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Portland cabbies protest city plan for more taxis

Associated Press Published: October 3, 2012

Adding more vehicles to the fleet will help create a taxi culture in Portland and ultimately benefit existing drivers, said Frank Dufay, administrator for the city's Private for Hire Transportation Program, which regulates the cab industry.

Dufay said people living on the edge of city limits sometimes must wait an hour or more for a ride. And too many drivers spend their time waiting for fares at the airport or in front of hotels, he said, bypassing customers who might need a short trip to a bar or restaurant.

"It's pretty impossible right now to just flag down a cab," Dufay said.

The other plank in Wednesday's protest was an anti-kickback rule that has been approved by the city's private-for-hire transportation board but has yet to be placed on a City Council agenda.

Drivers displayed signs on their cabs such as "End Hotel Corruption" and "Quit Taking Bribes." They say doormen will divert hotel-to-airport fares — a $32 ride from downtown — to other drivers unless they pay up. Doormen at Embassy Suites were singled out, but the cabbies say it happens at other hotels.

Doormen at the Embassy Suites referred questions to hotel general manager Steve Jung. He said the hotel has a written policy forbidding doormen from engaging in such behavior.

"If they were caught taking kickbacks, they would absolutely be dealt with," Jung said.

Dufay said the issue is common throughout the U.S. Though much of the evidence is anecdotal, he said Portland doormen generally want $10.

"The downside for the guests is that the cab drivers will take a longer route to the airport," he said.