Uber Returns to Portland

Yesterday at 2:00 PM Uber began operations in Portland with the official blessing of city government.  This ends what had been a somewhat contentious battle between Uber and city council.  This all started back in December when Uber tried to force their way into Portland against existing city codes.  At the time, Portland’s city code was very protective over the traditional taxi system.  That system made it nearly impossible for new cab companies to get up and running let alone a ridesharing company such as Uber.  City leaders did not take kindly to Uber operating in Portland and began fining drivers.  Uber and the City called a truce whereby Uber would suspend operations and give Portland time to revamp their taxi rules to permit ridesharing companies to operate legally in Portland.  Those rules were finally put in place this week.  Technically, the resolution passed by city council only allows operations for a 120 day trial period.  However, I have a hard time seeing this going away in 4 months.  So stay tuned.

For those who have not used Uber see this post for an explanation on how to use Uber. If you use my referral code, your first ride is free up to a value of $20.




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While Uber is on Hold in Portland, Try Curb.

If you have not been following along with the details of Uber trying to break into the Portland market let me give you a recap.

  1. Portland said no to Uber
  2. Uber responded by expanding into the suburbs.
  3. Portland said no to Uber
  4. Uber responded by saying F-U and started operating in Portland
  5. Portland city officials freaked out and fined the company a bunch of money.
  6. Uber and Portland come to an agreement.  Portland will work on the regs to allow Uber to operate, Uber agreed to back off.

I’m not sure who the winner is in this situation.  Probably Uber because they will likely be able to operate in Portland.  I have a feeling though that consumers are going to be the loser.  The whole point of Uber is that it is supposed to be cheaper than a taxi.  I have this feeling they will be charging the same rates as the taxis once this is all figured out. Although, perhaps the greatest thing about Uber is the convenience of using the app, which allows you to order and pay for the cab through their app.

On that front, the cab companies have caught up.  Enter Curb.   Curb is an app that works just like Uber in that you can order a taxi via an app on your phone.  The app also stores your credit card so when your ride is over the app bills the card.  No need to give the cabbie cash or a debit/credit card.  It is all handled through the app.

My wife and I used Curb last night.  It really is a very smooth system.  Once we were ready to go, I launch the app and click the button to hail a taxi.  The app finds the nearest available taxi and the taxi is dispatched to your location.  Having used the app three times now I really like it.

Right now there are a couple of promo codes that you can use for $10 off your ride.

  • The first is my promo code, 84T48W, download the app and first time riders will get $10 off their ride.
  • The second is the promo code DINELA.  This code is good for both first time and existing customers.  It is also good for $10 off your ride.

I’m not sure if these codes are stackable, but the DINELA code is good on multiple accounts.  I created three accounts (three different emails and phone numbers) and used the code on each one.

I’m curious to see what happens with Portland and Uber.  In the mean time Curb is a very useful alternative.

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America’s Largest Cuckoo Clock at Portland Airport

Portland Cuckoo Clock

Last night when we got home from Hawaii (Trip Report to follow soon) I was greeted by this big wooden cuckoo clock.  Turns out is is part of a promotion by Travel Portland the official tourist marketing wing of the City of Portland.  Travel Portland hired a wood carver to build this sucker and then sent it to Vancouver BC and Seattle to promote Portland tourism.  The clock will be sitting in the atrium at PDX just past security for gates A,B, and C.  In addition to the clock Travel Portland is also running a promotion on their website for winter travel, this is what the press release says.

Winter Deal Wheel Offers Visitors Free Stuff

As if tax-free shopping weren’t enough, the Portland Is Happening Now Deal Wheel highlights a dozen of the nearly 90 discounts and deals around Portland that will be available to winter travelers, including free dining, shopping and beer-related items. Visitors who book a Portland hotel stay for travel through March 31, 2015, on TravelPortland.com will be given access to a downloadable coupon pack that features more than 85 coupons valued at more than $1,000.

