Goodnews and bad news
Good news for Austinites who miss Uber and Lyft. Or put another way, a very bad news for those who do not, and have rather grown fond of local ridesharing startups.
Thanks to House Bill 100, a Texas Senate approved legislation creating statewide ridesharing rules—thereby overriding local ordinances—the ridesharing giants are braced to come back to Austin in the near future.
One signature away
The bill is now awaiting at the desk of Gov. Greg Abbot, whose signature would immediately make it into law.
Uber and Lyft for their part, is keen to come back.
A spokesperson for Uber tells news channel KXAN that they will resume operations in Austin immediately after Gov. Greg Abbott signs the bill into law.
Where’d they go?
A year ago, Uber and Lyft pulled out just two days after refusing to comply with voters’ wishes of abiding by strict regulations. They both decided not to comply with the rejection of Prop 1—which would have replaced the City Council’s strict rules with loose oversight, like making fingerprinting a non-requirement.
At that time, the ridesharing companies warned residents during the lead up to the voting, that banning the company would mean increases in instances of drunk driving related deaths, crimes, and a massive loss of local part time and full time jobs.
They spent $8 million on a campaign, and provided free rides on the day of the voting.
Austin residents still rejected their Prop 1. Thankfully, the grim picture painted by Uber and Lyft in case of their departure did not come to pass.
On the contrary
Instead, DWI arrests hit a five-year low in the six months following the vote. And those who lost their jobs signed up at least half a dozen other startups that filled the space, including Fasten, Fare and RideAustin, a local nonprofit operation.
But the new bill, approved on Wednesday, will override regulations imposed by 20 municipalities across the state, including Austin, and put the operational legal framework of ride hailing companies under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
What about the lil’ guys?
Now that the comeback of the ride hailing titans are all but a matter of time, the future of young startups suddenly become uncertain.
CEO of RideAustin, Andy Tryba said in comments on Wednesday that if the company gives fewer than 20,000 rides a week, on average, it will very likely have to shut down.
Currently the company provides between 50,000 and 70,000 rides a week, but their share would fall significantly, if Uber and Lyft came back.
Mr. Tryba added that since RideAustin adheres to current city ordinances for ride-hailing apps, it is going to continue to do so, despite of what competitors do, including the requirement that drivers submit to fingerprint background checks, “because we feel it’s important to continue to honor the wishes of Austin’s voters.”
That Austin requires more stringent rules than Uber and Lyft cared for remains a contentious issue. Mayor Steve Adler said on Wednesday, “Our city should be proud of how we filled the gap created when Uber and Lyft left, and we now must hope that they return ready to compete in a way that reflects Austin’s values.”
However, it is almost certain that Uber and Lyft shall not abide by the city ordinance, as they were always opposed to it. Moreover, the House Bill 100 shall render the Austin law inoperative, thereby making strict background checks unnecessary.
Kirill Evdakov, CEO and co-founder of Fasten, which opposed the Bill, said lawmakers voted against public safety and the rights of cities.
Evdakov urged the city residents to ignore Uber and Lyft when they come back. “Austinites may not be able to overturn HB 100 legislatively, but they can make it irrelevant economically,” he said in a prepared statement.
Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to the sign the bill, as evident from his Wednesday tweet that read “Buckle Up. Coming Soon.”
In response to HB100 passing onto the governor, Chelsea Harrison, a spokesperson for Lyft said, “Ridesharing in Texas took a tremendous step forward today. Thank you to Senator Schwertner and Representative Paddie for defending consumer choice and all the stakeholders who have helped create safer roads and expand reliable, affordable rides for Texans. On behalf of the entire ridesharing community, thank you to all of the legislative champions who have helped guide this bill through the capitol.”
Here we are
It seems that big tech giants got their way this time around.
They lobbied the Senate and the House when they failed to lobby enough votes from the citizens.
The Mayor made a point to raise this glaring fact: “I’m disappointed that the legislature chose to nullify the bedrock principles of self-governance and limited government by imposing regulations on our city over the objection of Austin voters.”