How Austin residents are getting around in a post-Uber world


After a car wreck last year put Akhila Sivakumar in the hospital for more than a month and left her with burns and bruises across her body, she was hesitant to drive again. So when the 22-year-old began to look for jobs from College Station, she looked in cities where Uber and Lyft were popular.

“I specifically chose Austin because with the ride sharing … I figured it would be easy to get around without a car,” she said.

It was. Until last week.

Sivakumar was one of many regular customers of ride-hailing apps who have recently turned to Craigslist or Facebook groups to find former Lyft and Uber drivers. The companies left town abruptly after a May 7 election upheld new city requirements for fingerprint-based background checks for drivers with the ride-hailing apps. Uber and Lyft had sought passage of Proposition 1 to overturn the rules.

Officer Destiny Winston, an Austin police spokeswoman, said residents should do background research when answering any online ad. In particular, she said, getting into a car with a stranger is a risk. And such transactions could be illegal for the drivers: The city has sent warning emails telling drivers offering their services online that they could face a $500 fine if they don’t have the proper permits.

Sara LeVine, executive director of ATX Safer Streets, which campaigned in favor of Proposition 1, said this rider-driver free-for-all shows the City Council’s rules have backfired.

“Before, you knew who your driver was; you could track your route. Now it’s straight-up gypsy cabs,” she said. “If the city’s whole mission with fingerprinting was to make us safer, how have their actions made it safer?”

Needing rides now

The city is offering events this week to help drivers sign up with other transportation services, and the council will consider a resolution Thursday directing staffers to help other companies fill the void left by the two ride-hailing giants. But those efforts will take time, and people like Sivakumar are looking for rides now.

Sivakumar placed a Craigslist post online offering to pay $20 each way for someone to take her 15 miles to and from work every day. She received responses from what she called Craigslist “creepers,” and from out-of-work drivers. She reached an agreement with one, only to have him cancel after he received the warning email from the city.

Sivakumar doesn’t know what to do now.

Zuli Hinojosa, 23, relied on Lyft for all of her transportation, including getting to classes at the University of Texas every day. She was left without a good way to go grocery shopping, had to cancel weekend plans and was facing a 1½-hour bus ride for a hair appointment.

She’s saddened by the flood of responses she’s gotten from drivers to her Craigslist post, begging her to give their phone numbers to friends. Because she feels less safe finding drivers that way, she picked the only woman to respond.

Left stranded

Scores of Austin residents took to social media during the weekend and Monday to complain about difficulties getting a ride with smaller services or cabbies. Some reported searching for an hour or more for a car after public transportation stopped running.

A couple of people said they had been denied rides by cabbies who didn’t want to take them a short distance. The city has not received any formal complaints this week.

A nonscientific survey of 2,090 American-Statesman readers Monday found that 63 percent said they didn’t go out last weekend because of difficulty finding a ride.

One resident who’s staying home more is Boone Blocker, who used Uber regularly. Blocker, an advocate for people with disabilities and a transportation activist who campaigned in favor of Proposition 1, could get rides in his wheelchair via a special service for people with physical disabilities.

Blocker still gets to work via bus, as he always did. But it’s more difficult for him to go out at night or in bad weather, so he passed on a concert and evening activities with friends last week.

“It’s been a little bit isolating,” he said.

Hits and misses

Some have had success with online postings.

Barry Barksdale said he and his wife began using Lyft when they would go out to dinner after lecturing their four adult children never to drink and drive. After the election, he posted a Craigslist ad asking for a driver who could show an Uber/Lyft background check to work a couple of nights per week.

He received nearly 100 responses, Barksdale said. He found a driver in his own neighborhood and has been happy with her, he said. His son, who used Uber and Lyft daily to commute to college, joined a car-sharing service.

Abie Ikhinmwin, 27, sold his car last year to save money for law school. He took Uber and Lyft daily to get from Allandale to two jobs in Central and Southwest Austin.

Last week, he said, was “an absolute nightmare.” He failed to get rides from Yellow Cab and the smaller ride-sharing firm GetMe. He was an hour and a half late to one job. He had to beg for rides from co-workers. He started using Uber and Lyft in the first place because there were no other good transportation options, he said.

Now, he’s giving Craigslist a try.

“It’s basically come down to being the app myself,” he said. “I know there are people out there who need money and are willing to drive me places. It’s just a matter of finding them.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

COMMUNITY NEWS: A&M extension holds food preservation workshop

TRAVIS COUNTY LAKEWAY Sing Along to present vaudeville theater Lakeway Sing Along will present its 18th annual spring show, “Vaudeville & Beyond,” at 6 p.m. April 26-28 at the Lakeway Activity Center, 105 Cross Creek. The shows will include dinner with music by the Lohman’s Crossing Band. Tickets are $30 and available at the activity...
Federal money to connect Texas schools to fiber at risk, officials say
Federal money to connect Texas schools to fiber at risk, officials say

Delays and denials by the federal government are putting Texas schools at risk of losing millions of dollars in potential subsidies that would help pay for installing high-speed fiber internet in classrooms, according to state officials. Last year, state lawmakers approved $25 million to help school districts over the 2018-19 budget period replace...
In gentrifying East Austin, are dogs replacing children?
In gentrifying East Austin, are dogs replacing children?

Olga Hernandez sat on the porch of her East Eighth Street house on a warm April afternoon, offering a few minutes to the latest reporter to come through asking about gentrification in her quickly changing neighborhood. Between pointing out rental units, she called hello to a young man and woman walking dogs down the sidewalk. Hernandez, 67, recently...
Opinion: Playboy comes to D.C.

Playboy Enterprises just announced that it has purchased a table at this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner. Swell. Just what we need. The dinner, as you’ve probably heard, is an annual ritual of narcissism in which leading press figures don black tie and hope to see, or better yet, be seen with, Hollywood stars. Like...
California murder suspect arrested after SWAT standoff in Pflugerville
California murder suspect arrested after SWAT standoff in Pflugerville

A California man suspected of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend earlier this week was arrested in Pflugerville on Saturday after an hourslong standoff with SWAT officers. Kevin Darnell Dickson, 55, was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force and Austin police at about 1 p.m. Saturday. He had been barricaded inside a home...
More Stories