WIN: Uber and Lyft Have Returned to Austin, Texas

Ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft are resuming operation in Austin, Texas, today. This comes after Texas lawmakers voted to override regulations placed on the two companies last year. Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) is expected to sign this important piece of legislation–House Bill 100— into law this afternoon.

Here’s more on this development:

The bill supersedes Austin’s fingerprinting requirement for ride-hailing companies. Uber and Lyft stopped operating in the city more than a year ago, after Austinites voted to require fingerprinting as part of background checks for drivers. The new statewide law requires annual background checks, but not fingerprinting.

Uber issued the following “apology” ahead of their return to the Texas capital:

We’re sorry, Austin—for leaving the way we did; for letting an honest disagreement about regulations and consumer choice turn into a public fight; and most of all, for not being able to serve you for the last year. It was never our intention, but we let down drivers, riders, and the broader Austin community. We’ve spent the last year listening carefully and learning from the mistakes we made. While we can’t change how we got here, we can and will commit to getting it right this time around.

Before we get to work, we want to thank all of the drivers who make ridesharing a reality in Austin: Tens of thousands of people rely on you to get around safely every week, and this city isn’t the same without your hard work and kindness. Earning back your trust is our number one priority. Whether you plan to drive with Uber in the future or not, thank you for everything you do for this amazing city.

Austin, we know that we have a lot of work to do, but we couldn’t be more excited for the road ahead. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.

As previously reported here at The Resurgent, the two companies were rooted out of the Texas capital after a ballot measure slated to embolden them failed at the ballot box. The contention over Uber and Lyft in Austin lied in the city’s interest in “creating a level playing field” at the expense of competition. Moreover, the contention with Proposition 1 went beyond a finger-printing system, ultimately as a scheme to coerce and collect data from the two ride-sharing companies.

The ridesharing bill–Proposition 1– failed by a 56-44 margin, with only 17 percent of registered voters in Travis County turning out to vote. Since the companies were forcibly removed from Austin in May 2016, drunk driving spiked 7.5 percent. Had this legislation not been signed into law, Uber and Lyft drivers would have been subjected to having their fingerprints scanned. The reversal of this bad policy should help curb drunk driving as it did before.

This is a small but positive step in the right direction. Local governments and their union acolytes need to get off the backs of these innovative companies once and for all. People depend on these services to make a living. Why continue to deprive all Americans–including Austinites– of their lifestyle and career choices?

 

Hey Leftists, Free Enterprise Saves Lives

New findings suggest that the city of Austin, Texas, is experiencing a surge in drunk driving after Uber and Lyft pulled out in May 2016. Per Austin Police Department findings, drunk driving rose  7.5 percent after Uber and Lyft suspended operations in the city:

DWI arrests have spiked since Uber and Lyft left Austin. The Austin Police Department released new numbers to KEYE TV that show there were 359 DWI arrests from May 9, the day Uber and Lyft shut down, to May 31st of this year. Last year during the same time period, there were 334 arrests. That’s a 7.5 percent increase in the weeks following their departure.

Both companies suspended ride-sharing services after Austin residents voted against Proposition 1 last spring. Had it passed, Proposition 1 would have overturned city-wide regulations like fingerprint-based background checks for drivers and a prohibition on picking up / dropping customers while parked in traffic lanes. The measure was defeated by a 56-44 margin, with only 17 percent of registered voters in Travis County participating in the election. All Austin ride-sharing drivers now must have their fingerprints scanned by February 1, 2017.

Here’s the impact Uber and Lyft had on drunk driving when they were operating in Austin, TX:

Before Uber came to town in 2014, Austin Police Department’s data showed that the city had an average of 525 drunk driving arrests per month. When these numbers were revisited a year after ridesharing came to Austin, drunk driving arrests had dropped by five percent. This trend continued the following year when the number of drunk driving arrests dropped by an additional 12 percent, bringing the average number of arrests to about 438 per month.

Not only did drunk driving spike in Austin after the companies pulled out, 10,000 people lost their jobs as a result of this vote last spring. Talk about a dangerous move for people and their livelihoods…

Those elected officials opposed to emerging technologies must be held accountable for putting public safety at risk. Why stifle ingenuity? Is it because these individuals hate being forced to compete in the free market? Or is it because the taxi lobby sends them a big, fat check to maintain the status quo? Creating artificial cushions to protect yourself in an industry is not only foolish, it’s antithetical to American free enterprise. Given these findings, banning Uber and Lyft is going to cost many people their jobs and their lives. The people of Austin must work tirelessly to reverse course.

Let’s hope emerging technologies like Uber and Lyft can continue be embraced in larger cities across the country without facing any more roadblocks to operation.

 

Alexandria and Austin: A Tale of Two Cities

Two well-known cities run by leftists that ironically invite innovation have made the news recently. One (Alexandria, Virginia) is being applauded for enacting actual progress, the other (Austin, Texas) is being rightfully shamed for perpetuating regression.

Let’s compare Alexandria and Austin, shall we? They are both major cities dominated by Democrats on the city council level. (One-party rule, especially that which tilts left, is quite dangerous.) Oddly enough, both have fairly pro-gun and pro-carry laws. Both cities are historically and culturally important. The former has a population of roughly 150,000, while the latter has a population close to 900,000. Alexandria is just 15 minutes from D.C. proper, while Austin is Texas’ state capital. However, one city decided it cannot suppress innovation any longer–for now, at least.

The city of Alexandria, VA finally welcomed food trucks after much resistance. The city of Austin recently saw ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft pull out after residents voted 56 to 44 percent last Saturday to keep Draconian regulations in place. They lobbied $9 million and ultimately failed.

Alexandria has approved three of five proposed food truck sites. Here’s more about the ordinance:

The new ordinance will allow food truck vending from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm and a food truck may vend no longer than four continuous hours at one location. The locations are expected to have 4 parking spaces designated for food truck parking and that would accommodate up to three food trucks.

Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin citing the city’s ridiculous rules for fingerprint checks, data reporting, and vehicle identification, for example. Here is the reasoning for Uber and Lyft pulling out of Austin:

Officials with both companies have said fingerprinting requirements are burdensome and unnecessary, given their own name-based background checks. City officials say fingerprinting adds another layer of security and balked at the multimillion-dollar corporations seemingly writing their rules here.

How could a city in conservative Texas reject the innovations of the ride-sharing economy, yet a city in purple Virginia embrace it? It’s quite confounding.

Bureaucrats and cronies enjoy saturated markets because they control them and can easily root out innovation. Why? These innovations breed opportunity, prosperity, and competition–concepts central planners and crony capitalists greatly fear. In contrast, the standard options only offer a top-down structure, terrible service, and no potential to grow. Quashing the American thirst for innovation still has serious consequences. As a result, Austin will soon feel the wrath of free market forces.

For individuals who pride themselves as “progressives,” leftists and their crony enabler friends dominating city councils exhibit cowardice for discouraging innovation. Until more freedom-minded people are elected to city councils across the country, innovation will be threatened by big government and crony capitalism.