Photo Credit: COURTESY OF UBER TECHNOLOGIES INC. - UberX drivers began answering ride requests inside the city of Portland Friday, Dec. 5. The city is unhappy with that decision and is suing the company to block its operation here.Portland sued Uber Inc. on Monday for launching its app-based, private person-to-person ride service Friday in violation of city policies governing taxis and other paid ride services.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in Multnomah County Circuit Court against Uber Technologies Inc., the city documented that the San Francisco company started operating private-for hire transportation services in Portland without a permit. The lawsuit was quickly transferred to U.S. District Court in Portland.

“Our main concern is public health and safety, because the state invested in the cities the responsibility to do that," Mayor Charlie Hales said Monday, explaining the basis for the lawsuit. "Beyond that, though, is the issue of fairness. Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety. So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers. Because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community. Uber disagrees, so we’re seeking a court injunction.”

Uber officials have not commented on the lawsuit. A company website urged supporters to write to Hales and demand that Uber be allowed to operate without hassles.

"On December 5th, Uber answered the call of thousands in Portland to bring a reliable, safe transportation option to the community," according to an unsigned post on a company website. "But despite our steadfast efforts to give the people what they want, some local officials are working to keep Uber out of Portland and protect a status quo that simply doesn’t meet the city’s needs.

"The bottom line is this: Drivers deserve an opportunity to earn a living and Portlanders deserve a safe, hassle-free transportation option. And we will fight for you to have that right until it’s a reality."

Late Monday afternoon, Uber asked that the lawsuit be moved into federal court. Uber Seattle's General Manager Brooke Steger, claimed in court documents that the company could lose more than $100,000 in profits if it was required to go through the city's regulation process.

"If Uber is prohibited from operating its business in the city of Portland, Uber would suffer significant lost profits," Steger said in court documents.

Canceled rides

City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation, says the city is prepared to hit Uber and its drivers with civil and criminal penalties for operating without required permits and inspections. Portland requires permits for drivers and companies that offer taxi or executive sedan service within the city limits.

“If Uber thinks there should be no maximum price on what they charge Portlanders, they should make their case to the Portland City Council," Novick said. "If Uber thinks taxi companies shouldn’t have to serve people with disabilities, they should make their case. If Uber thinks taxis should not have to have proper insurance in case of a crash, they should tell us why we should allow that.”

According to the city, Uber drivers accepted and then later canceled two rides requested by Portland Bureau of Transportation enforcement officials Friday night, Dec. 5. Uber drivers provided three rides to city enforcement officials Saturday night, Dec. 6. Uber officials posted announcements on the company blog publicizing that it would begin operating in Portland Friday evening.

PBOT issued two civil penalties to Uber on Monday, one for operating without a company permit and another for operating without a vehicle permit.

The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief that Uber is subject to and in violation of the city of Portland’s private for-hire transportation regulations and administrative rules. Portland's lawsuit is asking a court to declare that Uber is subject to city regulations. The lawsuit also asks the court to order Uber to stop operating in Portland until it is in compliance with the city’s safety, health and consumer protection rules.

An attorney representing Portland also issued a cease-and-desist order Monday to Uber for unauthorized use of the image of the historic Old Town “Portland, Oregon” sign on the Uber website. The sign’s image is a trademark registered with the state. According to the attorney, if Uber does not cease all commercial use of the sign by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, the city is prepared to seek a court order, damages and attorney’s fees.

Reporter Kevin L. Harden contributed to this story.