City of Portland transportation officials have issued $67,750 in fines to the ride-sharing company Uber, but have yet to penalize a single driver.
Uber has been operating its service in Portland for 10 days, defying city rules for taxis and town cars. The city, led by Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick, has sued Uber, seeking a judge's injunction to block the company from operating.
City code enforcement officials have in those 10 days issued 16 penalties to Uber, a San Francisco company valued at $40 billion. The city has issued a fine to Uber each time city code enforcement officers with the city's Bureau of Transportation have successfully ordered a ride from the company's phone app.
The fines started at $1,500, but have since gone up to $10,000 for each incident—$5,000 for operating a cab without a permit, and another $5,000 for not displaying a valid taxi decal on the vehicle.
Frank Dufay, the city's private for-hire transportation manager, says officials have chosen to not fine any of the drivers caught so far. Instead, the city has sent drivers warning letters.
But he warns the grace period is ending.
"We wanted to give them a warning before we started hitting the drivers with the big penalties," Dufay says. "We're going to start that this week."
Meanwhile, a federal judge today rejected an effort by city officials to move its lawsuit against Uber back to Multnomah County Circuit Court, where the city first filed it. Uber got the case moved to in U.S. District Court last week, arguing it would lose more than $75,000 by complying with city rules.
The city had tried to remand it back, arguing the money Uber was losing was made illegally.
U.S. District Judge Michael Simon rejected that attempt today, and scheduled oral arguments for Dec. 23.
"The city also argues that a business may not profit from illegal activity, but whether Uber's activity is illegal is a question reserved for the merits in this case," Simon wrote in a ruling first reported by Courthouse News.
The jurisdiction matters to the city and Uber because local courts typically hear cases faster than federal courts. Moving the case to federal court gives Uber more time to establish its service.