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Photo via Flickr user Stuart Seeger.
Photo via Flickr user Stuart Seeger.

Uber is back in Portland — legally, this time.

The Portland City Council today voted 3-2 and approved a 120-day pilot program that will create a regulatory environment for companies like Uber and Lyft to operate legally in the Rose City.

The new laws will go into effect within days. Lyft will launch on Friday; Uber has yet to say when it will begin operating. Both companies will need to have drivers apply for permits before they start conducting business.

uberportland333The ordinance builds on the original recommendations from a city-convened task force, with a few differences. Ditching fare restrictions is the most notable change, as taxis for decades have had to follow strict rules set by the city for how much they charge customers. The task force had previously recommended to force taxis to abide by city fare regulations, while companies like Uber and Lyft did not have such restrictions.

The proposed rules also set 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 proposal includes regulations that the task force already came up with, like requiring approved background checks, vehicle inspections, and timely service for people with disabilities.

Uber earlier this month announced a partnership with First Transit, which will offer wheelchair-accessible rides on Uber’s platform in Portland.

All drivers will need to apply for business permits before picking up and dropping off passengers. TNCs and taxi companies will also provide monthly data during the 120-day period, which the task force would then use to help make any necessary changes for permanent regulations.

Here’s a statement from Uber:

“Uber is transforming the way people move around cities, and we are proud that Portlanders can now use ridesharing to connect citizens to the people and places they love. We look forward to being a part of the fabric of the community and to bringing more choice to drivers and riders who call Portland home.”

Here’s a statement from Lyft, which will launch April 24.

The pilot program approved tonight will allow community-powered transportation to grow and thrive in Portland. We believe Lyft’s safe, welcoming rides are the perfect fit for this dynamic city and, thanks to tonight’s vote, are excited to announce that Lyft will launch in Portland on Friday, April 24th.

We want to thank Mayor Hales, Commissioner Novick, Commissioner Saltzman, and the entire City Council for their commitment throughout this process to ensure that Portland residents have access to modern, innovative transportation options like Lyft.

This past December, Uber launched in Portland unexpectedly and without regulation. Uber’s arrival forced the city to launch a sting operation against the company’s drivers and 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 competitors like Lyft to operate with temporary regulations.

However, the city decided it needed a little extra time to iron out the temporary rules. Today the council met for four hours and heard public testimony. Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioners Steve Novick and Dan Saltzman voted in favor of the new regulations; Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish voted against it.

Meanwhile for the past three months, Uber has continued operating in surrounding areas outside of Portland and is giving drivers an extra $5 for each ride that ends in Portland since they aren’t allowed to pick up another fare in the city. The company, which has raised $5 billion to date and offers service in more than 300 cities worldwide, has tried to enter the Portland market for nearly two years now.

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