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Austin, your rideshare options are about to get shaken up, again

(BUSINESS NEWS) House Bill 100 is one its way to Gov. Abbot’s desk. If signed through, big name rideshare companies will likely come back to the capitol.

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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.

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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.”

Austin’s ordinance

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.”

#Austin

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. ATX resident

    May 19, 2017 at 9:57 am

    “shaken up”? I think you mean get better immediately. The mayor kicked out Uber to line his own pockets with cab company kickbacks and squash consumer choice. He deserves to go to jail, but I’ll settle for him crying himself to sleep over this.

  2. Pingback: Uber shifts ride fares in an incredibly odd way - The American Genius

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Hawaiian missile strike fallout: The importance of clarity in crisis communication

(BUSINESS) Companies can learn quite a bit from the recent Hawaiian missile clusterflip, particularly about timeliness and clarity in crisis communications.

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The federal investigation into the Hawaii civil defense snafu earlier this month revealed that there were serious errors in how the training exercise was conducted between two shifts and in the ongoing performance concerns of the employee directly responsible for sending out the alert.

For 38 minutes, citizens and visitors in the Hawaiian Islands cowered in fear, alerted to take immediate shelter by messages that were received on cellphones and broadcast on TV stations across the state. While officials attempted to calm the populace by taking to Twitter immediately to quell the concerns, many people were not—understandably—taking to tweeting what may have been their last thoughts, and thus were not informed until a follow up message was broadcast to cellphones nearly 40 minutes later.

The Federal Communications Commission, which conducted the federal portion of the investigation into the incident, put partial blame on a lack of clarity about the drill between the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency supervisors of the evening and the morning shifts and a subsequent lack of supervision.

The night-shift supervisor wanted to test the preparedness of the morning-shift workers with an unannounced drill, according to the FCC report. While the day-shift supervisor was allegedly aware that the drill was to take place, he thought that it was to test the night-shift personnel, not the morning crew. As such, he was not prepared to oversee the drill.

The test, which followed normal protocols, involved the night-shift supervisor playing a prerecorded message to emergency personnel warning them that a threat was imminent. The recording, which was simulating real notification from the U.S. Pacific Command, did include the words “Exercise, exercise, exercise,” according to the FCC report, but it also stated “This is not a drill” – which is what workers would expect to hear in a real warning for an active missile alert.

Adding to the confusion was that the worker who was responsible for transmitting the alert as an active emergency heard the language that reflected that it was not a drill, but did not hear the “exercise” language in the tape playback. The employee, believing that it was an actual alert, rather than a drill, responded affirmatively to a prompt asking “Are you sure that you want to send this Alert?”, said the FCC. He was, according to both the FCC and the state investigation into the incident, the only employee to believe that it was an actual alert, and the only worker not to hear the “exercise” portion of the drill.

Adding to the confusion was the revelation by Hawaii state officials on Tuesday that the employee in question had a troubled work history stretching back over the past decade.

The state investigation revealed that the employee had been counseled and corrected for poor performance over the previous 10 years, including that, on at least two occasions, the employee also “confused real life events and drills.” While other members of the employee’s team were reportedly uncomfortable with him and his work for some time, this mistake proved to be the final action of his career with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, as he was terminated last week, pending appeal.

Vern T. Miyagi, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, resigned Tuesday morning as the investigation results were released and “has taken full responsibility” for the incident, according to Major General Joe Logan, the state adjutant general, who oversees the agency.

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Business News

Target launches same day delivery and we’re too happy

(BUSINESS NEWS) Target is launching same day delivery – will we save money by nixing impulse buys, or will the convenience make us spend even more!?

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If a retailer is going to keep up with the likes of Amazon and Walmart these days, they’ve got to be able to offer superfast delivery. Retail giant Target is getting in the game, with pilot programs beginning tests of same-day delivery in Birmingham, Alabama, and in Tampa and parts of South Florida starting this month.

The delivery service is made possible through a collaboration with online grocery delivery service Shipt, which Target purchased for $550 million back in December. But with Target same-day delivery, you can order more than just groceries. Your items are hand selected by a human being shopping within your nearest Target store, so you can purchase items from any department.

The deliveries themselves are free, but that’s after you buy a membership. For one month, a membership costs $14, or $99 a year, saving you $69 when you spring for the yearlong membership. And that’s for orders over $35 – if you just need a package of toilet paper or a frozen pizza, you’ll have to pay a $7 delivery charge. There’s another catch: prices on same-delivery items could differ from the price you’d get in the store.

But how do you know your personal shopper will pick the perfectly ripe avocado, or the right shade of eyeshadow? The app allows you to “connect with your shopper and get live updates from the aisles,” so that you can “inspect every single item.” Shoppers will “even learn your pickiest produce preferences – to make sure everything we deliver is just the thing you like.” Target will hire 100,000 shoppers to help fulfill online orders.

Once your personal shopper has assembled your order, you’ll receive it on your doorstep the same day, sometimes in as little as one hour.

If this test program goes well, Target will expand the service to other stores. They’re already planning to launch same-day delivery from stores in Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina starting next week.

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Business News

Old Navy fires 3 employees for racial profiling caught on cam

(BUSINESS NEWS) Old Navy has landed in hot water after a shopper showed some questionable behaviors – the company has now responded by sending out pink slips.

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Old Navy has fired three employees at a West Des Moines store after James Conley III, a 29-year-old black man, posted a video showing evidence that he was racially profiled while shopping.

The video went viral, causing the Old Navy location to shut down for one day, and for the corporate headquarters to launch an investigation. A few days later, three employees were terminated.

Conley, who calls himself a frequent shopper who came to Old Navy almost weekly, says that he was accused by employees of stealing the jacket that he came into the store wearing – an Old Navy jacket he had received for Christmas.

An employee rescanned Conley’s jacket to verified it had been paid for. Conley asked a manager to review the security footage to prove that he was wearing the jacket when he arrived. Although the security footage cleared Conley, the manager did not show their face again, and Conley did not receive an apology.

“Don’t ever come to Old Navy, ‘cause they’ll stereotype you if you’re black,” he says in the video.

Old Navy posted an apology on Facebook, saying that the “situation was a violation of our policies and values,” and that the company “is committed to ensuring that our stores are an environment where everyone feels welcome.” Old Navy also used this post to announce that three employees had been fired as a result of the incident.

Conley says that at first he thought he would “remain silent,” but decided to post the video he’d taken, saying that anybody “should be able to go shopping without being racially profiled.” He has hired an attorney and may seek monetary damages. Unfortunately, such incidents of racial profiling are all too common, but in this case, Conley has used social media and his legal rights to take a stand.

In a press conference at the attorney general’s office, Conley described the situation as “really embarrassing,” and “nothing I want anyone to go through, ever.”

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