to provide fair and equal service. Uber only dispatches drivers to customers who can pay by credit card and have used its internet application or website to request a vehicle. A phone call request from a customer is not accepted, nor is cash. Uber admits it seeks to serve wealthy, technology-connected passengers, leaving those with less means in technology to be served by the regulated taxicab and LPT drivers.
Uber’s operations pose an immediate, real and substantial threat to the public; including but not limited to, the fact that each passenger Uber diverts is being exposed to a risk of harm from drivers who do not have lawful commercial licenses or commercial insurance, and are screened only by Uber and not by local authorities.
In its statement, the city is also asking YOU, the conscientious and law-abiding citizen, to report ride-share activities you come across. Hit the jump for the full thing.
(Dec. 8, 2014) The City of Portland has filed suit against Uber Technologies Inc. in Multnomah County Circuit Court, after documenting that the California-based company started operating private-for hire transportation services in the city.
The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief that Uber is subject to and in violation of the City of Portland’s Private for Hire Transportation Regulations and Administrative Rules. The City’s lawsuit is asking for a declaration by the court that Uber is subject to the City’s regulations. The lawsuit also asks the Court to order Uber to stop operating in Portland until it is in compliance with the City’s safety, health and consumer protection rules.
Transportation Director Leah Treat on Monday morning issued a Cease and Desist Order to Uber. The order was cited in the lawsuit.
“I am hereby directing that Uber Technologies Inc…. or any other Uber affiliate entity immediately cease and desist operating within the City of Portland until such time as appropriate permits are obtained and Uber is in full compliance with the requirements of Portland City Code Chapter 16.40,” Treat wrote. “Please alert all Uber-affiliated drivers that they are to cease and desist.”
“Our main concern is public health and safety, because the state invested in the cities the responsibility to do that,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “Beyond that, though, is the issue of fairness. Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety. So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers. Because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community. Uber disagrees, so we’re seeking a court injunction.”
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.
“If Uber thinks there should be no maximum price on what they charge Portlanders, they should make their case to the Portland City Council,” Novick said. “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.”
Uber drivers accepted and then later cancelled two rides requested by Portland Bureau of Transportation enforcement officials on Friday night. Uber drivers provided three rides to City enforcement officials on Saturday night. Uber has widely publicized that it was operating in Portland over the weekend.
The Transportation Bureau issued two civil penalties to Uber on Monday, one for operating without a company permit and another for operating without a vehicle permit.
As the City documents Uber’s unpermitted operations in Portland, the Bureau will issue warnings to Uber drivers and penalties to the company. Drivers found to be repeatedly operating without a permit may be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
An attorney representing the City of Portland also issued a Cease and Desist Order Monday to Uber for unauthorized use of the image of the historic “Portland, Oregon” sign in Old Town in its advertising. The sign’s image is a trademark registered with the State of Oregon. If Uber does not cease all commercial use of the sign by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, the City is prepared to seek a court order, damages and attorney’s fees.
The Transportation Bureau encourages the public to report illegal taxi operations, and complaints about any private for hire transportation provider to 503-865-2486 or by email to email@example.com