Vancouver councilor’s undercover Uber ride
During an Oct. 6 workshop about how the city’s taxicab ordinance should be expanded to include Uber and other transportation network companies, a few councilors did indicate they were less than impressed with Uber.
The company started operating in Vancouver in the summer. Subsequently, it was notified that its smartphone-based ride service, featuring a network of drivers who use their personal vehicles and charge flat fees, doesn’t fit under the city’s taxicab ordinance. As Assistant City Attorney Brent Boger opined in a July 25 memo, Uber is undeniably a taxi service and needs to comply with city regulations.
Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said she was a little concerned that Uber continued operating in Vancouver despite the letter describing the city’s legal stance.
“As good of a company as they are … I’m wondering if there is good faith there,” she said.
Councilor Alishia Topper said she used Uber to get to Portland. She said it was incredibly efficient and the business model makes sense.
One negative thing did happen, she said. Knowing the Rose City doesn’t allow Uber, she knew her driver wouldn’t be able to come pick her up in Portland and bring her back to Vancouver. She asked her driver what her options were for getting back home.
“He says, ‘Well, for the right price, I can come back and get you.’ And he handed me his own transportation card,” Topper said. She said she’s heard from two other people who had Uber drivers make the same offer.
“I don’t think it was an isolated incident,” Topper said.
She said the city needs to ask Uber about what it does to stop drivers from going rogue and starting their own transportation networks.
Mayor Tim Leavitt asked Boger what steps the city could take to stop Uber from operating.
Boger said the city could do a sting or get an injunction from a judge. Leavitt said he didn’t like either of those ideas and just wants to amend the city’s taxi ordinance as quickly as possible.
The council was also told the Vancouver Police Department has greater priorities than cracking down on taxicab code violators.
But it might be a good idea for Uber drivers to memorize the names and faces of city councilors and not do anything to further harm the company’s reputation among the city’s policymakers.