It’s been over a year since the ride-on-demand companies Uber and Lyft began operating in Austin. But it hasn’t yet been a full year yet since the companies were legally allowed to operate in Austin by the city under a pilot program. Extending that agreement could make for a bumpy road now that Uber has filed suit against the City of Austin and Texas Attorney General.
The company is trying to block the release of quarterly reports it files with the city under the pilot program.
The reports show where all riders are being picked up and dropped off, how much trips cost, how long trips are, and when they're seeing the most demand. Uber argues the release of the information would constitute revealing trade secrets and competitors would benefit from the release of quarterly reports, going as far as saying they "would be a gold mine for them" in an affidavit.
KUT asked to see the quarterly reports under the state’s open records law, and Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled they should be released. Then Uber, under their wholly-owned subsidiary Rasier LLC sued the attorney general and city to block them from release.
“The City of Austin is aware of the lawsuit. The city was named in the lawsuit because it maintains information that Rasier LLC believes is proprietary,” says Bryce Bencivengo of the City of Austin. “We intend to comply with any orders or rulings in this lawsuit.”
Against the backdrop of the lawsuit, Uber and Lyft are also facing requests from the city's transportation department for more transparency and accountability. As part of the review of their pilot agreement, the city wants to have Uber and Lyft drivers display signs in their cars when they’re working, have drivers register with the city and perform safety inspections on vehicles. These requirements have been agreed to by the companies in several other cities.
The city council’s mobility committee will have a hearing on the agreement in early September. Meanwhile, Uber’s lawsuit against the city and Attorney General is making its way through Travis County District Court.
Uber did not respond to requests to comment, but we will update this story if they do.
Below you can view the affidavit signed by Uber's Marco McCottry.