Mayor says mobility options will expand despite Uber, Lyft leaving

(KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Austin traffic on Interstate 35 (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — After months of debating, Austin voters made their voices heard by rejecting Prop 1.

This leaves a gap in Austin ridesharing after Lyft fulfilled their promise to pause operations in the city if fingerprint background checks were implemented. The failure of Prop 1 means ridesharing drivers are now required to undergo fingerprinting as well as criminal background checks.

Mayor Steve Adler joined us in the KXAN studio to give us his take on the controversy and what this means for Austin’s transportation future. He also discussed how this might impact the city’s application for a $50 million grant to ease traffic congestion.

“I think the voters have spoken and the community came together as a whole,” said Adler. “In an election with a lot of people that voted that they wanted the local government to make safety decisions and not businesses. I take that as a vote of confidence and now we have to work in that direction.”

Adler said he is “eager” to continue talking to Uber and Lyft, regardless of whether or not they leave the city. “I’ve very publicly invited them back to the table,” said Adler. When asked what is being discussed between the ridesharing giants and the city, Adler said no comment. Lyft has told the community to contact the City Council with their concerns.

“We’re going to move forward and have mobility options in the city and that’s going to include TNCs (Transportation Networking Companies), but how we get there and who we get there with is something that is going to have to be worked out,” said Adler.

The tech community is working with the Mayor to ensure the TNCs still here “have the best chance to succeed.” Adler said there is even talks of creating a non-profit TNC in the city to expand mobility options. “We’re going to start driving our own driver pool of fingerprinted drivers,” said Adler. Additionally, he is working with Cap Metro to offer rides to seniors, and people with disabilities.

The $50 million grant Austin is in the running for is part of the Smart City Challenge, which gives a large sum of money to the winning city in need of transportation improvements. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Uber and Lyft leaving Austin would be a major setback for the city in the challenge.

However, the Mayor said he does not think this will change Austin’s running in the challenge. Adler said he thinks the city was innovating faster than Uber and Lyft could catch up.

“It’s about electric vehicles, it’s about autonomous cars, it’s about smart cities where traffic lights in real time are getting queues from traffic and the weather so it can adjust timing,” explains Mayor Adler. “I think it’s important that the community not be bullied by an outside organization.”

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