Gears may get going for ‘ridesharing’ in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As demand for the transportation service persists, Austin City Council members may be bringing “ridesharing” to Austin.

“We’re having real issues with meeting the demands of taxi cab service,” Councilman Chris Riley said, “Some folks are finding that they have to wait for hours if they’re able to get a taxi cab at all.”

Next week, council members are prepared to consider the service that may make getting around the city simpler and easier — all thanks to networking.

The city is referring to these types of services as “transportation networking companies,” which are more commonly referred to as ridesharing programs by those who use them. Some of those services include companies like Uber and Lyft, but they are illegal under the current city transportation code.

“We want to be able to embrace innovation that’s offering a convenient new service. But we also have to consider those same issues that we thought about with respect to taxi cabs,” Riley explained.

Councilman Riley has proposed several resolutions, including a pilot program for these services to run during peak times.

“Sitting down at the table with transportation networking companies like Uber and Lyft, as well as taxi cab services so that we can figure out how those services will work in tandem,” said Riley.

However, some are opposed to the idea.

“Every place that Uber has been has pretty much decimated the taxi industry,” said Ron Means, general manager for Austin Cab Company and Black Car Services.

Means has been in the industry for more than 30 years, and doesn’t believe these new services best serve customers, “The people that are driving those cars have not been vetted, they haven’t verified their criminal history. They’re overcharging people.”

Yet the services are gaining traction across major U.S. cities and may soon be driving into Austin.

Councilman Chris Riley has proposed three resolutions.

  1. The first look at creating a pilot program for transportation networking companies to operate during peak times, subject to licensure and safety requirements for drivers and cars. Council members will also look at regulations in place in other cities, including Chicago and Seattle.
  2. Another resolution aims to find short-term and long-term solutions to better meet taxi demands.
  3. The third resolution asks staff to put late-night transportation options on the city website, and several options are already available on the site.

Lauren Altmin, a spokesperson from Uber, told KXAN in a written statement they are watching Austin as a prospective market.

“For months, residents across Austin have been opening the Uber app and asking us to come to town. We are encouraged by forward-thinking ideas that would allow Austinites to access modernized transportation options, and are keeping a close eye on Austin as a potential future market.”

Some residents in the community have taken to social media to voice their frustrations, including “Bring Lyft To Austin.”

City council members will vote on the proposals May 15.

 

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