Group calls on Austin council to postpone ridesharing vote

In this March 12, 2014 photo, passenger Katie Baranyuk, left, and Dara Jenkins, right, a driver for the ride-sharing service Lyft, perform Lyft's trademark fist-bump as they pose for a photo after Baranyuk got a ride from Jenkins to downtown Seattle to meet friends after work. In a fight pitting upstart technology and traditional business, app-based ridesharing firms are fighting with taxi companies for supremacy in the Seattle market. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council is expected to vote on an ordinance that would legalize ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft during their scheduled meeting Thursday. But the group council members put in charge of coming up with recommendations on how to legalize these companies is now asking for Council to postpone their vote.

In May, Council created a work group of 20 people made up of transportation companies, insurance regulators and people in the community to come up with a set of recommendations for council members on how Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft should be regulated. The work group held a press conference Wednesday to let the public know council gave them 180 days to do this task and were shocked when the ordinance appeared on the agenda last Thursday for a vote — nearly four weeks before the work group was set to tell Council what they found.

Group members said in order for all transportation companies to compete on the same playing field, it’s important for Council to make sure regulations for insurance, ADA compliance and background checks for drivers are fully included within the ordinance.

“Unfortunately, what we are seeing is a decision that isn’t fully informed — maybe what guides the regulations as opposed to a fully informed, a full set of vetted recommendations guiding whatever set of regulations the City Council comes up with,” said Yellow Cab Austin President Ed Kargbo.

Work group member Billy Carter, the owner of SuperShuttle and ExecuCar of Austin, said he called to ask Council about the reason for the rush on a vote and hasn’t heard back. Carter said some thought it might be due to the upcoming events in the city.

“If we’re talking for ACL Fest or Formula One race, it wouldn’t be ready for that anyways — even if it went through Council tomorrow because it’s going to take 30- to 45 days to get it into effect and make these operations legal. So we don’t really understand what the hurry is,” said Carter.

The work group said they are prepared to offer their recommendations to Council by the end of the month and would like to see Thursday’s second and third reading of the TNC ordinance postponed until they are able to complete the work they have been assigned to do by Council.

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