The items travelers can redeem without a purchase (deals are good through March 31, 2015) include:

  • Bunk: One FREE sandwich at all Bunk Sandwich or Bunk Bar locations
  • Columbia Sportswear: One FREE Portland Is Happening Now shopping tote by Portland Garment Factory at the downtown or airport locations
  • Hopworks Urban Brewery: One FREE ceramic mini-growler from Portland Growler Co. (beer not included) at the N. Williams or S.E. Powell locations 

Examples of the other 85+ coupons (deals are good through Dec. 31, 2015) include:

  • Burgerville: FREE regular size milkshake or smoothie with purchase of equal or greater value
  • Danner: 20% off a pair of USA-made boots
  • Salt and Straw Ice Cream: One FREE single (4 oz.) scoop of ice cream with purchase of one of equal or greater value

While this sounds good I don’t think it is that great of a deal.  For starters, the coupon book they are referring to is the Chinook Book which can be purchased online.  No need to overpay for a hotel to get the book.  Second, if you are traveling to Portland this winter using my Priceline method for hotels is an absolute must.  Taking advantage of low demand is THE best way to score cheap deals on hotels.

While I don’t think the promotion is that great, at least they built a really cool clock.

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Uber Comes to Portland and How Uber Works

On Friday Uber began operating in Portland, without the blessing of city officials.  Needless to say some of the powers that be in city government had some choice words.  My favorite quote comes from Steve Novick the City Commissioner who oversees the Bureau of Transportation, the bureau in charge of regulating taxis.

“They think they can just come in here and flagrantly violate the law? This is really amazing.  Apparently, they believe they’re gods.”

I suppose you can always count on a politician for asinine rhetoric like that.  To counter and for a helpful video about Uber you should see this video from the Oregonian.

I have yet to use Uber, but I plan on giving it a try on Thursday when the family and I head to the airport.

How Uber works is pretty simple.  After downloading the app and entering your details and method of payment (use my referral link for $20 off first ride) ordering a ride only takes a click of a button.

When you launch the app it will zero in your location.  To order a car press the black arrow.

Uber Pickup

Then to confirm press the black UberX button.

Uber Confirm

Prior to confirming your order you can also use the fare estimator (on the left above the Request button) to get an idea how much your ride will cost.

Uber Fare Estimate

If you want to check the rates you can press the little blue car prior to pressing the black arrow button.

Uber Rates

One major complaint about Uber is that they have surge pricing, meaning they jack up the rates during high demand.  I have no experience with Uber so take this for what it’s worth, my assumption is that when they increase prices the current rate will show up in the blue button.  If they don’t then I’m not sure how much I will use Uber.  I’m excited to try Uber and we’ll see how it plays out here in Portland.

Update:   Uber has suspended operations in Portland after getting into an ugly fight with the City.  Plan for now is Uber will stop operating in Portland and the city has agreed to update taxi regulations in the next three months.  The saga continues…

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Alaska Airlines Cyber Monday – Great Fares To/From PDX

Tomorrow Alaska Airlines is having a cyber Monday sale.  There are some great deals to be had.  Some gems include the following:

Portland to Oahu, Big Island, and Maui for $398.   
Portland to Puerto Vallarta for $398
Portland to Los Cabo for $318
Portland to DC for $258
Portland to Las Vegas for $138
Portland to Palm Springs for $138
Portland to San Francisco for $98

I can’t remember the last time I saw sub $400 fares to Hawaii, even if it is only by two dollars. Where these prices become down right criminal is if you have an Alaska Airlines companion pass.  If you don’t yet have an Alaska Airlines credit card, get one.  The Alaska Airlines credit card comes with a $99 (plus taxes) companion pass.  At these rates two people could fly to Hawaii for $540!

It so happens that I have an extra companion pass that I am not using this year.  If you are interested in using it, email me for details.

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I’m Doing Something New Here and a Little Crazy

When it comes to travel, there are 3 things I know well.

