The post-Uber apocalypse in Austin
We are now several months into the aftermath of Austin’s post-Uber/Lyft debacle, and the question on everyone’s mind has been how the new services will fare in keeping up with demand.
Then, a major college football game rolled into town, and we quickly realized just how bad Austin City Limits is really going to be.
According to this account from political buff Matt Mackowiak, he and riders like him found several of the alternative rideshare apps had no drivers available, and certain apps were crashing due to server demands.
I myself had to wait 15 minutes for one of these apps to call a ride, which is several minutes longer than it should take. Oh, and did we mention this was FOUR HOURS BEFORE KICKOFF?!? You can only imagine how much worse things became when the game let out around 10 that night…
Takeaways from the widespread failure
This whole episode proves a few key points to show that the city failed to meet or consider any political goals (beyond general tomfoolery) and economic realities associated with ridesharing:
1. Uber and Lyft were right; fingerprinting doesn’t scale. This isn’t the first time Austin’s alternative services have had issues with a lack of drivers; you can see it on any given Friday night. The night of the Notre Dame/UT game just proved how broken and understaffed these companies really were.
2. What’s even scarier is how RideAustin isn’t immune. This service was established by city council as a non-profit option in the ride-sharing market. However, Mackowski points out, “RideAustin, with all of their deep relationships at city hall and their pursuit of ‘saving rideshare in Austin,’ is waving the warning flag. Getting drivers signed up and driving is a big concern.”
3. Even if there was a way for these companies to fix their staffing situation, we as a city can’t afford them the time to do so. Austin has TWO weekends of musical festival activity arriving in mere weeks, along with Formula One racing events and even more UT football games. South By Southwest 2017 will be here before we know it. What happens then?
Ultimately, this will all get worse before it gets better.
It seems unlikely city council repeals the law mandating the background checks before some of these events take place. Some believe they might remove this obstacle as soon as possible to mitigate any further damage.
Meanwhile, RideAustin is speaking openly about the challenges and asking the community for input.
Bottom line: The city will continue to adjust.