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4 Arguments That Sum Up Austin's Uber and Lyft Debate

Uber-Lyft-Hybrid.jpg
Photo Illustration: Todd Wiseman/TexasTribune
The Austin City Council heard public input last night on the regulation of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft ahead of next week's vote on regulations.

It appears more likely voters will decide the future of regulations for ride-hailing companies in Austin.

Next week the Austin City Council will decide whether to adopt rules written by Uber and Lyft, or put them to a public vote. A petition by Ridesharing Works for Austin calling for those rules was certified Tuesday by the city clerk. The rules do not include fingerprint background checks for drivers – as some council members would like to see.

The council heard public input on the matter Thursday night in a very short meeting – by council standards, at least – and some of the comments summed up the very nature of this oft-discussed, long-delayed debate.

Argument #1: Corporations shouldn't write Austin's regulation.

David King called the Ridesharing Works petition effort a “bully ordinance” and said council should let voters decide the outcome. King cautioned the council against accepting industry-supported regulation, citing the city's debacles with short-term rentals after collaboration with HomeAway and Airbnb.

Argument #2: Council should adopt the petition. It's what 65,103 Austinites want.

4 Arguments That Sum Up Austin's Uber and Lyft Debate
Debbie McDermott speaking before the Austin City Council on February 4, 2016.

Debbie McDermott – a non-profit worker who uses Uber and Lyft to earn extra cash – said that the petition allowed Austin voters to make their case and that the council should respect the will of Austinites.

Argument #3: Council Member Ann Kitchen Should Be Recalled.

4 Arguments That Sum Up Austin's Uber and Lyft Debate
Doris Smith speaking before the Austin City Council on February 4, 2016.

Doris Smith uses ride-hailing apps to get to “late evening” doctor and hospital visits, and she says the services offer a cheaper, easier way to get home when she doesn’t have money for a cab. She says she feels bullied by the city council, particularly Council Member Ann Kitchen, and that voters aren’t the “medieval serfs” of the council.

Argument #4: Ride-hailing apps serve the same purpose as cabs and limos. They should be regulated as such.

4 Arguments That Sum Up Austin's Uber and Lyft Debate
Billy Carter speaking before the Austin City Council on February 4, 2016.

Billy Carter likened the struggles of rectifying separate regulations between ride-hailing companies and traditional car services to the struggles of Blockbuster versus Netflix, ultimately suggesting that the argument over regulation is an “apples-to-apples” comparison. Carter said that all for-hire transportation companies should have a level playing field, to which Mayor Steve Adler responded “Where should we level to?”

If you want to watch the entire public input, check out the video from ATXN below: 

An election, which would be held on May 7, would cost the city an estimated $500,000 to $800,000. The council will rule on the matter at their meeting next Thursday.

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