The city’s mayor and transportation commissioner say the rideshare company is behind a proposed bill to “eliminate local consumer, safety and disability-access protections” for riders.
(TNS) — Ride-hailing giant Lyft drew criticism Monday from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Chloe Eudaly for what they described as a puzzling and dismaying attempt to subvert the city’s regulations through the halls of Salem.
Wheeler and Eudaly, the city’s transportation commissioner, said Lyft is “behind” a proposed bill the city says would “eliminate local consumer, safety and disability-access protections” for riders who use Lyft or other ride-hailing companies like Uber.
In a letter to Anthony Foxx, Lyft’s chief policy officer and a former secretary of transportation under President Obama, the Portland politicians said such legislation could potentially undercut the city’s efforts to collect data and analyze ride-hailing companies’ effect on congestion and climate change, charge fees to add services for vulnerable users, and a number of other regulatory measures.
“This proposed legislation is contrary to this bedrock philosophy that the best oversight of the transportation system and the private-for-hire industry is local," Wheeler and Eudaly wrote. “Not only that, but it is a disservice to passengers, drivers and the general public who expect safe and reliable service and who are expecting you to stand by your climate commitments.”
Lauren Alexander, a Lyft spokeswoman, said the company is “committed to working collaboratively with policymakers and regulators," and she noted 45 states have legislation “similar” to the bill under consideration in Oregon.
“Discussion about state wide ride-sharing legislation is in its early stages, and we look forward to ongoing dialogue to ensure we can continue to provide reliable, efficient transportation options for passengers and flexible earning opportunities for drivers,” she said in an email.
Lyft officials said the company has always sought statewide regulations rather than being overseen by big cities only. They note they currently operate in just six Oregon cities, “because of the lack of statewide legislation.”
The letter is in response to draft legislation sponsored by Rep. Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro.
Willamette Week reported on the bill on Saturday.
Nathan Hambley, Uber’s spokesman in the region, said the company supports “consistent rideshare regulations that would make affordable, reliable transportation more accessible to all Oregonians, and acknowledge there is still work to be done on this issue in the legislature.”
In an interview, McLain said she disagrees with the city’s stance that Lyft is behind the effort. McLain said she is also working with the League of Oregon Cities on the issue and said she’d been discussing it since 2015.
“I haven’t dropped the bill,” she said.
McLain said she’s interested in the issue because Oregon’s regulations for the ride-hailing industry is “patchwork,” and she said that’s not helpful to riders or drivers.
“It’s good policy to make sure that we’ve got some sort of a statewide framework,” she said.
McLain said the 20-page draft legislation, which is dated Jan. 10 and was provided to the Oregonian/OregonLive, is designed to be a starting point.
She said technology has changed a lot in the five years or so since Uber and Lyft arrived in Oregon.
When asked whether a bill would give cities like Portland an exception to allow for more regulations or if it would apply a one-size fits all approach, McLain said that’s not been determined.
“Both of those are possibilities,” she said.
©2019 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.