Whether you live in Portland or intend to visit, if your plans call for taking a taxi in The City of Roses, you’ll do well to acquaint yourself with some basic facts about local taxi service.
There are six licensed taxi companies in Portland: Radio Cab, Broadway Cab, Portland Taxi Co., Green Cab, New Rose City, and Sassy’s Cab. Contact information for these companies can be found here. Since Sassy’s Cab is now merged with Broadway, there are effectively just five companies in town with a total fleet of 382 permitted vehicles.
All taxi companies in Portland charge the same rates. As of Summer 2011 these are:
$2.50 to begin
These rates are regulated by the city and represent the maximum allowable fees taxis can charge. The metered rate breaks down into a $2.30 per mile base rate, plus an additional $0.20 per mile fuel surcharge. The fuel surcharge is tied to the price of gasoline and will theoretically be dropped by ten cents when gas prices drop below $3.70 per gallon, and again at $3.00 per gallon. Portland taxi rates are comparable to most other American cities.
Illegal' Operators: Town Cars, Shuttles, and Out-of-Town "Pirate" Cabs
The city of Portland aims to insure public safety and reliability by imposing stringent standards on for-hire vehicles. But there are taxi, towncar, and shuttle operators who take shortcuts and cheat the game. These illegal operators cheat both law-abiding drivers and unsuspecting customers. And while the city periodically expresses concern about illegal transportation services, it generally delivers little more than token enforcement.
The major factor enabling illegal transportation services is the kickback scheme where hotel doormen solicit payoffs from drivers. For a summary of the kickback crisis, read our informational handbill. Doormen who solicit kickbacks from drivers won’t think twice about allowing their guests to be ripped off by long-tripping taxis, overcharging shuttles, or illegal towncars. And hotel managers are perfectly comfortable with the idea, so long as their doormen collect payoffs and the drivers take the blame if caught.
Towncars are generally small Lincoln luxury cars, though some high-end SUVs are similarly licensed. City code requires them to make one-hour advance reservations and charge $50 from downtown Portland to PDX Airport. This compares to about $33 for metered taxi rates.
But unlike taxis, towncars are not required to uphold broader community values. For example, towncars don’t operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. They don’t service wheelchair patrons, they refuse shorter trips, they don’t provide emergency roadside services, and they don’t keep drunks off the road. Taxis are required by law to provide all these services because they fulfill a public need.
Maintaining 24-hour dispatch services is a major business expense, and servicing the entire public at all times is not always profitable. For this reason, towncars and shuttles are required to not compete directly with taxis. Every illegal towncar paying off a hotel doorman diminishes the economic viability of the taxi industry and compromises its ability to fulfill its public mission.
A number of towncars and shuttles have also been found to be operating without proper liability insurance. This poses a serious risk to public safety and says much about the character of illegal operators. To learn more about insurance violations among towncar operators, contact Frank Dufay (503-865-2487) at the city Revenue Bureau.
Airport shuttles are supposed to operate on fixed routes with fixed schedules to provide discounted bulk transportation services. For some time now the city ignored its own legal definition and allowed shuttles to operate as unlicensed taxis. Efforts to restore the original intent of shuttle service are now under way and the fixed route/fixed schedule requirement should be restored by the end of 2011. Meanwhile there is no shortage of shuttles kicking back money to hotel doormen and charging customers $40 for a run from downtown Portland to the airport. The correct fair as mandated by city code is a maximum of $16 per person.
Out-Of -Town Taxis
Taxis from the surrounding metropolitan area sometimes sneak into Portland and work inside Portland city limits. This is illegal and potentially dangerous. First, most of these drivers simply don’t know the Portland street grid and can’t be relied upon for proper service. Others don’t have taximeters and will attempt to charge anything they think they can get away with. And of course, their presence steals business from legitimate, licensed taxi drivers. But the most serious concern for unwary travelers is that they are not regulated to the high standards for liability insurance that the city of Portland imposes on its taxi fleet. These unregulated “pirate” cabs may not have liability insurance at all and should be avoided at all costs. Problems with some of these cabs have been documented here.
Other Facts to Know:
@2011 Cabdrivers Alliance of Portland, Oregon