By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Uber is set to take to the streets in Bend early next month, and so far, 700 local residents have signed up to drive for the company.

Wednesday night, the Bend City Council approved a new licensing program for taxi services and “transportation network companies,” a category not previously included under city code.

Both Uber and its competitor, Lyft, are considered transportation network companies.

With both companies, riders use a smartphone app to summon a driver, and drivers are contractors using their own private vehicles.

Bend will start accepting license applications May 1. Lorelei Williams with the city said applications should be processed quickly, and Uber is planning a kickoff event in Bend on May 4.

Uber officials did not respond Thursday with details on the kickoff event.

Representatives of Lyft have been in contact with the city, Williams said, but have not announced a start date.

But a Lyft spokesperson said late Thursday that it may come to Bend. “Lyft is exploring the potential of launching operations in Bend,” said Scott Coriell in an email. “We’re hopeful that we will be able to bring Lyft’s safe, reliable, and affordable transportation options to the area in the near future.”

Williams said as of last week, Uber had signed up 700 local drivers. By comparison, Bend Police records indicate only 91 active taxicab drivers operating in the city.

Under the system approved Wednesday by the City Council, taxi companies will pay $285 per year for licensing, while companies such as Uber will pay $680. Previously, taxi companies paid the city $75 per driver per year, Williams said, reflecting the cost of a driver background check performed by Bend Police.

With the new system, taxi companies and transportation network companies such as Uber will be responsible for performing their own driver background checks, and the city will perform periodic audits to ensure the companies are doing the checks as required.

The difference in fees for taxi companies versus transportation network companies is intended to reflect the complexity of auditing companies with a substantially larger number of drivers, Williams said.

Williams said it’s anticipated that many locals who have signed up to drive for Uber or Lyft will only be driving occasionally.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,