Outrage in Oregon

Posted on June 3, 2009 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

PORTLAND, Ore. — Livery sedan operators in Portland are about to face stricter rules and higher fees that could seriously impede their ability to compete with taxi-cabs and shuttles.

The new rules, which mostly affect sedans such as the Lincoln Town Car, raises the cost of an annual license for one black sedan from $265 to $1,250, said Mostafa Mabkhouti, president of the Portland Towncar & Limousine Association and owner of MM Global Limousine.

The Portland City Council approved the measures which go into effect June 20.

Black sedan operators also must arrange contracts for any hotels they want to do business with, and pay the city $2,500 for the first car and $1,000 for each additional car servicing a hotel. That is the only way an operator can avoid the 60-minute rule that requires all limousine transportation reservations to be made at least 60 minutes in advance. Hotels caught using non-contract operators face a $500 fine per incident, while legal operators without a contract waiting near hotels will be fined $1,000.

Mabkhouti, whose company operates three Lincoln Town Cars, explained that such a rule inconveniences clients who want to change reservations at the last minute because of scheduling conflicts.

In addition to the heavy fees, sedan operators must charge at least $50 for an airport run from downtown, ensuring that taxis and shuttles will always cost well below that amount and undercutting operators’ abilities to price to market.

“They are doing this for the single purpose of killing off our business,” Mabkhouti, who will have to come up with at least $7,500 to sustain the three hotel contracts his company now has with major hotels in downtown. “Most companies now want cab receipts, anyway, not Town Cars.”

“I just found out that the city just passed this week an ordinance to give all its employees a raise while they just jacked up our fees with astronomical numbers,” he added.

Mabkhouti predicts at least 80% of sedan operators will go out of business because of the heavy fees added to the hotel contracts. The new rules do not apply to stretch limousines and SUVs, which only must follow the minimum 60-minute reservation rule.

The Portland Town Car and Limousine Association plans to speak to the Governor’s office and legislators to see if the onerous fees and rules can be overturned, Mabkhouti said.

Also, revisions to the RIDE Act being pursued by the National Limousine Association in Congress could void Portland airport rules that prevent operators from parking at or picking up customers at the airport. Violators now can be fined $1,500 and be arrested.

Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine

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