The Portland Bureau of Transportation isnt doing enough to monitor the quality of service offered by ride-for-hire companies, according to a new report by the city auditors office.
Its PBOTs job to make sure taxi companies and ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft operate safely and offer equitable service to all Portland neighborhoods and riders. The city auditors office says PBOT is doing fine regulating ride safety but could be doing more to make sure that riders with service dogs and wheelchairs, for example, are being treated fairly.
The auditor's report found two problems. The first is that PBOT didnt have the staff to analyze the mountains of data it collects from ride-for-hire companies. PBOT says it has already hired additional staff to analyze and draw conclusions from the data it collects. Its also implementing new software to help make that easier.
The second problem is more complicated. Many ride-for-hire companies simply arent giving PBOT all the information theyre required to provide.
When you use Uber or Lyft to get home after a night out or call a traditional taxi company to take you to the airport, your ride generates a slew of data. City rules require ride-for-hire companies to track everything from the mileage of your trip to the length of time you had to wait for your ride. Those companies have to share that information with PBOT.
Uber and Lyft do everything digitally and dont have a problem collecting and sharing that data. But traditional taxi companies do. Theyve been slow to meet the data-sharing requirements that the City Council imposed on the industry last December. PBOT says its working with those companies to bring them into compliance with reporting requirements.
Heres the hitch: Ride-for-hire companies are willing to share that data with PBOT, but they dont want it to be publicly available, says Director of Audit Services Drummond Kahn.
One of the data concerns we raised in the report is, because the industry designated some data as confidential, that makes it difficult for the city to publicly report it, Kahn says.
If you read the auditors report looking for the number of drivers ride-for-hire companies employ or the number of rides they give, youll only find lines and graphs blacked out at the companies request. They consider that data a trade secret. Uber and Lyft go as far as to require that the city not release information on the crashes its drivers are involved in.