City threatens to fine Uber drivers.
As Uber continues to rack up $2,000 in fines every day from the city of Eugene, city officials now are going after the ride service's vital asset: its drivers.
The city has warned at least six Uber drivers that if they continue providing rides via Uber and fail to obtain their own passenger- service certification from the city, they could face fines totaling at least $300, Eugene officials said this week.
City officials say they won't fine Uber drivers right away to give them the chance to comply with city code, which requires anyone who gives rides to a passenger for money to obtain public passenger vehicle certification from the city.
Companies that operate at least one of those vehicles also must obtain a license, under the code.
Initial fines for individuals range between $300 and $600 but can increase depending on the severity of the violation, the city said.
The city does not know how many drivers provide Uber service in the Eugene-Springfield area because Uber cars are not licensed with the city, spokeswoman Laura Hammond said.
Uber relies on a pool of independent local drivers in unmarked vehicles and allows customers to catch a ride using a smartphone application. The financial transaction between the driver and customers is made electronically. Uber gets a portion of the fare the driver charges the customer.
"We have no way of knowing" how many local drivers work with Uber, Hammond said.
Uber argues it is not subject to the city's rules because it does not employ the drivers or provide them their vehicles.
The city learns about Uber drivers through the city's complaint process, Hammond said. So far, the city has received six complaints from people who have either taken an Uber ride or witnessed an Uber driver picking someone up.
After the city processes each complaint, it sends a warning to the driver.
Hammond did not know the nature of the complaints filed against Uber drivers.
The application fee for a driver to become certified to provide transportation for payment in Eugene is $45. Once the application is approved, certification is $25, Hammond said.
If Uber were to get licensed, it would cost $400, she said.
The city also sets rules that drivers and taxi companies must meet regarding vehicle insurance, vehicles inspections, record keeping and the like.
The City Council will consider changing Eugene's taxi code so it explicitly applies to an Uber-type business, even though city officials argue the current code applies to Uber. The public can comment on the proposed changes before city councilors on Tuesday.
Uber has ignored fines in Eugene and in other cities and continued operating.
Fines from the city of Eugene now top $118,000. City officials began fining the company in November.
Uber has appealed those fines. The company will go before a city hearings official on Feb. 2 to contest the allegation that it is operating without the required license.
The proposed code change spells out that ride services that use electronic devices or software applications to connect drivers with passengers must be licensed by the city to operate. The proposed change also lets other transportation companies, such as taxis and shuttles, use a smartphone to calculate fares.
Springfield's taxi code is similar to Eugene's and is enforced by Eugene.
Springfield Public Works Director Len Goodwin wrote in an email to Springfield City Manager Gino Grimaldi that if Eugene changes its code, Springfield should consider making a similar change.
"Should (Springfield) decide not to do so, the differences between the two cities' code might create challenges for continuation of enforcement of Springfield's code by Eugene," Goodwin wrote.
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What: Public hearing on whether the Eugene City Council should change city code to require Uber-style companies to obtain a public transportation license from the city
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Harris Hall, 125 E. Eighth Ave.
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|Title Annotation:||Eugene; Contractors with the ride service could face penalties of up to $600 for operating without city certification|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jan 17, 2015|
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