Taxi drivers protest ahead of Uber vote

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — After months of debate, the Portland City Council is set to vote Tuesday evening on a plan to make rideshare services like Uber and Lyft legal in the city. But hours before the vote, both sides rushed to City Hall to state their case.

“We implore you to think carefully and to do the right thing,” Radio Cab Superintendent Noah Ernst said. “We don’t need to conduct an experiment in Portland, we can learn from what has happened in all the other cities in which Uber already operates.”

City Hall chambers were packed Tuesday evening for the Uber/Lyft vote. (KOIN 6 News)

Taxi drivers protested outside City Hall ahead of Tuesday’s vote on a proposed 120-day pilot program for private-for-hire transportation operators. Beginning at 5 p.m., city commissioners will begin voting on a new set of rules that would change the game for taxis, and make companies like Uber and Lyft available for use.

“You know, it’s really just been a roller coaster for all of us,” Green Cab driver Wynde Dyer said. “Having no certainty is likely to breed anxiety.”

Those against bringing rideshare services to the city spelled out their concerns on signs — they’re fighting against the quality of background checks for Uber drivers, unequal insurance coverage and deregulation of pricing.

“I think the myth that everyone loves Uber is just that, a myth,” Dyer said.

But supporters of Uber and Lyft also flocked to City Hall, trying to meet with each and every commissioner before the big vote.

“Everybody needs a choice,” Uber driver Janet Weiser said. “How would you like to only be able to shop at one store? How would you like to have somebody tell you what you can and cannot do in regards to getting around your own neighborhood?

Despite a controversial start in the Rose City — operating illegally and with no notice — Uber and the city appear to have made nice; Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick crafted the most recent plan.

Even prominent business leaders have gotten behind Uber, asking the city to allow them to operate.

For the past two weeks, Brooke Steger, Uber’s General Manager for the Northwest, has said they like the new rules and are ready to start operating in Portland.

“There are no big sticking points in there,” Steger said.

As the process drags on, some are growing impatient. But one thing is clear: There are a growing number of people in Portland who want to start driving for Uber, and even more who want the opportunity to start ordering rides from their phones.

“I have been background checked, I have been DMV checked, my vehicle is checked on a regular basis,” Weiser said. “I maintain my vehicle, my driver ratings are one of the highest.”

KOIN 6 News will continue to provide updates from City Hall throughout the night.

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