Lyft

Mike Blizzard via Twitter

When you Google image search Rachel Kania and Tori Moreland, you'll find each of them in similarly staged photos, each wearing a collared shirt and pearls, each standing in front of what looks to be a tall wooden fence – as if they're keeping someone out, but in a friendly way, like a genial neighbor would.

Lyft via youtube

From the Austin Monitor: Mayor Steve Adler on Sunday revealed that he has been working with a representative of Lyft, one of the transportation network companies that has been backing an initiative on the May 7 ballot to prevent the city from enforcing mandatory fingerprinting for TNC drivers. Adler said he has been discussing with attorney Michael Whellan, who represents Lyft, the idea of entering into a Memorandum of Understanding with the TNCs.

Photo Illustration: Todd Wiseman/TexasTribune

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.

Mike Blizzard via Twitter

The Austin Monitor reports: While the city clerk still has not received a promised petition seeking the recall of Council Member Ann Kitchen, the Texas Ethics Commission has received four complaints filed against the group behind the alleged effort.

Austin attorney Fred Lewis filed the four complaints on Friday morning. They name Austin4All PAC, Rachel Kania, Tori Moreland, and Joe Basel as respective respondents.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

The Austin City Council continued discussing regulations for ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber at its work session Tuesday, in response to a petition that was validated Monday by the city clerk's office. 


Mike Blizzard via Twitter

After news that a Political Action Committee had gathered enough signatures to recall an Austin City Council member, neighbors and fellow council members came out Monday to show their support.

“My experience with the Council member is that she is so hard-working and diligent and cares so much about this community,” District 4’s Greg Casar said of Kitchen.


Mike Blizzard via Twitter

Austin is riddled with petition fever, or so it seems lately. Last week, local group Ridesharing Works for Austin – a political action committee funded by Uber and Lyft – handed 23,000 petition signatures over to the Office of the City Clerk, making it highly likely that its ordinance will go in front of City Council, if not in front of the public for a city-wide vote.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT News.

This story was produced as part of a reporting partnership between KUT and the Austin Monitor

Without much pomp save for the “Shine On” T-shirt she wears, Monique Mitchell stands with fellow Lyft driver Mo Ratel at the edge of Austin’s Zilker Park, scanning the field below. It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon; dogs and their owners dot the grass. Mitchell and Ratel each grip a pen and a clipboard brimming with blank petitions.

Shelby Knowles/Texas Tribune

From KUT's city reporting partner the Austin Monitor: Ridesharing Works for Austin has collected 65,103 signatures on a petition to change a city ordinance requiring that drivers be fingerprinted – which could force either a new City Council vote or a city-wide election.

The political action committee opposes rules that Council adopted in December that would require drivers of transportation network companies like Uber, Lyft and Get Me to submit their fingerprints for a background check. Council created a framework for a program that would encourage compliance through incentives and disincentives, which are set to be defined in a Jan. 28 meeting.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Austin Mayor Steve Adler plans to propose a new set of incentives to resolve the standoff over fingerprinting drivers for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

The president of General Motors now says plans with Lyft to bring a fleet of self-driving cars to Austin were only hypothetical. But, what kind of regulations do self-driving cars face in Texas?

Lyft via youtube

Update 11:37 a.m. A General Motors spokesperson says that actually, this news is not confirmed; President Dan Ammann was just using Austin as an example.

“At this time, we do not have an active agreement with Austin. We are not pursuing an agreement with Austin. We do not have a forthcoming autonomous vehicle test in Austin. Dan was just using it as a hypothetical example," says Annalisa Bluhm, GM Spokesperson.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Supporters of Uber and Lyft are planning to collect at least 20,000 signatures to force the Austin City Council to back off new regulations it adopted for ride-hailing apps or put the issue to a public vote.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

From the Austin Monitor: The battle over fingerprint background checks for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft has taken a turn that may ultimately result in the two companies pausing operations in Austin.

City Council passed an ordinance on all three readings that “sets benchmarks that work towards a goal of fingerprinting for all drivers and disincentives for not reaching those goals,” according to Council Member Ann Kitchen, who led the charge on the new rules. The measure passed on a 9-2 vote, with Council members Ellen Troxclair and Don Zimmerman casting the dissenting votes.


KUT News

UPDATE Friday 1:15 a.m. – The Austin City Council moved forward on new regulations for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft last night.

On a 9-2 vote, the Council passed a framework that, among other things, would require fingerprint-based background checks for drivers. The expanded background check requirement would be phased in over the next year. But some key details remain to be worked out, including what the penalties will be for failing to comply with the law.

Lyft via youtube

Molly is a 26-year-old who lives in Austin. She was laid off from her job in April of this year and given a severance package, but wanted something to do while she looked for a new job. So, she signed up to drive for both transportation network companies in Austin: Uber and Lyft.


Texas Tribune

This year, Austin Police have gotten at least seven reports of sexual assaults by drivers for transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber or Lyft.

