Uber's GM for the Pacific Northwest Alejandro Chouza wrote and apology for Uber to the City of Portland Oregon, stating "I write today to acknowledge certain missteps by Uber in Portland since we began operating there in December of 2014, and to make commitments for how we will conduct ourselves going forward. "At times, we conducted operations in a way that failed to live up to the Portland way of collaboration and transparency. For that, we apologize."
The letter does not go into details and does not give a specific issue; it just apologizes for the general misconduct of Uber during the period it flaunted the cities regulations and fought an ongoing battle with the then Mayor of Portland, Charlie Hales. One of the ways Uber would deal with its detractors was to "Greyball" them, which was a technology used to evade city regulators and law enforcement.
The idea of a public apology came from Commissioner Nick Fish and was agreed upon by all sides. Chouza started his new role with Uber in January, so he was not part of the old regime that ruined Uber's reputation. Commissioner Fish told the press that "I'm pleasantly surprised, they've asked for a fresh start. An apology is one way to get there." Although the apology has not moved Fish from his conservative attitude to more stringent ridesharing regulations.
Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler added that "I appreciate that Uber has acknowledged that they have made mistakes as they established their service here in Portland. My administration will work closely with Transportation Commissioner Saltzman and my colleagues on City Council as Uber follows through on their promises to our City."
Portland has been a good market for Uber, according to Chouza "more than 7,000 rideshare drivers who serve more than 348,000 riders every month in and around Portland. While we are proud of how we have grown to provide flexible work opportunities, we have made mistakes."
One of the ways in which Uber is changing its approach to managing rides in Portland is by partnering with TriMet as well as with local transit advocacy organizations. Chouza stated that "This includes working with TriMet to develop the first multi-modal open trip planning app in the nation, and supporting organizations like Street Roots, Community Warehouse, Dress for Success, and Basic Rights Oregon to promote equity and economic opportunity for historically under-served communities."
Another way Uber has begun to work its way into the hearts of the community is through a special incentive for women, the "Dress for Success" initiative in Portland aims to help women find employment, and Uber has partnered with this group.
Dress for Success Oregon executive director Sheri Dunn told the media that "It was a way to get clothing to us where folks may not have been able to come, so much easier to have the Uber driver bring it by, and the drivers themselves were so excited to show up bringing the clothes."
Apart from donating clothes to the initiative, Uber also offers ride credits to Dress for Success clients, as Uber employee Jon Issacs said, "We're proud of the role Uber and ride hailing play in helping people have access to those options, especially to organizations who are helping underserved communities,"
Dunn said explained that apart from the clothes the rides have been a huge success in helping their clients. Dunn added "It's been amazing. We've had clients come in who have been homeless and needed to get a job interview. And the ability to get clothes here, get ready to go, get in the Uber and get to that interview, I mean, it's really worth more than money for clients we serve."
My take: Uber initiated some major changes in its culture, and these changes are taking time to filter down to street level. There are different levels to deal with, issues on a global, national, regional and local level. The local level issues are being dealt with and are slowly accumulating, news of these changes are filtering through to the public, ad here is just one market here change is happening. The change will not occur over night, and as long as Uber continues to push change, their image will improve exponentially with every successful story.