Portland – the city that works (over consumers)

The slogan “Keep Portland Weird” was reinforced recently when the city threatened to fine two local companies a total of $895,000 for—get this—offering to charge prices the city deems are “too low.”

You see, a 2009 law requires that limousine and sedan rides to or from Portland International Airport must cost you at least $50. Limos and sedans also must charge you at least 35 percent more than what taxis would charge for a trip anywhere else in the city. And, such taxi alternatives can’t pick you up any sooner than an hour after you call.

This new real-life Portlandia chapter started when Fiesta Limousine and Towncar.com offered $32 one-way trips to the airport through the daily deal website Groupon.com. City enforcers immediately threatened them with huge fines and suspension of their operating permits. The companies canceled the promotions and refunded their customers.

But, the companies did something else, too. Last Thursday they filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Portland’s limousine and sedan regulations. Their attorney with the national public interest law firm Institute for Justice put it this way:

“These laws amount to nothing more than naked economic protectionism…they have nothing to do with protecting the riding public. They have everything to do with protecting the city’s taxicab companies from competition and driving up prices for consumers.”

Portland has a long history of protecting favored businesses while harming consumers through such anti-competitive regulations. Hopefully, this time the courts will slap down the regulators and cut the rest of us a break.

Of course, the City Council can do the right thing first and repeal these regulations. Before voting for your favorite mayoral or council candidate, you might ask them whose side they’re on: favored businesses or yours?

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 04:30 | Posted in Economy, Government Regulation, Individual Responsiblity, Leadership, Oregon Government, Transportation, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 103 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Rupert in Springfield

    This scam reminds me of the taxi medallion program in NYC. Basically these scams all run the same way. A group of people running taxis get together with some friends in government and convince the government to license the profession. This get money for government, which they like, and adds a barrier to entry, which the taxi drivers like.

    Eventually as the city grows, taxis become more scarce in proportion to the population. Fares are then increased and the business becomes more lucrative. Those original licenses are now far more valuable than when originally bought and taxis have no interest in seeing the number of licenses increase.

    In NYC this got to the point where a taxi medallion was worth a quarter million dollars. New medallions being issued would be akin to finding another set of Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Does any of this serve the public?

    Nope, not in the least. Its a special constituency essentially paying off government to grant semi monopoly status in order to rip people off.

  • Bob Clark

    Portland is getting too expensive a place to live for me.  Water and sewer bills, a mis-used city hall owned monopoly, have been advancing at twice the rate of inflation for decades; and expectations are for these bills to nearly double in the next five years.  Property tax rates are among the highest in the state, but thanks to property tax limits the rate of increase is slowing to not much more than inflation.  But a large amount of the cost of living in Portland is yet to be paid, as local area public debt and liabilities (unfunded ones too) are calculated to total over $10,000 per resident; or over $40,000 per family of four (and rising steadily).  It’s a ticking time bomb, even the city’s financial auditor has raised as a mark of financial unsustainability.

    Portland’s relatively elevated cost-of-living is becoming a factor which is causing many middle income families to contemplate moving outside the city, much like the outflow of such people out of California for the past several decades.  For Portland, most families having children seem to be those with government jobs or those at the lower income spectrum who get government assistance.  If federal and state governments actually undertake sharp fiscal cutback, Portland is likely to suffer greatly.  The next underpinning is Metro government which forces population back towards the city of Portland from its suburbs.  Metro is by and large an agent of the city of Portland, which went into serious decline when baby boomers fled the city of Portland for the cheaper suburbs in the 60s and 70s. Metro seems a Goldschmidt like device to recover the power of the city of Portland.  Now it has evolved to causing Portland “creep.” Why should all roads and tracks go through Portland city core?  doesn’t make economic sense. 

    To a great degree, Metro is holding back a surge in Oregon economic growth which would occur if it weren’t for Metro and LCDC’s artificial barriers to local community development.  Competition between communities is severely lacking, a competition which would rein in climbing cost-of-living in the city of Portland while making land readily more available for siting new businesses.

    • Crabman34

      Good riddance.  We don’t need people like you.  Good portland residents should be able to do math.

      Water and sewer rates rising at twice the rate of inflation for decades would mean your bills are in the thousands of dollars a year at this point.  And you know that’s not true.

      Hyperbole does not become you Bob Clark.  You’re a fool and you know it.

  • TheFixer

    Cabbies have a tough life. Without this type of government sanctioined protection they would easily go out of business. Then what would we do – take the light rail? There is no place for your luggage. And limos are bad because rich people use them all the time just to rub it in our faces. So, I applaud the PDX government for helping these brave men and women earn a living wage driving people around in big old Crown Vics that get bad miles to the gallon.
    What utter nonsense.
    A bike is the only way to ride.

    • smartypants503

      “Government Protection”?  This is the equivalent of the City telling burger joints that they have to charge a minimum of $15 for a burger inside the city limits. 

      I have a hard time believing that cabbies would go out of business if town cars were allowed to give promotional discounts.   

  • Oregonborn

    To the Fixer,
         We all have a tough life. Contractors of all walks of life bid on contracts private or goverment daily. Of course many are going under when they bid on goverment contracts because they don’t pay, opps another issue.
         back on track…So you are saying that no mater what Taxis charge it is okay, $50., $100 & etc to get downtown or somewhere else. So no matter what taxis charge it is okay because they are earning a “living wage” on the common person that need a taxi. For instance I get in a taxi, the driver is talking through a plate glass window, and he says in barely english ” where you goin'”. I state the address and he thinks he got some newby that does not know Portlandia, an goes the long way….ching,ching. In otherwords I do not have the right to hire whom I wish. Hmm, sound of (_________), what ever name you wish to place on it.
     You know I will hire a town car over any taxis, because I know the driver and feel safe.
        I do not have the time to go into all te other issues spoke of below.
        The Fiser is not a fixer, but a enity that is really for the common people.
         POrtland is weird

  • Crabman34

    Pretty weak that limo drivers are trying to claim their CIVIL RIGHTS are being violated here.  Don’t hear the conservatives screaming about how ridiculous that is.  But when a gay or lesbian person files a civil rights lawsuit, that is deemed outrageous.  

    Stupid city ordinance, yes.  Civil rights violation?  Not so much.

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