Uber and Lyft have left Austin since a ballot proposition that would have lifted an onerous pending City ordinance protecting taxi companies failed to pass.
Austin wanted fingerprint background checks which take longer and are more costly than the background checks Uber and Lyft perform and which scare off some drivers. The City Council has separately opposed employers even asking about criminal histories. And both the Travis County Sheriff and Austin Police Chief argued against the rules because Uber and Lyft have made Austin safer, not less safe.
Less-reported are that the City is set to take 1% of gross revenues from ridesharing, and also ‘geofence’ off areas where ridesharing services couldn’t pick up and drop off passengers — reserving the most convenient spots at festivals, for instance, for cabs.
I love competition, which is one reason I’ve favored Lyft of late (another is that there have been more drivers close by with Lyft than Uber for me lately). So I’m thrilled that at least four ridesharing companies are trying to pick up the business that Uber and Lyft left behind.
- Tulsa-based Tride is coming to Austin.
- Boston-based Fasten is going to as well even though it wasn’t in their business plan.
- Wingz, which I used to get home from the airport, requires you to set up rides two hours in advance and only does airport trips but is planning to expand the service. Today was my driver’s first day driving with Wingz and shared that the CEO told drivers at orientation they planned to go beyond airport rides within 30 days.
- GetMe is the only on-demand ridesharing service that’s up and running, but when I tried to use them to get to the airport on Monday they couldn’t match me to a driver after 10 minutes. I wound up using the ‘Hail-a-cab app’ but since that only gets you rides from one taxi company it took almost 10 minutes to assign a cab and it started off 20 blocks away.
You can still use Uber and Lyft, sort of. Though that’s not going to be practical for many trips. And there are other companies out there, with limited geographic reach (like Summon which offers pre-scheduled rides in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Arcade City isn’t ready to re-launch its app, but they’ve got an Austin Facebook page where people can connect who need rides and who can offer them. (These are pre-scheduled, rather than on-demand rides at this point.)
So this is from Arcade City, and it’s really disturbing:
Hopefully one of these will companies reliable enough for me in Austin that I don’t have to buy a car. I’d just love for them to hurry up and scale up!