Uber announced Wednesday it is halting its service in Roseburg, after the City of Roseburg said the company is not meeting its standards.
“Per the city’s request, Uber service is currently not available in Roseburg,” Nathan Hambley, Uber’s communications manager for Oregon said in an email to The News-Review.
The company began giving rides to Roseburg residents a few weeks ago, but it was met with some pushback from the city and a local taxi company.
Taj Gombart, who manages DC Sunshine Taxi & Courier in the Douglas County area, said he thinks competition is healthy for any industry, but Uber was not following the guidelines set out in a city ordinance.
He said the city requires a taxi company to have at least three cabs operating 24/7, with rear-facing meters that show the cost of the ride.
“And an Uber driver is not required to be in service the same amount of time as a cab is, they can sign on and provide rides whenever they’d like,” Gombart said. “They might not be available in the evenings, or at 2 in the morning.”
He added the city also asks cab companies to operate as employee-owned companies, but Uber is acting as independently-owned.
For the city, tracking down the company hasn’t been as simple as picking up a mobile phone and hailing a ride.
City Recorder Sheila Cox said the city has been receiving “mixed messages” regarding Uber’s presence in Roseburg. While the city has been contacted by taxi operators saying that Uber is operating in Roseburg, the city tried to catch a ride on Uber to find out what was going on. But it received a response saying the ride-sharing service was not currently available.
Cox also wrote Uber Inc. headquarters in San Francisco advising them of the city’s ordinance for taxi operators, which Uber had not applied for, according to the Feb. 7 letter. The correspondence also noted the city’s $1,500-per-day fines for operating without a city-required taxicab license. Cox said she has not received a response from Uber.
The next step may be up to the Roseburg City Council. Cox said that she advised councilors of the letter that she sent to Uber and intends to take the matter to the council as soon as Monday.
According to Cox, Gombart said he would bring it up Monday in the public participation segment of the City Council meeting, when people can bring matters not on the agenda to the City Council’s attention.
“It’s just something we’ll have to look at, and get City Council to weigh all of the options, let us know what direction they’re going to go with it,” Cox said.
Other Southern Oregon city councils near Roseburg have approved Uber operations in their cities.
Uber began operating officially in Medford in December after the Medford City Council took up the Uber matter and approved the company’s operations within city limits subject to Uber Inc. and each of the drivers obtaining business licenses.
Uber driver Kim Martin of Myrtle Creek said the City of Roseburg does not see the whole picture, and should not label Uber as a taxi company.
“Uber is a technology company that created a ride-share application,” Martin said. “There is a definite need here for ride-share. Not everyone wants to ride a bus or shuttle. Not everyone wants to own a car either.”
She said she already has a business license to drive for Uber in Medford, and she doesn’t think she would have a problem getting one in Roseburg if needed.
Gombart said Uber provides its own background checks, unlike the local taxi companies that have background checks through the Roseburg Police Department.
Martin said she understands there are some issues to iron out in Roseburg, but Uber does do a background check and requires additional insurance and annual vehicle inspections. She added Uber does have enough drivers to operate in Roseburg, and sent The News-Review a screenshot showing five Uber vehicles in the area.
She said she’s hoping to bring Uber Assist to Douglas County, which would accommodate wheelchairs or medical equipment, and take people to the doctor or to a grocery store.
“We have a lot of older people that cannot get out because they can’t drive,” she said. “A relative can call a ride for an aging parent, or other person, and have them picked up and taken to their appointments.”
Both Martin and Gombart claimed their respective companies offered less expensive rides than the other.