That’s one reason some members of the Austin City Council are pushing for tougher regulations for these companies – including requiring drivers to have fingerprint background checks. Right now, the companies conduct background checks that aren’t verified by fingerprints.

Alfredo Mendez [CC BY-SA 4.0]/flickr

From the Austin Monitor: In the midst of a heated debate about requirements for fingerprint background checks and fees for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft, the City Council Mobility Committee has tossed a slew of additional proposals into the pot.

YouTube/Uber

Austin City Council members are considering regulations for ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft. If passed, the City would collect fees from these companies, and also impose fingerprint-based background checks on drivers. On Thursday, Uber launched a campaign against the Council member who initiated these regulations.


KUT News

Austin City Council members are one step closer to requiring fingerprint-based background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers in the city. But the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Austin Urban League have sent a letter to City Council alleging that these kinds of background checks discriminate against minorities.


KUT News

The Austin City Council today will tackle rules on transportation network companies, short-term rentals and so-called accessory dwelling units.

These decisions have been a long time coming, because, at least in the case of short-term rental rules, postponements have been rampant.


Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Increased operational fees for the ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft are heading to the Austin City Council.

The measures were approved by the council’s Mobility Committee yesterday, along with new fingerprint background checks – to the objection of the companies.


Shelby Knowles/Texas Tribune

As cities worldwide struggle to balance the fast growth of vehicle-for-hire apps with traditional taxi services, three Texas cities are providing an unexpected test of where the regulatory breaking point lies for Uber and Lyft. 

Houston, San Antonio and Austin currently take different approaches to a key regulatory issue: whether vehicle-for-hire app drivers must undergo fingerprint background checks.

Flickr/ Eirik Johan Skeie (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Sarah Millender wasn’t too concerned about her safety when she signed up as a driver four months ago. Today, she spends around 50 hours a week in her car, working full time for both Uber and Lyft. As she begins her Saturday night shift, she picks up a couple headed to dinner. They make small talk, and eventually ask Millender what it’s like being a female driver.

As she begins to tell the couple about her less-than-positive encounters, she mentions that she “didn’t realize how much the comments would get to [her].”

Photo Illustration: Todd Wiseman/TexasTribune

This year, the city allowed hundreds of thousands of new car trips when it legalized the ride service companies Lyft and Uber.

But, while these companies may be filling in a gap in transportation options, are they making traffic better or worse in Austin? And does the demand for ride services mean higher prices here than elsewhere in the country? 

Raido Kalma/flickr

It's been almost a year since new ride services like Lyft and Uber have been up and running in Austin. At first Lyft and Uber were operating illegally, but under a temporary ordinance approved by City Council in October, those companies are now legal in town. Hailing a Lyft or Uber as a passenger has never been easier in Austin. But some of the information these companies are providing to the city as part of their interim agreement is proving harder to flag down. 

Lyft and Uber collect information on where all riders are being picked up and dropped, how much trips cost, how long trips are, and when they're seeing peak demand. They provide that data (stripped of user identification) to the city on a quarterly basis, "in order to help the City evaluate the role of TNCs [Transportation Network Companies] to address transportation issues, such as drunk driving and underserved community needs," according to the interim ordinance.

But the city is fighting on Uber and Lyft's behalf after KUT submitted an open records request to obtain the quarterly reports.

Daniel X O'Neill/Flickr

Just before the SXSW onslaught, Lyft has agreed to a deal making it the first ridesharing service allowed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Wikimedia Commons

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft can now legally operate in Austin.

The Austin City Council passed an ordinance Thursday establishing rules for the so-called transportation network companies (TNCs), and the city will negotiate contracts with the companies to address major issues that arose during the debate on Council Member Chris Riley's ordinance, including insurance for drivers, surge pricing and increasing TNC service to Austin's disabled community.

Wikimedia Commons user Bull-Doser

The Austin City Council voted Thursday evening to move forward with plans to allow temporarily ridesharing services to operate legally in the city. But with many details still to be worked out, ordinance sponsor Chris Riley moved to vote to approve only on second reading.

"Given the concerns we've heard from both of the companies in the room and the uncertainty as to whether this will work at all, then I'm inclined to suggest that we just pass this on second reading and give this further consideration, because I don't think we want to give something final approval on an emergency basis only to find that it just doesn't work," Riley said just before the vote.

Among the issues discussed Thursday afternoon: insurance, access for people with disabilities, equity for taxicab operators, limits on the number of consecutive hours drivers could be on the roads, limits on surge pricing at times of emergency, driver background checks -- what about taxes?

The measure passed on second reading, with only Council Member Laura Morrison voting no. The Council will revisit the matter at their next meeting on October 16.

flickr.com/photos/raidokaldma

As of right now, ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft aren’t exactly legal.

They operate, sure, but the services' drivers face fines of up to $1,500 if they're caught driving-while-ride-sharing. While some tout the apps as a convenient alternative to cabs, many, including the City of Austin, argue the drivers don’t face the same regulatory and safety standards as their cabbie counterparts.

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