Using private-sector data to inform regulatory change in Portland


The City of Portland’s evidence-based approach used TNC data to inform the design of the city’s ridesharing regulations.


In December 2014, Uber launched its ride-sharing service in Portland, OR, without securing permission from the city. The city filed suit against Uber for operating without permits.


The city negotiated a compromise with Uber—Portland would call off its lawsuit if the company gave the city four months to get its regulatory framework in order. A 12-person Private For-Hire Innovation Taskforce was appointed by the Portland City Council to conduct research, solicit public input, and develop recommendations for a revised regulatory framework for transportation network companies (TNCs) and taxi companies. As part of this effort, the taskforce also instituted a 4-month trip data collection program to inform the regulation development process.



  • July
    Uber launches in Vancouver, WA – directly across the river from Portland.
  • Autumn
    Uber begins conversations with various Portland city officials.
  • December
    Uber launches in Portland without city approval.
    Portland files a lawsuit against Uber and issues a cease-and-desist order.
    Portland and Uber reach a compromise: Uber will suspend service until April so that the city can craft new Private-For-Hire Transportation (PFHT) rules.


  • January
    PFHT Innovation Taskforce convenes, holds taxi and TNC  industry briefings.
    Lewis & Clark Law School students form policy research team to inform taskforce efforts.
  • February – March
    Taskforce hosts a driver listening session and a community forum.
    Lewis & Clark team learns that the existing PFHT system does not effectively accommodate people with disabilities, and designs a Portland Equal Access Plan to improve service.
  • April
    Taskforce issues recommendations for pilot program.
    Uber agrees to pay over $67,000 in fines connected to its illegal launch.
  • May
    Four-month pilot program and data collection begins May 1. As part of the pilot, all TNCs must provide 24-hour access to wheelchair-accessible vehicles (whether through the company itself or through a contractor). City collects data including anonymized pick-up and drop-off locations; date, time, and duration of trips; wait times for trip requests and wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) requests; the number of WAV requests transferred to a contractor; unfulfilled trip requests; number of and detail on collisions; number and type of crimes against drivers; and the aggregate number of rider complaints.
  • July
    Portland Bureau of Transportation issues preliminary report based on data collected in May.
  • August
    Pilot program ends August 31 and is extended for an additional 120 days.
  • December
    Transportation Commissioner presents new rules for the PFHT industry.
    Portland city council approves new PFHT rules.


  • January
    New rules go into effect.
    Portland begins 12 months of additional trip data collection.
  • October
    City Auditor’s report found problems with data reporting and analysis.

Lessons learned

Start with an outcome in mind

For Portland, the desired outcome was creating a fairly regulated market that provided safe and efficient service for all customers, including those with disabilities. That outcome served as a key driver for the city’s TNC regulations redesign.

Take advantage of the expertise within the community

In this case, the team of Lewis & Clark law students provided much needed research capacity and expertise to support the regulation overhaul. The City also engaged a Private-For-Hire Advisory Committee to recommend updated regulations to the City Council. This committee, comprising industry professionals and area residents, helped ensure that the full range of perspectives were heard. Although regulators’ expertise is important, getting additional perspectives through outreach and crowdsourcing will lead to better outcomes.

Data sharing agreements help more people benefit from the sharing economy

The City’s decision to use TNC and taxi data to identify service gaps helped ensure that private for-hire rides were readily available to people throughout the city, including those with disabilities. But, companies’ confidentiality requirements hinder cities’ ability to report on their findings and keep residents informed.