Portland peeps have another new option to get around town that isn’t called Uber or Lyft.
Flywheel, which develops a hailing app for taxi drivers, today launched in the Rose City. The San Francisco-based startup partners with taxi companies, who can use the Flywheel app to let passengers hail and pay for rides with their smartphone.
Flywheel, which raised a $12 million funding round in November, is already operating six other U.S. cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Seattle, San Diego and Sacramento.
The company is initially partnering with Broadway Cab, which will equip its fleet with Flywheel’s technology. Flywheel is offering flat-rate rides for $5.03 as part of a promotional deal (Portland’s area code is 503).
Portland-based Broadway Cab and Radio Cab Portland already use Curb, another ride-hailing app.
The taxi companies now face new competition after city lawmakers last week approved a 120-day pilot program that allows transportation network companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft to operate legally in Portland.
The new laws set no restrictions on fares for both taxi and TNC drivers, lifting a requirement that taxi companies have followed for decades. There are also no caps on the number of vehicles or permits during the 120-day period for both taxi companies and TNCs, setting up somewhat of a free-for-all environment.
The enacted regulations come after Uber tried to enter the Portland market for nearly two years. The company, which has raised $5 billion to date and offers service in more than 300 cities worldwide, started operating without regulation back in December.
Portland city officials weren’t happy about the unexpected arrival and proceeded to launch a sting operation against the company’s drivers. It ultimately filed a lawsuit against Uber.
On Dec. 18, Uber said it would temporarily stop operating in Portland to let the city revise its for-hire regulations. Under the agreement, the city said that if new regulations were not set in stone by April 9, it would allow Uber and other TNCs to operate with temporary regulations.
On April 9, the city requested for more time to iron out details in the regulations. Uber said it would wait until laws were in place before it launched again. Then, this past Tuesday, the council voted 3-2 to pass the final ordinance.
Speaking of Uber and Portland, David Plouffe, the former White House advisor and currently Uber’s “campaign manager,” will be speaking at an event later tonight in Portland with Mayor Charlie Hales. We will be covering the talk, so check back later for a report on that.
Flywheel today also announced a new feature that lets people hail a cab from the street and then use Flywheel to pay for the ride. In Portland, Seattle, and most other cities, laws prevent companies like Uber and Lyft from picking up a hailing passenger who didn’t request a ride from the app.