A panel of Portland city councilors says more work must be done before it can recommend regulations that would govern how ride-sharing services such as Uber operate in the city.

Danielle West-Chuhta, the city’s attorney, presented a draft ordinance for regulating and licensing Uber drivers to the Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee on Wednesday night. Her proposal creates a new regulatory category called Transportation Network Companies or TNCs.

The four-person committee, which will meet again in March to discuss the measure, will eventually have to make a recommendation to the full City Council.

One provision of her proposal would require each Uber driver to pay the city an annual $500 vehicle license fee and a $76 driver license fee, which would drop to $66 a year for renewals. Any Uber vehicle would have to be insured, and each driver would have to undergo a criminal background check.

But after councilors raised questions about ways to control surge pricing and how that would affect customers, the committee decided to meet again next month with an Uber representative present. Surge pricing occurs during periods of high demand. It has been used by some Uber drivers in other parts of the country to multiply base fares when other modes of transportation, such as taxis, are unavailable. Councilors also want to learn more about a bill pending before the Legislature that would regulate Uber drivers and their services.

The Portland City Council is considering a proposal to regulate Uber and other app-based ride-sharing services amid complaints from taxi companies that they have an unfair advantage because they are not subject to licensing and required to carry extended insurance coverage.


Uber began operating in Portland in October. Many of the drivers work part-time and are students or artists, according to an attorney for Uber. Ride-sharing services allow customers to access a network of drivers via a mobile-device app that alerts the closest driver.

“At the very minimum, we want to establish an even playing field,” councilor Jon Hinck said. “To make an even playing field is not necessarily going to be simple.”

Earlier this year, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap introduced legislation that would require ride-sharing drivers to register with the state and to prove they have a valid driver’s license and insurance. Similar legislation has surfaced in several other states as San Francisco-based Uber Technologies continues its global expansion.

Councilors said they should not wait for the Legislature to act. Committee Chairman David A. Marshall said he is not confident that the Legislature will adopt ride-sharing legislation.

“I don’t think we need to be in a holding pattern for the next six months,” Marshall said.

“Uber does not oppose regulation. We actually encourage it. It’s a new technology that should be treated differently,” said Philip Saucier, an attorney with Bernstein Shur who represents Uber.


Saucier said Uber would be opposed to any attempt to regulate surge pricing.

“From what I understand, it’s a very important part of their business model,” Saucier said. “In a place like Portland, I’m not sure how often it would be used.”

Steve Kuntz, who owns ASAP Taxi in Portland, spoke during Wednesday’s public hearing.

Kuntz said all of his taxis have their rates and the company’s phone numbers posted on the side of the cab. He said taxis provide a measure of security and consumer confidence that you don’t get when you contact an Uber vehicle on your cellphone. Riders can watch a taxicab’s meter to determine how much they will have to pay.

“Are you watching your cellphone in a TNC?” asked Kuntz, who believes the city should require ride-share drivers to follow the same rules as taxi drivers.


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