AUSTIN (KXAN) — Instead of implementing a phased-in approach to have ride share drivers get mandatory fingerprint checks, the Austin City Council voted 7-4 on a separate ordinance Thursday afternoon to make it voluntary. What was voted on is different from what was passed in December, which council has decided to postpone until next month.
The new ordinance is part of Mayor Steve Adler’s “Thumps Up!” program. If an Uber or Lyft driver decides to go through the fingerprint validation, the city will provide a badge for the driver and they will be eligible for incentives. The incentives have yet to be determined, but they could include access to areas into which Transportation Network Company (TNCs) drivers are currently not allowed, as well as financial incentives.
“When drivers are willing to step up as volunteers to help our community, I want us to be able to be in a position to reward them,” says Adler.
In a statement, an Uber spokesperson says the new badge program is not a solution, “It would effectively mandate duplicative background checks for drivers to access the busiest parts of the city where Austinites and visitors need a ride. Removing drivers’ access to the airport, the entertainment district, and major events such as ACL and SXSW, would cause increased congestion and limit transportation options where they are needed most.
In December, the council voted 9-2 to implement new restrictions for TNC drivers. The original ordinance required drivers to have fingerprint checks by February 2017. The council also agreed to pay for the new fingerprint checks and drivers would get their results within 48 hours. Currently, TNC companies say they do their own national criminal background checks.
On Jan. 19, Ridesharing Works, a grassroots effort to garner enough signatures to potentially challenge the new ridesharing rules passed by the Austin City Council last year, delivered a petition with more than 20,000 signatures to the city clerk for review. The clerk is expected to certify the petition signature on Tuesday, Feb. 2. According to Ridesharing Works, the City Council will decide at its Feb. 4 meeting whether to adopt the petition ordinance or call for a public vote on the matter for May 7.