PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Cab drivers clogged a downtown block Wednesday to protest the city's plan to increase the taxi fleet by 35 percent, contending the expansion will jeopardize their livelihoods.
The 30 or so cabbies who circled an Embassy Suites hotel — sometimes obstructing traffic on the street in front of the lobby — also called for the city to pass an ordinance making it illegal for hotel doormen to demand money from them in exchange for fares.
The city has proposed increasing the number of taxi permits from 382 to 514 over the next three years. Portland has not boosted its number of permits since 1998, and Portland's 6.6 taxis per 10,000 residents is far fewer than cities such as Seattle (11.3), Denver (21.7) and Atlanta (38.1).
Red Diamond, a driver for Broadway Cab, said putting another 132 taxis on the road will "absolutely devastate" cabbies' ability to make a living. A city report released last week shows drivers typically make less than the minimum wage while working 12-hour days.
"Our back is against the wall; it's an extremely desperate situation for us," said Diamond, who represents cabbies on the city's private-for-hire transportation board.
Diamond said he pays Broadway Cab $450 per week to lease his vehicle for daily 12-hour shifts. He keeps whatever he makes over $450, subtracting gasoline costs. At the end of each shift, he turns the keys over to another driver, who has also paid $450 for a weekly lease.
Five of the city's six cab companies operate in this fashion, or something similar. The exception is driver-owned Radio Cab, the city's market leader. Its drivers, who are said to make more and work less than cabbies from other companies, were noticeably absent from the demonstration.