Easter Sunday marks the end of Uber in Eugene, at least for now.
The Register-Guard newspaper reported Saturday that a hearings official imposed a civil penalty of $1,500 a day on the ride-service company after deciding it is violating city code. Moreover, the official upheld penalties levied by the city, which means Uber must pay $66,000 in fines accrued since February.
“The hearings official’s decision reaffirms what the city has said all along,” Eugene officials said in a statement late Friday. “Uber needs to apply for a Public Passenger Vehicle Company License in order to operate legally in Eugene.”
Uber said on its Eugene blog that it must make “the difficult decision to pause operations,” starting at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Uber started service in Eugene about seven months ago, allowing people to use a smartphone app to hail and electronically pay a driver who has signed up with Uber and uses his or her privately owned vehicle to transport passengers.
As in many other places, Uber ran into problems with existing taxi regulations.
The city views Uber as a transportation company subject to the city’s licensing requirements. Uber maintains it is basically a technology company that links customers to drivers who are independent contractors, and that the city’s policies and regulations don’t apply.
The city’s statement said Mayor Kitty Piercy and staff met with Uber representatives last month and offered them the opportunity to operate legally under a temporary operating agreement.
“The proposal did not require Uber to meet the same requirements as taxis,” the statement said, “just the three minimum safety requirements.”
Those requirements were:
- Driver background checks through the police department’s law-enforcement database.
- Proof of adequate commercial liability insurance.
- Verification of vehicle maintenance and safety equipment.
A sticking point has been the requirement that the company provide what the city considers adequate insurance for the time when an Uber driver is seeking a passenger but does not have one.
An Uber spokeswoman said the company has worked out a deal with several major insurance companies to provide commercial insurance to cover the period when a driver is looking for a passenger. The limit that was agreed on at this point, however, was $1 million per incident, lower than the $1.3 million required by Eugene.