  1. Portland
  2. Priceline
  3. Traveling for pennies with frequent flyer miles.

As for numbers 1 and 2, they are covered here on the blog.  My series of Priceline posts have been the most popular articles on this blog since I published them.  The articles drive the majority of the traffic to this site.

As for number 3, it is not the main focus of this blog but something I cover occasionally, usually when it comes to me bragging about a trip I scored for next to nothing.  The next post on that subject is due in December when my wife and kids and I will fly to Hawaii and stay 7 nights at the Hilton Waikoloa for $20 (don’t ask me how many Hilton Points that took, ugh).

While the blog is pretty quiet on the points front, I’m fairly active on twitter and on one my favorite mile and points blogs travelbloggerbuzz.com.  So the other night I tweeted this,

and I’ll be damned if someone actually took me up on it.

While I may have been kidding on the square, I had to do it.  6 hours later, I found an award that routes through London to Hong Kong from Los Angeles.  The award was a combination of coach, business class, and first class.  All international flights were in business class or first class.  West Coast to Hong Kong would have been much easier and I could have done it in less than 6 hours.  However, routing via Europe was a fun challenge so I enjoyed it.  US Airways is a strange beast and I am still waiting to hear if it was successfully booked.

Back at my favorite mile and points blog, Travel Blogger Buzz (TBB), there has been a lot of talk about monetizing blogs and his in particular.  TBB has struggled to find a way to get something out of all the work he has put in on his blog.  He has turned to credit card affiliate links, which is ironic because they main focus of his blog is how much travel bloggers who push credit cards suck.  I have given him a fair amount of grief over it.

The experience with the award booking and discussion at TBB has me thinking about more ways in which I can monetize this blog.  I do surprisingly well with Google Adsense. This is due in large part to the fact that most of the traffic on this site is organic (i.e. “bidding on Priceline” searches).   Looking for ways to add extra revenue is always good. I’m thinking about offering a miles consulting and award booking assistance service to the blog.  I doubt it will get much interest but it will be fun to see and experiment with.

To that end, I created a page offering what I basically offered on twitter.  I figure if I get one or two people every couple of months that would be fun (and manageable if it takes me 6 hours per award!).

Without further ado:

Frequent Flyer Miles and Points Consulting:  Learn to Travel for Free.

SEO dictates TRAVEL and FREE be included in the title, even though it’s not.  Unless you’re this guy.  I am probably totally crazy for offering this for $45, but what the hell it’s cold and wet outside.

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Uber is Coming to Portland (Sort of) and How to Get a Free Ride

Uber is a ridesharing company that allows you to use your smartphone to order a ride, track the cars progress to you in real time, texts you when the car arrives, and all payment is handled through the app.  Uber is a competitor with traditional taxi services.  The taxi industry here in Portland is a highly regulated industry, except that it’s sort of not.

In Portland there are a limited number of taxi operating permits that the city issues to taxi companies. These permits are effectively controlled by the Private For Hire Transportation Review Board.  The board does not actually approve the permits but is heavily influential with respect to taxi industry policy within the city.  As you can imagine when the taxi industry has a heavy influence on policy it may affect whether Portland would permit Uber to operate within city limits.  As of today, Portland is the only major west coast city not to permit Uber to operate within its city limits.

Well there is good news, if you live in a suburb.  Uber is now operating in Tigard, Beaverton, Gresham, and Vancouver.  Uber can pick you up in these cities and drop you off in Portland, Uber just can’t pick you up in Portland.

When the taxi industry has a controlling hand in policy what do you expect? God forbid Portlanders be allowed to use a ride service that is convenient and cheap.  For comparison sake lets look at costs between traditional Portland taxi’s and Uber.  A ride from downtown Vancouver to PDX is $17- $22, Beaverton to PDX is $36 – $48, and Gresham to PDX is $27 to $36.  (Click here for Uber cost estimates).

