Seeking a Fresh Start, Uber Issues Apology Letter to Portland Leaders For Steamrolling Into Town

“I write today to acknowledge certain missteps by Uber in Portland since we began operating there in December of 2014, and to make commitments for how we will conduct ourselves going forward.”

Portland traffic (Ian Sane / Flickr)

Uber issued an apology to Portland today for what it says were "missteps" in how it began running its ride-hailing service in the city in 2014.

In the public letter addressed to Portland City Council, Alejandro Chouza, Uber's general manager for the Pacific Northwest, says, "I write today to acknowledge certain missteps by Uber in Portland since we began operating there in December of 2014, and to make commitments for how we will conduct ourselves going forward."

"At times," Chouza adds, "we conducted operations in a way that failed to live up to the Portland way of collaboration and transparency. For that we apologize."

In the letter, Chouza does not specifically enumerate the ride-hailing company's blunders. But the company bulldozed its way into Portland, flouting city rules and engaging in a high-stakes standoff with then-Mayor Charlie Hales.

During those days of brinksmanship, Uber also used its technology to deceive city regulators.

A 2017 report by the New York Times outlines how the company started operating in Portland before being approved by the city to do so, and then used technology called "Greyball" to evade regulators from hailing rides.

Related: Uber Investor Sues Company Founder Over Failure to Disclose Use of "Greyball" Technology

Nathan Hambley, a regional spokesperson for Uber, says that Chouza met with elected officials to apologize directly on behalf of the company shortly after he was hired as regional manager in January.

"During one of those meetings, Commissioner [Nick] Fish suggested a public apology to the full council would be best to repair damaged relationships," Hambley tells WW. "We agreed this was a good idea."

Fish, a longtime skeptic of the company, is pleased.

"I'm pleasantly surprised," says Fish.  "They've asked for a fresh start. An apology is one way to get there."

Fish cautioned that doesn't change his support for "more stringent" regulations of the ride-hailing companies, including increasing the insurance requirements for drivers.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also says he's grateful for the apology.

"I appreciate that Uber has acknowledged that they have made mistakes as they established their service here in Portland," Wheeler says in a statement to WW. "My administration will work closely with Transportation Commissioner Saltzman and my colleagues on City Council as Uber follows through on their promises to our City."

In four years the company has grown substantially. Chouza notes that the company now employs, "more than 7,000 rideshare drivers who serve more than 348,000 riders every month in and around Portland."

"While we are proud of how we have grown to provide flexible work opportunities" to thousands of Portlanders, Chouza says, "we have made mistakes."

In efforts to rectify wrong-doings, Chouza says the company has begun partnering with TriMet and local transit advocacy groups to "improve urban mobility."

"This includes working with TriMet to develop the first multi-modal open trip planning app in the nation," Chouza says, "and supporting organizations like Street Roots, Community Warehouse, Dress for Success, and Basic Rights Oregon to promote equity and economic opportunity for historically underserved communities."

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