Ride-hailing services compete for business with Uber, Lyft back in town

RideAustin app launches in Austin on May 23, 2016. (Screenshot of App)
RideAustin app launches in Austin on May 23, 2016. (Screenshot of App)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — RideAustin says now that Uber and Lyft are back in Austin, its trip numbers are down 55 percent from the previous week. It’s now in the process of rallying dozens of non-profits who benefit from a portion of RideAustin trips to promote the service.

KXAN spoke with RideAustin and Fasten after reaching out to remaining ride-hailing services on the heels of Fare’s departure. Around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, Fare alerted its riders it was pulling out of Austin because of a loss of business.

“These funds are important for these organizations and if there’s a risk to our volumes, there’s also a risk to their donations,” Marisa Goldenberg, RideAustin’s chief operating officer told KXAN. The non-profit’s “Round Up” program allows riders to round up the cost of their ride and donate the difference to a charity of their choice.

The program has generated more than $250,000 in donation over the last year. RideAustin says it has hired someone to work with local non-profits and do “joint marketing.”

“We’re hoping that they’ll do dedicated email campaigns to their supporters, it’s already in newsletters,” Goldenberg said, also mentioning social media and specific programs and events. “Can we do something fun pet-related over the summer [for] Austin Pets Alive? You know, can we also looks at rides to kind of develop subsidized free rides for medical patients or do something for Dell Children’s that’s very specific and tangible?”

RideAustin is also launching a program where drivers pick a charity and talk about that charity with riders. Participating non-profits can pay $500 for drivers to wear shirts with their logo and provide talking points about their organization.

“Playing the price war game or discount game against Uber and Lyft — it’s very hard to beat Uber or Lyft at their own game, so we have to do something different,” Goldenberg said.

Austin Music Foundation says it and other non-profits who benefit from RideAustin are in the process of formalizing marketing agreements.

“All the money that we’ve raised through RideAustin’s Round Up program is going right back into the community as well through our free programs that we offer so that local musicians can get free education,” Austin Music Foundation’s Allegra Benz said.

Meanwhile Fasten is confident in the business model its CEO says keeps more money in drivers’ pockets.

“We’ve been competitive. We’re going to stay competitive for as long as we stay in Austin, which is going to be forever,” Fasten CEO Kirill Evdakov told KXAN.

In order to help with that, Evdakov says Fasten lowered its local rates to match Uber and Lyft.

“We did this because we started to see a lot of feedback from riders who were saying well, we’re just going to use whatever is cheaper,” he said.

The CEO said to celebrate the anniversary of Fasten’s launch, its three millionth ride in the city and a new mobile app, the company is throwing a party to support drivers and riders June 17 at Fair Market. The event will take place from 11 a.m.–1 a.m.and have free food, drinks, games and music. Evdakov said the event was planned before Uber and Lyft announced their return to Austin.

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