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Portland cab companies to protest Uber, city

A coalition of Portland taxicab companies will hold a rally in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Tuesday afternoon to demand a voice in the city's negotiations with Uber, the unregulated app-based paid ride service.

The rally is sponsored by the Transportation Fairness Alliance, with includes Broadway Cab, Green Transportation, Portland Taxi Cab Company, Sassy’s Cab Co., Union Cab PDX, and Radio Cab.

The alliance was a formed after Mayor Charlie Hales appointed a Private For Hire Transportation Innovation Task Force to develop new rules for taxis and other city-regulated private transportation companies, including limousines, pedicabs and shuttle services.

Hales appointed the task force as part of a negotiated settlement with Uber. It came after the city filed a lawsuit to keep the company from operating in Portland. Uber agreed to suspend service while the task force meets. Hales has promised the City Council will consider its recommendations at an April 9 hearing.

"We believe everyone should play by the same rules. But for now, we're just trying to get a seat at the table. We've contacted the city to find out more but no one's told us anything," says Radio Cab Superintendent Noah Ernst.

Ernst claims no one in the city has told the cab companies what the task force is going to do. The task force does not include a representative from any of the cab companies, even though it's recommendations could affect their livelihoods

According to a press release issued by Hale's office on Dec. 18, the task force is going to study and make recommendations on the broad range of issue. They include "whether to continue to limit the total number of permits granted, whether to have a regulated pricing system, mandated criteria (including insurance, inspections and background checks), and accessibility. In addition, the task force will explore how regulatory changes could improve driver earnings and working conditions."

Uber makes money by changing 20 percent of the fares that its drivers collect from passengers. It does not employee drivers directly and does not register as a private for-hire transportation company in any of the cities it operates. As a result, Uber drivers charge less for rides than regulated cab companies.

This has led to protests from taxi companies around the world. Some governments have also banned Uber from operating, including the State of Nevada, where a court ruled the company violates state laws regulating private for-hire transportation companies.