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TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - eTaxi drivers demonstrated outside City Hall ain August s the Portland City Council considers pilot project to allow the entry of Uber and Lyft into the taxi market.At the Portland City Council hearing Nov, 24, Mayor Charlie Hales expressed a palpable fear that Uber will leave town if the city doesn’t give it everything it wants. The discussion was around insurance, but Hales’ concern applies to all aspects of Uber’s operations in Portland.


This comes on the heels of Commissioner Steve Novick’s proposed rewrite of the private for hire transportation (PFHT) code that allegedly was the culmination of many long hours, weeks and months of public and industry discussion and study.

For the record, I was there all through this process, but was rarely allowed to speak. Masquerading the events and long hours of the past year as “due public process” is anything but sincere.

Novick’s 153-page proposal contains so many errors and conflicting language that it should really serve as a model for how not to write regulations. Yet it was submitted to the City Council for approval in spite of the flaws. Novick himself questioned some of the proposed regulations and presented amendments to his own proposal.

Sort of makes you wonder who really wrote the new regulations. Well, not really. It’s straight from Uber’s playbook. Recent reports from the city auditor regarding Uber’s lobbying record in Portland City Hall, and in Mark Wiener’s dining room, suggest that this suspicion is well founded.

The regulations have been carefully crafted to give Uber everything it demands. Concurrently, regulations for other segments of the PFHT industry have been modified to feign fair and equal, even though some don’t make any sense.

Uber already has an enormous advantage over Portland-based PFHT companies, but the proposed code changes extend the advantage even more while giving little thought to the potential harm that they place on the public, or the unfairness that is condoned and promoted by the Portland City Council, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and biased city staffers.

Uber requires its drivers to have personal auto liability insurance. The proposed code now requires it, and to make things look equal for others, the proposed code requires all other PFHT drivers to have personal auto insurance, even if they don’t own a car. How is that supposed to happen, and who was the wizard who thought that one out?

The proposed code has a requirement that Uber must warn its drivers their personal auto insurance might not be valid. Why doesn’t the proposed code simply require that drivers provide adequate and valid personal auto insurance?

Why doesn’t the proposed code also require an acknowledgement from the personal auto insurance company authorizing the “part-time” commercial driving activities of its insured driver?

Why doesn’t the proposed code require that the proper commercial insurance information be presented at the scene of an accident, rather than allowing Uber drivers to show their personal auto insurance information, as now happens most of the time? (Of course, Uber would rather its drivers continue to defraud their personal auto insurance companies, because it saves the $50 billion company lots of money.)

Why doesn’t the proposed code address the problem of insurance coverage confusion caused by vehicles providing service for Uber and Lyft at the same time?

The answer is the same for all of these questions. Uber wants to overlook these problems. Uber wants the code just as proposed, and has leveraged its partners working within PBOT to make it happen.

At a City Council meeting in August, all commissioners were very concerned with the low level of insurance coverage provided by Uber. Among other issues discussed was the deficient level of Uber’s liability coverage during what Uber refers to as “period one,” the time during which an Uber driver is logged onto the app but hasn’t yet been connected to a passenger.

Novick even went so far as to put Uber on notice that it would have to secure a higher limit of coverage for period one. It now appears that Novick forgot that moment in favor of Uber’s wishes.

Uber has convinced Novick and others on the council that the lives of pedestrians and cyclists are worth significantly less if there isn’t a passenger in an Uber vehicle at the time of an accident. That’s even though an average of 70 percent of PFHT accidents occur when there isn’t a passenger in the car.

Pedestrians and bicyclists had better hope that a passenger is in that Uber car when they get mowed down. Otherwise, their injuries (or death) are worth only $50,000.

The driving force behind all of this, of course, is money, and Uber will stop at nothing to protect its precious bottom line.

There are many more problems with the proposal, which is destined for a rubber stamp. Novick’s proposal should not — I repeat, not — be approved. It sacrifices public safety and fosters an environment for allowing insurance fraud to take place as a means of maximizing profits for a $50 billion global company.

Steve Entler is general manager of Radio Cab Co. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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