What Now: Austin Looks for Ways to Bring Back Ride-Hailing Services

Austin—Uber and Lyft both suspended service in Austin Monday morning following the defeat their bid to eliminate driver fingerprinting requirements, among other measurements.

In a Saturday referendum, Austin voters opted to uphold the city’s rules on the ride-hailing companies’ employees with a 56 percent margin. Immediately after the votes were counted, Uber and Lyft announced they would shut down instead of complying with the rules.

Austin users accessing the app Monday morning found a note saying there was no service within the city limits. “We hope to resume operations under modern ridesharing regulations in the near future,” the Uber app states. Uber then provides a link to contact the Austin City Council.

Lyft, which suspended service three hours earlier at 5 a.m. also asks users to “contact your city council members now to tell them you want Lyft back.”

Monday morning, Texas Republican lawmakers said they would file legislation to create one standard statewide regarding ride-hailing companies’ operations.

“It has become increasingly clear that Texas’ ridesharing companies can no longer operate effectively through a patchwork of inconsistent and anti-competitive regulations,” state Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Republican from Georgetown, TX, a city just north of Austin, wrote in several posts on Twitter.

“Any legitimate safety or liability concern regarding ridesharing clearly deserves to be addressed, and I welcome all parties to engage productively in that discussion,” he added. “But as a state with a long tradition of supporting the free market, Texas should not accept transparent, union-driven efforts to create new barriers to entry for the sole purpose of stifling innovation and eliminating competition.”

One newcomer to the ride-hailing business in Austin attempted to attract customers in the wake of the market leaders’ departure. GetMe, which offers both delivery and ride-sharing services, launched in August in Dallas and moved its headquarters to the Texas capital in December.

The company says it will comply with existing city regulations. “We as a business must follow the rules or legislation [of] the cities or towns that we go into, just [as] if we were a restaurant business, there are city ordinances that must be followed,” the company wrote in a Facebook post Saturday.

On Monday, San Francisco-based Wingz, a smartphone app that provides rides to and from the airport, said … Next Page »

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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