Now, lets take a look at how much a traditional taxi from Beaverton to PDX will cost you. From downtown Beaverton to PDX is 20 miles.  You will be charged $2.50 for pickup plus $1.00 for each additional passenger.  You will then be charged $2.60 per mile plus $.50/minute waiting time.  At a minimum, assuming no waiting time charges (yea right) a taxi will cost you $55 for a couple to ride from Beaverton to PDX.

With Uber not only will you save money on the base rate but there is also a trick to earning an easy $60 – $90 in credits with Uber.

How to earn a free ride:

Here is an easy way to earn $60 – $90  $40 – $60 in free rides with Uber.  If you use my referral link to sign up for Uber you will receive a free ride worth $30 (now $20).  When you sign up you will also get a referral link/code.  If you refer a friend they will get $20 and when they take their first ride you get $20.  If you have a significant other this is effectively $60 for the two of you.

The one caveat to these credits is that they work for one ride at a time, and they operate more like vouchers.  It’s really one free ride worth up to $20.  So if your ride is $17, that uses up your entire $20 free ride.  If your ride is $40, then you owe the difference.

I imagine that eventually Uber will come to Portland.  Unfortunately, it will probably involve making Uber just as expensive as the traditional taxi companies so they are not put out of business.  All the more reason to sign up for the credits above.

Note:  When you use my referral link I also get a referral credit.  Thank you in advance.  

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Challenge Accepted Costco! Can I Beat a Car Rental Price on Costco with Priceline?

I am a huge fan of Priceline for rental cars.  I think last minute bidding with Priceline is THE way to go for cheap rental cars.  Although I think Costco just made it hard on me.

I am currently finalizing some of the details for our upcoming trip to Hawaii.  We booked airfare a few months ago using frequent flyer miles and the hotel is just about wrapped up. On Monday I thought I would check out rental car prices.  My typical strategy for rental cars, which you can read about in detail here, is to book a reservation I can cancel and then make a last minute bid with Priceline the week before I leave.  Well Costco Travel just made that a challenge.  When I checked Costco on Monday I found a rental price of $12.50/day for an intermediate car.   Needless to say I made that reservation. Total price including taxes was $158.  Beating that with Priceline is going to be a challenge.  Well, challenge accepted Costco, challenge accepted.

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Additional Thoughts On Priceline

So I wanted to take a minute and address a couple of comments that have come up on my Priceline posts and use them as learning opportunities.  The first comment is from Holly.

“I would NEVER use Priceline for a car. We did and when we got to Orlando airport the Hertz counter had a line two blocks long to pick up cars. We waited for 30 minutes and realized it would take longer to pick up the car than it did to fly to Orlando. We went to a neighboring car rental desk, rented a car (for more) and were on our way in a matter of minutes. Priceline “customer service” reads from a script and refuses to refund our money. I understand the no cancellation/refund policy but effectively Hertz could not provide us with a car. Hertz says they do not get paid unless we pick up the car so Priceline pockets the money and we pay twice. I have disputed the charge but will NEVER use Priceline again. Too many things can happen and their offshore customer service reps are like robots who have absolutely no authority to listen and respond (even the manager)… CRAZY…”    Continue reading

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Free Admission This Saturday To Portland Art Museum, Children’s Museum, and Portland Japanese Garden

This Saturday is Bank of America Saturday at the Portland Art Museum, Children’s Museum, and the Portland Japanese Garden.  Bank of America Saturday allows you free general admission to those museums when you present a Bank of America credit or debit card.  It is a cool little perk of owning a Bank of America card that does not get talked about very much.

Bank of America Saturday takes places the first Saturday of every month.  It does not include admission to special exhibits.  At the Portland Art Museum admission to a special exhibit is usually an extra $5 so still an amazing deal.  Free admission applies to the cardholder only.  When my wife and I take advantage this we use our Bank of America issued Alaska Airlines credit cards.

Admission to the Portland Art Museum is normally $15, the Children’s Museum $10, and the Japanese Garden is $9.50.  We are having some great weather this week and hopefully it holds for Saturday because the spring time is a great time to visit the Japanese Garden and doing so for free is even better.

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