The Austin ride share saga
Back in 2015, Austin regulators tried to impose strict rules on rideshare (see:Uber and Lyft) drivers, including a fingerprint-based background checks (The companies already conducted their own background checks) and restricted pick-up and drop off lanes on certain streets (imagine trying to remember those streets, and trying to get people where they need to go when you literally aren’t allowed to let them out there).
Needless to say, the rideshare giants weren’t happy with the regulations, which were said to be overly burdensome. After a long but ultimately failed fight against the strict rules, Uber and Lyft left the Texas capitol rideshare-less in May 2016. But in a plot twist that pretty much everyone saw coming, a year later Uber and Lyft are returning to Austin, victorious and vindicated.
State said so
Texas state lawmakers have passed a bill that overturns those Austin imposed ride-hailing regulations. Texas Governor Greg Abbot is slated to sign the bill into law on Monday, at which point Uber and Lyft will immediately begin operating within Austin’s borders once more.
There will be no more requirements for expensive permits, though (non-fingerprinted) background checks at the local, state, and national level will still be required.
Austin’s lack of Uber has been a thorn in the Austin tech community’s side, so this is definitely a good sign for tech growth in the area. A few days ago, we wrote about the bad rap Austin was acquiring for, among other things, trying to regulate certain startups to death.
No investor wants to bet on something that could be unceremoniously killed by the government.
Hopefully the return of Uber and Lyft will act as a signal to tech investors that Austin can be (and is!) friendly to innovators.
Almost a done deal
Uber has confirmed that they’ll be up and running in Austin starting Monday, May 29. In a statement to TechCrunch, spokesperson Travis Considine confirmed that the Austin tech scene is where it’s at:
“Austin is an incubator for technology and entrepreneurship, and we are excited to be back in the mix. Our local team is focused on making sure that Uber works for Austinites and helping our driver-partners earn. We know that we have a lot of work to do in the city, but we couldn’t be more excited for the road ahead.”