Round Rock taxi company embracing ride-hailing

File Image (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Lawmakers debated on Thursday if ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft should be allowed to operate statewide. It is a debate that took place on the local level in Austin last year, in which council approved a temporary ordinance allowing Transportation Network Companies.

During those debates different cab and car companies opposed the idea.

“Basically if you can’t beat them, join them,” said Dennis Galer, general manager for 10/10 Taxi in Round Rock. His Taxi company is in the process of also becoming a ride-hailing company and already has its TNC permit in Austin.

“We figured out that the best defense is a good offense,” said Galer. “So what we did instead of crying over spilled milk and complaining, screaming and yelling about it was we came up with our own app, zTrip.”

The company is currently testing out the app at different hotels in Austin, but they plan to launch it this summer. Like Uber and Lyft, zTrip would connect drivers to passengers.

Currently, as a taxi business, Galer said his company has a lot of clients in Williamson County they can drop off in Austin, but cannot pick up because of permit reasons. Galer said operating as a TNC will help people in areas north of Austin.

Galer said his company has vehicles they lease out to drivers, who are independent contractors. He said those vehicles don’t say ‘taxi’ on it and that the meter is not used because everything is conducted through the app, which falls into the guidelines of a TNC permit.

When it comes to lawmakers wanting to make ride-hailing companies OK statewide, Galer said there are pros and cons.

“I guess on the positive side, it creates regulations across the entire state so regardless of where you’re operating at, if you happen to go down to Houston for an event and you’re working for an Uber, Lyft or zTrip, you would be able to go and do that in each city knowing that the rules were the same regardless of where you were in the state.”

Lawmakers on Thursday grilled Uber executives about safety concerns at a House committee hearing. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, said his proposal would require the companies to pay an annual registration fee of $115,000 to offset implementation costs. It would also require background checks.

Uber is backing this bill because it wouldn’t have to deal with separate local rules across the state but doesn’t agree with lawmakers wants for fingerprint background checks. Uber recently pulled out of San Antonio because of a long list of restrictions.

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