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Portland Considering Permits for 377 New Taxis

Competition for Uber could include EcoCab and Rainbow Cab

When Uber returns to Portland in April, it could face new competition.

City Commissioner Steve Novick has told the city's taxi board to tackle its backlog of 377 permit applications from 10 cab companies. (Portland now has just 460 licensed cabs.)

The Private-for-Hire Transportation Board of Review has been accused of protecting the interests of existing taxi companies. But the board's manager, Frank Dufay, tells WW he wants new cabs on the road.

"The commissioner has been pretty clear he'd like to see the market opened up," Dufay says. "I totally agree there aren't enough cabs out there, and there need to be more. But they need to be regulated."

As WW reported in last week's cover story, that regulation is being temporarily ditched in April: The city will for two allow an unlimited number of taxis, charging any price they want.

But the move forward suggests the city is seeking to add licensed cabs before Uber floods the market. (The San Francisco company recruits drivers to turn their own cars into de facto taxis.)

Six of the cab companies asking for licenses are newcomers to Portland, including Rainbow Cab, serving LGBTQ passengers, and EcoCab, which uses Tesla electric cars.

The other four are familiar contenders for taxi licenses: Broadway Cab, Green Cab, Portland Taxi Cab and Union Cab.

Stephen Kafoury, a lobbyist for Broadway Cab, says the city's biggest taxi company is eager for an expanded cab market.

"Many people have been accusing the taxi industry of not wanting more licenses," Kafoury says. "That's not the case. But we want to assure that any new taxi licenses be required to meet the same safety and service regs that the existing industry meets."