- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Months after suspending operations in Portland, Uber is on the verge of returning to the city and operating under regulations.

The city’s Private For-Hire Innovation Task Force released details Monday of a 120-day pilot program allowing ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate legally. The City Council is expected to approve the rules.

Among other things, the proposed regulations require Uber drivers to have liability insurance and undergo background checks. They would not be allowed to accept street-hailed fares or park in taxi lines.

Traditional cab companies, however, say the playing field would remain uneven. Regular cabs can’t charge more than $2.60 per mile, while Uber would be allowed to boost prices when demand is high - except during emergencies.

For at least the trial period, Uber also wouldn’t be required to have wheelchair-accessible vehicles or accept every request for a ride.

“When somebody needs a short ride that’s really on the edge of Portland, we have to provide that service at a loss,” said Raye Miles, president of Broadway Cab. “The fact that Uber is not going to have to provide that service while we still do is one of the biggest burdens we face.”

Uber, a San Francisco-based startup, allows prospective customers to use a phone app to hail and pay a driver who uses his own car. Unlike a traditional cab in Portland, the car does not have to be painted in the company’s colors or be equipped with meters and cameras.

Uber launched Portland service in December, but stopped within two weeks after the city took legal action. The sides agreed to let things settle for a few months while a task force established regulations that would cover ride-sharing companies.

Dana Haynes, spokesman for Mayor Charlie Hales, said getting Uber to accept regulations is a success for Portland.

“The city set out to do a specific thing that a lot folks were saying: ‘Oh you can’t do that, because no one ever has.’ Well, it looks like so far Portland has,” he said.

Haynes added that Uber has paid $67,750 in fines from the period when it operated illegally.

Mike Greenfield, who chairs the task force, said consumer protection and ensuring safety were priorities for the committee. Permanent recommendations will be influenced by data - on demand, wait times and other issues - collected during the 120-day trial period.

“We are particularly interested in transportation for people with disabilities, to figure out what wait times are and what the needs are,” he said.

Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager for the Pacific Northwest, said the company looks forward to returning to Oregon’s largest city: “We appreciate that the task force has crafted strong recommendations to help ensure ride-sharing has a home in Portland.”

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Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub

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