Uber

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

From the Texas Tribune: The Texas Supreme Court has been pulled into the ongoing battle between Uber and the City of Austin.

An Austin resident, supported by Uber*, has asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on the ballot language for a new measure regulating vehicle-for-hire companies within the city, scheduled to come before voters on May 7.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

The Austin City Clerk’s office has confirmed they have received a petition to recall the election of Council member Ann Kitchen. The petition was submitted by a local political action committee calling itself Austin4All

The City Clerk must now certify these signatures within 20 days. Once the signatures are certified, the Council member has five days to resign. If she does not, the recall will go to voters, most likely in November.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

Everything’s in place for a May 7 vote on rules governing ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. But which set of rules will drivers be living under until then? It gets a little complicated.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. /KUT News

Austin voters will decide on a petition-driven ordinance drawn up by ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft. 

The Austin City Council rejected the ordinance on an 8-2 vote (Council Member Don Zimmerman abstained), which means the ordinance will go to a public referendum on May 7.

The election will cost the city an estimated $500,000 to $800,000.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT

Given that it’s in a government building, the painting that hangs outside Mayor Steve Adler’s office is a bizarre choice. It’s a portrait of a cat – its head crowned in what looks like a steel headdress, with an ornate keyhole at its center. Behind the cat’s head, canoes full of sushi float atop a body of water. Chopsticks stand in for paddles. If nothing else is clear – and little is – the cat wields enormous power over these pieces of sushi. The canoes carrying them appear to be rowing toward it in an act of obedience.


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.


MIguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

The Austin City Council today passed a plan to further regulate ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.

The language in the ordinance is not entirely clear – but it calls for the “preferred ability” of drivers who do get fingerprinted to pick up and drop off passengers in the downtown entertainment district and around major events such as South by Southwest. Drivers who don’t get fingerprinted would pay higher fees and be barred from some wait areas. They may also be restricted from operating during certain hours.

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.

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.

KUT News

The ride-hailing operator Uber offered a case study on what it means to ride and drive using their app here in Austin. The information comes amid City Council discussion of the disclosure requirements for companies like Uber.


KUT News

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.

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].”

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