PORTLAND, Oregon: A divided Portland City Council voted to allow ride-sharing companies to operate in the city under a four month pilot programme, which includes certain regulations and requires the firms provide access to disabled riders.
After a more than four-hour special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to allow app-based ride hailing services Uber and Lyft to operate in Portland.
Uber has been fighting with cities across the country, contending it is not a taxi service and should not be required to adhere to existing taxicab regulations. The firm agreed in December to halt services in Portland until the city could draft regulations.
"This is a change that none of us wanted. The cab companies didn't want it. I didn't want it. It's a change that – like a lot of change that is all around us right now – is coming pretty fast," Mayor Charlie Hales said before voting in favour of the plan. "The question is can government keep up to it. That's what we're attempting to do here."
Dozens of people spoke at the public hearing, including upset taxicab drivers who argued that the regulations were unfair and supporters who said the companies offer a desired service and job opportunities for drivers.
The regulations require Uber and Lyft drivers to obtain a business license and for the companies to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities. The council will get regular updates from the city's Private For-Hire Innovation Task Force on the programme.
"We are a huge supporter of safety and we are very deeply committed to following the regulations that are put forth," Uber general manager Brooke Steger said during the meeting.
Valued at an estimated US$40bil (RM144.59bil), Uber says it offers its mobile phone taxi-hailing service in more than 270 cities. But the San Francisco-based company has faced criticism from all over the globe over safety concerns and allegations of operating illegally in cities.
Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish voted against the measure, citing those issues.
The pilot program also includes easing some regulations on taxi companies for the 120 days in an apparent attempt to appease opposition. But cab companies still voiced frustration.
"When you start negotiating with US$40bil (RM144.59bil) out of state corporations at night it stops being about public policy and starts being about corporate greed," Broadway Cab president Raye Miles said. – Reuters
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