‘Underground’ TNCs operate outside city laws and company rules

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP File Photo/Ted S. Warren)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Proposition 1 failed in May, some 10,000 drivers were out of work. Some of those drivers are now operating illegally and organized through platforms that don’t require background checks, fingerprint or otherwise, why Uber and Lyft say they left.

‘Right now they’re just not the same, not the same.” says Trent Norwood of the new companies moving into Austin. He is one of thousands who look for other TNC options. When Uber and Lyft left “It made my life less convenient,” he says.

Norwood describes an underground industry, operating without any city regulations and many times, not connected to a company.  Neighbors began offering rides on the neighborhood watch mobile application, Next Door. Craiglist became awash with rides for cash.

“I don’t think I’d feel comfortable going to Craigslist and I see a picture of a car… I think I’d just drive,” he said. Norwood is an example of the incredible demand for options.

Arcade City is only a Facebook page for now but plan to be more in the future. They currently have more than 35,000 members on the closed group in Austin. Rider post their desired ride, a driver sends them a cell phone number, then the transaction is handled between the two of them.

Rideshare options Austin

They just set up six desks at the Capitol factory, the well-known tech startup hub in downtown. The plan is to move from the Facebook page to an online app where riders could decide to give them a 10 percent cut of the ride. The rider could opt to not give them a cut. They hope to have the app up and running later this summer.

“When the Austin situation happened. We said we have to get going on this,” said Christopher David, the founder and CEO. His goal is to get rid of middle men altogether; including major companies like Uber and Lyft. He describes Arcade City as a place where riders negotiate the price

“Clear, trusted information to both sides of the transaction and let them make up their own mind on what they’re comfortable with,” said David.

They’re not registered with the city and don’t have set plans to register. They say they’re not a TNC but a platform operating on a Facebook page.

“I would say Arcade City isn’t for everyone. I would say at this point it’s for more experienced rideshare riders,” he says.

As for background checks, what started this whole thing, they say drivers will be responsible for security checks. Riders will have the choice on how to catch a ride and who to ride with. Riders and drivers will have a “leveling system”. A driver with security checks will be rated higher. The more security and quality you provide, the higher your “level’ will be. It’s the same idea with a rider.

David expects hurdles to jump through in the future and is leaving much of the plan open to what Arcade City will evolve into.

The city tells us they know about these TNCs that aren’t registered with the city. They say they have specific officers enforcing the city code and say they’re encouraging all riders to only use companies where drivers are vetted.

We wanted to know how ridesharing has changed since Uber and Lyft left town.

As of May 2, the week proposition one failed, only five other ridesharing companies were in Austin, including Lyft. Both have since left. The list above shows all the ridesharing choices with valid operating authority from the city of Austin right now. As you can see, there are now five more options than before. Right now, Uber and Lyft are on that list, which means they can come back at anytime, but will have to follow the fingerprint background rules.

Thursday at 4 pm the Capitol Factory will hold an event on Ridesharing in Austin. Many TNCs are scheduled to attend.

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