Uber and its biggest competitor, Lyft, can also operate. But Hales says the companies will be asked to supply the city with data on where they’re picking up and dropping off passengers, and how much they’re charging.
“People tell us anecdotes about waiting two hours for a cab,” Hales says. “Facts will be friendly, and data will be helpful.”
But that’s the real test for Hales’ deal: Will Uber share information about how it makes its money?
Big data is what makes sharing-economy companies powerful, and they loathe giving it up. Controlling information about where people are summoning rides, or where they want to rent houses, is the basis of their business model. City Hall is currently fighting Airbnb over supplying the addresses of its hosts, most of whom have so far refused to undergo safety inspections.
Steger says Uber is willing to give Portland information—to a point. “We take our customer privacy and our driver privacy very, very seriously,” she says.
Chester, of the Center for Digital Democracy, is skeptical Uber will give the city the data that really matters.