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

Feb 5, 2016

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.

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.

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.

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.