Uber halts operations in Anchorage, Alaska; Oregon city sues ride-share firm

PORTLAND, Oregon (REUTERS) - Uber said it was stopping operations in Anchorage on Friday until Alaska's largest city can work out details enabling the ride-share company's drivers to accept paying fares, as an Oregon city sued the firm over safety requirements.

Uber drivers had been providing free rides since last fall after a Superior Court judge ruled that accepting payments would violate the city's taxi ordinance, the Alaska Dispatch News reported.

An Uber Anchorage operations manager said the company halted operations because the city's efforts to draft rules for Uber drivers, such as insurance and background check requirements, have not come quick enough, despite months of negotiations.

Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said Uber's decision "should not be attributed to inaction by the municipality as the process has been continuous and a path forward has been established by the Assembly."

Sullivan added that the Assembly members and city officials will meet with Uber on March 18 to try to work out an agreement.

Uber has been fighting with cities across the country, contending it is not a taxi service and should not be required to adhere to existing taxicab regulations.

The Oregon city of Eugene sued Uber in Lane County Circuit Court on Thursday, asking the court to stop Uber from operating until it meets what the city calls "minimum safety requirements," said Laura Hammond, Eugene's communication and policy analyst.

The city and Uber have wrangled over which regulations the ride-sharing service should follow since it launched there in September. The city has also fined Uber US$146,000 (S$201,129), which Uber is appealing.

At issue in Eugene are city regulations that include background checks conducted by local police, proof of insurance, and proof of a mechanical inspection that shows they can verify safety features, Hammond said.

Uber contends it already conducts its own third-party background checks and provides commercial auto insurance coverage.

Uber suspended operations in Portland in December, agreeing to give that city until April to come up with revised ride-sharing regulations.

But Uber officials complain that Eugene has been more rigid, and that a city decision to add Uber to its for-hire code sets its services up for failure.

"While jurisdictions across the country, including neighbours like Vancouver and Portland, work to craft regulations that ensure public safety and embrace ridesharing, Eugene city leaders decided to hide behind bureaucratic red tape," said Brooke Steger, Uber General Manager for the Pacific Northwest.

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