New ride-hailing app coming to Austin, promises 700 drivers

A new-to-Austin ride-hailing app is poised to receive conditional operating authority from the city of Austin as soon as this weekend, clearing the way for as many as 700 drivers to hit the streets, the company says.

The app, Fare, says those 700 drivers have passed initial background checks based on their Social Security numbers and will ultimately be fingerprinted – a requirement that prompted Uber and Lyft to leave Austin earlier this month.

A city of Austin transportation department spokeswoman said the conditional operating authority could be issued as soon as Friday, with official operating authority being granted within the next one to two weeks.

“We have our finger on the trigger and we will go live the minute we get the word,” Fare CEO Michael Leto said Friday.

Fare expects to add at least 700 additional drivers – many of them former Uber and Lyft drivers who turned out at job fairs this week – to its fleet once their background checks are completed, Leto said.

“I really never thought the other guys would pull out,” Leto said. “We just want to get these drivers back on the streets making money again. We’ve been getting a lot of traction from a driver standpoint.”

Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin after voters said no to Proposition 1. The two companies spent more than $9 million on the campaign – a city record.

Since their departure, ride-hailing options in the city have been limited. The GetMe app offers a similar service, but has been overwhelmed by demand at times. Some have also complained that the company’s prices are higher than those charged by Uber and Lyft.

“We’re way more in line, pricing-wise, with Uber and Lyft, and much cheaper than GetMe,” Leto said. “GetMe’s prices are closer to what taxi cabs charge.”

The service promises to be more lucrative for drivers, as well, Leto said, because it pays drivers about 80 percent of each fare, compared to about 72 percent for Uber and Lyft. There are also various bonuses available that enable drivers to make even more money.

Fare, which is based in Phoenix, also allows riders to schedule trips in advance and to select their favorite drivers and deal with them directly.

“Austin is notorious for being a tech town,” Leto said. “We’re really excited to have the people of Austin embrace us.”

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