Uber, the San Francisco-based ride-sharing startup that enlists drivers to use their own cars as de facto taxis, today re-ignited its drive to get its service legalized in Portland.
The company's PR blitz includes hiring a truck to deliver ice cream to City Hall—and comes seven months after the city's taxi board rejected Uber's demands to change Portland's rules for town cars.
As WW reported this week, Portland remains the only large city on the West Coast to reject Uber's advances.
But Uber isn't the only ride-sharing company now lobbying City Hall. Its biggest competitor has joined in.
City sources tell WW that Lyft, another San Francisco-based ride-sharing startup, met two weeks ago with staffers for Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick.
Lyft has entered the "sharing economy" market as a warmer, fuzzier alternative to Uber—literally, since it bedecks the grills of its cars with giant pink mustaches. But both companies have multimillion-dollar Silicon Valley investments riding on their success.
"We've seen tech companies engage in bloody, bitter rivalries before," Forbes reported in April, "and this one promises to be especially brutal as Uber and Lyft are headquartered just blocks apart in San Francisco's booming South of Market area and don't care for each other much."
GeekWire reported this morning that Lyft started recruiting Portland drivers on Craigslist last month.
In Portland, city officials haven't challenged the grip of taxi companies—especially Radio Cab and Broadway Cab—or labor unions who don't want Uber here. (As WW reported Wednesday, Oregon AFL-CIO recently secured a driver-owned taxi company, Union Cab, and wants to keep Uber out.)
Hales says he's in no rush to legalize ride-sharing. He wants to wait on the results of lawsuits in other cities—most of them filed by cab companies.
"We are on go-slow mode for Uber," says Hales spokesman Dana Haynes. "There are legal challenges to Uber-style services in several cities. We don't always have to be the first adopters of all technology. Policy should reflect the technology but also case law."