Ellen Troxclair: Austin is chasing its tail on ride-sharing


Yes, there was life before Uber and Lyft, and life can go on after. There was also life before the wheel, before electricity, and before high speed internet, but no one wants to go back to living like cavemen, in the dark, with dial up.

We can argue about the campaign tactics, or the money, or what we think both sides of Prop. 1 should have done in the infinite wisdom of hindsight, but the reality is that the election is over, and it’s time to look forward. Many said a vote against Prop 1 would provide another opportunity to gather around the negotiating table and come up with the best solution.

READ: Council must drop mandates, adopt incentives for Lyft and Uber rules

There are a few things that even the most passionate advocates can agree on — common ground from which to start.

We don’t want our community to be unsafe. We don’t want to put people out of work. We want a variety of transportation options, and we want to maintain our bragging rights as one of the most innovative cities in the country.

If we’re being honest, this means getting Uber and Lyft back to our community as quickly as possible, while continuing to welcome new ridesharing companies and reducing regulatory burdens on taxi and limo services.

Sometimes being innovative means being smart enough, and humble enough, to recognize when someone else has already come up with the best idea, give them credit, and quickly adopt it as your own.

San Antonio has been here, done this, and what they came up with is working. In short, drivers are able to choose to be fingerprinted. Riders are able to see whether or not their driver has gone through that additional process, and choose another driver if they prefer. Drivers are naturally incentivized to undergo the additional process for a potentially bigger pool of customers. For those who prefer a fingerprinted driver, they have that option. For those who were happy with the service as is, they can continue to use it as is. It’s a win/win.

MORE ON SAN ANTONIO’S RIDE-HAILING COMPROMISE: Lyft, Uber battles elsewhere show what future could hold for Austin

This could be done quickly and easily, without more months of squabbling or taking time away from the city’s other pressing issues, because we already have the roadmap. Importantly, Uber and Lyft would likely be willing to comply with this structure and would return to Austin as soon as possible if it is adopted.

Austin is chasing its own tail, going in such endless circles that it’s hard to keep up. We have a mandatory fingerprinting law that says 25 percent of a company’s drivers had to be fingerprinted by May 1, with increasing benchmarks throughout the year, along with stringent data reporting requirements, and a host of other regulations. Two companies who recognized their inability to comply with the new mandates no longer operate here.

Out of desperation to fill this void, the city is not enforcing the ordinance, with no clear answers as to if or when they ever will. Underground networks have formed, drivers are offering their services on Craigslist, and new ridesharing companies are benefiting from taxpayer funded job fairs, hotlines, and potential government subsidies, despite the fact that they are doing nothing differently than Uber and Lyft.

It’s mass chaos out there, with tangible safety and economic consequences for our residents and our city. It’s time for us to step up and lead.

Disabled and elderly, single parents and struggling students, musicians and creatives have lost their jobs, and many others are stranded across our City at all hours of the day and night, without access to a safe ride home.

And guess what? They don’t care about the politics, or the egos. They just want something to be done. Let’s acknowledge that our city is suffering and adopt the obvious solution, the San Antonio solution, in order to move forward.

Troxclair represents District 8 on the Austin City Council.


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