Sunday, December 7, 2014

“Lyft seems like a respectable company, and Uber seems like a bunch of thugs.”

That's Portland's Commissioner of Transportation talking.
From the New York Times' Bits blog:

Uber to Portland: We’re Here. Deal With It.
Rules, schmules.

As many people in Portland, Ore., left work to return home on Friday evening, Uber, the ride-hailing start-up, began offering rides in that city for the first time, despite loud protests from local officials who have deemed the service illegal.

That devil-may-care approach to dealing with city officials — entering a city without permission and dealing with regulatory issues after its services are well established and locals are already hooked — has become a hallmark of Uber’s strategy.

In October, Uber began its service in Las Vegas, where it was deemed illegal; multiple drivers were cited within hours of the company’s debut there. Similar scenarios played out in Austin, Tex., Philadelphia and other cities around the country.

But Uber’s move in Portland comes just days after it vowed in a blog post to become a “smarter and more humble company.” Uber, which is now valued at more than $40 billion, is reeling from a string of recent embarrassments that have critics questioning its ethics. The company’s executives have been accused of taking a lax approach to customer privacy, among other criticisms.

In Portland, the commissioner in charge of the city’s Bureau of Transportation was furious enough at Uber that he suggested Portland should amend its regulations to allow Lyft — one of Uber’s biggest competitors — instead of Uber, to operate in the city. On his Facebook page, the mayor threatened fines for the company and its drivers.

“People should know that Uber’s action is illegal,” Mayor Charlie Hales said in the post. “The city will enforce existing regulations. That could include fines for the company, as well as fines for drivers.”...MORE
“Plouffe said, ‘Well, you know we’re active in these markets and we’re providing a service and there is great demand in Oregon and blah blah blah,’ ” Mr. Novick said. “I said, ‘Mr. Plouffe, announcing that you’re going to break the law is not civil.’ ”