The move comes after Portland’s Bureau of Transportation set up a sting operation to catch people driving for Uber illegally. The ride-sharing company, meanwhile, has urged riders to sign a petition of support.
A screenshot of Uber's petition to Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.
Portland, Oregon, filed a lawsuit against Uber Monday, asking a judge to force the popular ride-sharing company to stop operating within city limits until it complies with local regulations.
In announcing the lawsuit, the city said in a statement that Transportation Director Leah Treat had also issued a cease and desist order to Uber.
The move came days after transportation officials carried out a sting operation in which they said they documented multiple instances of Uber drivers illegally accepting ride requests. Because Uber drivers are not permitted under the city's private ride-for-hire regulations, passengers can only be dropped off within city limits, not picked up.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) requires private for-hire vehicles to have an LPT and taxi driver permit, a taxi company permit, and taxi license plates. The penalty for violating the rules starts at $ 1,000 to $ 1,500 for a first offense, and then grows to $ 2,500 and $ 5,000 for second and third offenses, respectively.
“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.”
In a statement Monday, Uber said Portland needed to “modernize” its transportation regulations and accommodate public demand.
“We appreciate the way residents have welcomed Uber into the Rose City, their support illustrates why it's time to modernize Portland transportation regulation,” the statement read. “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.”
In response to threats from Portland authorities to shut down its service, the California-based ride-sharing company had urged existing riders to sign a petition to Hales asking him to “stand with Uber.”
“Portland knows you as a strong voice for innovation, an advocate for Portlanders like me, and someone who fights for what's best for our economy; it would only be natural that you support Uber's operation in Portland,” the petition to Mayor Hales reads.
The legal action filed on Monday is tied to a sting operation carried out by transportation officials who requested rides and then took down the information of drivers who accepted.
On Friday at 5 p.m., a PBOT staffer requested two Uber rides, both of which were accepted and then canceled by the driver.
PBOT issued two civil penalties to Uber on Monday, one for operating without a company permit and another for operating without a vehicle permit.
As officials document Uber's unpermitted operations in Portland, they will issue warnings to drivers and penalties to the company, the city announced. Drivers found to be repeatedly operating without a permit may be subject to civil and criminal penalties, officials warned.
Officials continue to gather evidence and should have more to report in the coming week, PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera told BuzzFeed News in an interview Sunday.
Though he wouldn't go into much detail, Rivera said that staffers are still requesting Uber rides, in some cases canceling them, just to take down the information of drivers who are accepting ride requests within city limits. They are also encouraging the public to report any sightings of Uber drivers.
Drop-offs within the city aren't illegal, but according to Rivera, Uber drivers who pick up passengers in Portland are likely violating city codes that carry substantial penalties.
Rivera said Uber has made no contact with the PBOT to discuss how to work within the the city's regulations and has instead saturated the markets directly outside city limits — a likely strategic play to increase demand in the larger and more central market that the company is after.
“This isn't unprecedented for [Uber] to enter the market like this,” Rivera said. “It's happening in other parts of the country. So we're not surprised but we're certainly frustrated and disappointed.”
In addition to having the proper permits, the PBOT requires companies providing private for-hire vehicles to perform background checks that are renewed and updated annually, as well as a rigorous Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified mechanical inspection of their vehicles.
Those requirements, though, may change as the city reviews how it regulates the industry, Rivera said.