- Uber’s license to operate in Portland, OR will be extended for one year by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the Portland Tribune and others reported, after a period of good behavior.
- The extension would remove the ride-hailing service from what was essentially a six-month probationary period, which had followed what Uber said in a letter earlier this year were "certain missteps" in its relationship with the city.
- That extension comes as the company continues to fight a $3.4 million fine from the city for failing to notify them of a potential security breach, which will be appealed this fall after legal delays. Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish told the Tribune the extension would be "way too premature."
This latest decision could be a major turning-point in Uber’s fraught relationship with Portland, which has been dogged by this security breach incident as well as a penalty for violating the city’s lobbying rules and punishment for using software to try and skirt city regulators. But after the fine was levied earlier this year, Alejandro Chouza, Uber’s General Manager for the Pacific Northwest, wrote a letter to the city promising to be “long-term partners” and a “firm commitment that we will work to make things right.”
The letter showed a willingness to turn things around, and appeared to be in keeping with new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s public statements that he wanted the company to be a better partner to cities and work together to solve urban transportation needs. Based on this latest license extension, Portland appears confident that Uber has turned a corner and will be an easier company to deal with.
But there is clearly plenty of skepticism among some city leaders, including Fish, who has been a frequent critic of Uber. He told the Tribune that the company also angered the city by lobbying the Oregon legislature to bar cities from regulating the ride-hailing industry. And the city appears to be taking an active interest in Uber and Lyft’s future conduct, as in May council unanimously agreed to create a new "oversight body" that would give drivers a place to air grievances against the companies.
While this step represents significant fence-mending between Portland and Uber, it is incumbent on both parties to work together to keep rebuilding the relationship. Fish said Uber will be "judged by deeds, not words," and with a new company culture in place led by Khosrowshahi and his senior leadership team, perhaps things will be different.