Uber, Lyft Leave Austin

 

Via the NYT:

On Monday, the two leaders of the booming ride-hailing industry halted service in Austin, Tex., after losing a legislative fight over how they screen their drivers. The decision to leave an energetic city known for its young, well-educated populationoffered a stark illustration of how strenuously the companies oppose new rules that would require them to perform fingerprint background checks on drivers. Ending the service also meant that about 10,000 drivers would be out of work, Taylor Patterson, an Uber spokeswoman, said. “Folks are devastated,” she said. “People are saying, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent.’”

More:

David Butts, a political consultant in Austin who helped lead a campaign to preserve the new ordinance, accused Uber and Lyft of putting corporate strategy above public safety.

“But we’re a progressive city,” Mr. Butts said. “We happen to believe that government has a role to play. And the idea that we’re just going to give them a blank check and say, ‘Self-regulate and we’ll take your word for it’ was not acceptable to the majority of voters in this city.”

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There are 37 comments.

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  1. Contributor

    A few thoughts:

    1. As much as I love Austin — I used to visit once a year — this does rather confirm my quip that it’s “in but not of Texas.”
    2. Good for Uber and Lyft. The people have made it clear that they do not want their services and now they’re leaving to where their custom is welcome.
    3. My heart goes out to the drivers. Almost without exception in my experience, Uber drivers are industrious and hard working. Shame on Austin for making it harder for good people to do useful work.
    • #1
    • May 10, 2016, at 6:36 AM PDT
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  2. Inactive

    Ricochet Editor's Desk: “But we’re a progressive city,” Mr. Butts said. “We happen to believe that government has a role to play. And the idea that we’re just going to give them a blank check and say, ‘Self-regulate and we’ll take your word for it’ was not acceptable to the majority of voters in this city.”

    Amazing. What he’s actually saying is: “We don’t trust those voters to make smart choices for themselves.”

    Apparently, the 56% of Austin voters who approved the ordinance agreed, and were perfectly fine with making this choice for the other 44%. Hope you like regulated cab services, Austin!

    • #2
    • May 10, 2016, at 6:38 AM PDT
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  3. Contributor

    zepplinmike:

    Apparently, the 56% of Austin voters who approved the ordinance agreed, and were perfectly fine with making this choice for the other 44%. Hope you like regulated cab services, Austin!

    To be fair, there are other ride shares available in Austin.

    • #3
    • May 10, 2016, at 6:40 AM PDT
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  4. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: As much as I love Austin — I used to visit once a year — this does rather confirm my quip that it’s “in but not of Texas.”

    That is why, when Texas achieves its independence, the Republic will build a wall around Austin, and charge admission for entry.

    The rest of Texas does not mind if Austin stays weird so long as they leave the rest of us in peace. The wall will make sure they do. The admission charge to what will amount to a massive open-air reality show theme park to weirdness should bring in enough revenue to run the Republic. (And yes, legislators will have to pay it. In the Republic of Texas, the legislative class will not be above the law.)

    Seawriter

    • #4
    • May 10, 2016, at 6:57 AM PDT
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  5. Member

    The way to protect public safety is to get rid of most government and all of Austin’s. Government writ large won’t stop. They cannot allow the digital economy in any form to escape control. This fight is important.

    • #5
    • May 10, 2016, at 7:15 AM PDT
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  6. Inactive

    I wonder if the wool cap hippy mafia will be chanting and beating tambourines outside city hall.

    Probably not since they can’t get a ride to the protest.

    Oh well.

    • #6
    • May 10, 2016, at 7:25 AM PDT
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  7. Contributor

    I’m registered as a Professional Engineer in Texas. A couple of years ago, I had to have a full criminal background check performed, including having my fingerprints recorded by the Douglas County Sheriff’s office and transmitted to the authorities in Texas in order to renew my license.

    It was an incredibly annoying waste of time, the point of which still evades me. Now, allow me to say: I think that Uber and Lyft aren’t targeting PEs as potential employees (er… independent contractors) and the nature of their work is far more personal than providing engineering consulting services, so ensuring that their drivers aren’t registered sex offenders is an entirely appropriate safety precaution… but it’s one that Uber and Lyft ought to be deeply concerned about. Deeply concerned enough to perform on their own without the prompting of the city of Weird – full disclosure: Austin is a client of ours.

    • #7
    • May 10, 2016, at 7:33 AM PDT
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  8. Member

    It will be interesting to see if DUIs go up in Austin. This decision could possibly be deadly.

    • #8
    • May 10, 2016, at 7:34 AM PDT
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  9. Inactive

    Majestyk:I’m registered as a Professional Engineer in Texas. A couple of years ago, I had to have a full criminal background check performed, including having my fingerprints recorded by the Douglas County Sheriff’s office and transmitted to the authorities in Texas in order to renew my license.

    This makes perfect sense. We don’t want any of wild professional engineers on the loose in Texas!

    It was an incredibly annoying waste of time, the point of which still evades me. Now, allow me to say: I think that Uber and Lyft aren’t targeting PEs as potential employees (er… independent contractors) and the nature of their work is far more personal than providing engineering consulting services, so ensuring that their drivers aren’t registered sex offenders is an entirely appropriate safety precaution… but it’s one that Uber and Lyft ought to be deeply concerned about. Deeply concerned enough to perform on their own without the prompting of the city of Weird – full disclosure: Austin is a client of ours.

    • #9
    • May 10, 2016, at 7:36 AM PDT
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  10. Member

    BrentB67:I wonder if the wool cap hippy mafia will be chanting and beating tambourines outside city hall.

    Probably not since they can’t get a ride to the protest.

    Oh well.

    They’ll bike.

    As a born-and-raised Austinite, this was sad to see. Uber and Lyft went overboard on the advertising, and it backfired on them. When the issue shifted to “wow look how much money these corporations are spending,” the battle was lost.

    This vote is gonna cost some people their lives, and a lot more didn’t have jobs as of yesterday. But hey, gotta protect taxi cab cartels stick it to the dreaded corporations.

    On a positive note, the Texas Legislature has a habit of overriding Austin government when they go too far off the reservation, and that might happen here too.

    • #10
    • May 10, 2016, at 7:37 AM PDT
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  11. Inactive

    BrentB67: This makes perfect sense. We don’t want any of wild professional engineers on the loose in Texas!

    I agree! Some of them write complex algorithims that look a lot like rantings of a jihadist. This threat to society presents an inconvenience to other passengers.

    • #11
    • May 10, 2016, at 7:50 AM PDT
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  12. Inactive

    How common is it for an Uber driver to assault a passenger?

    • #12
    • May 10, 2016, at 7:53 AM PDT
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  13. Member

    They purposely worded the ballot so it was like reading a Chinese phone book. The pro-Uber people had to put out commercials explaining what a “No” vote meant and what a “Yes” vote meant. They did the same thing with the ballot issue regarding sanctuary cities. It was worded in such a convoluted way that you thought you were voting to end them, but you were actually voting to perpetuate them. It’s truly a crime that they get away with this.

    • #13
    • May 10, 2016, at 8:16 AM PDT
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  14. Member

    billy:How common is it for an Uber driver to assault a passenger?

    All it takes is one for people to freak out about it.

    • #14
    • May 10, 2016, at 8:29 AM PDT
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  15. Member

    It’s hard for me to get worked up about this. As conservatives, we talk about states as laboratories of democracy, and the importance of localism. If Austin’s government thinks background checks are important to the safety of riders, there are companies (e.g. GetMe) that will accommodate them. Maybe it’s an unwise decision. If Uber and Lyft really deliver a better service than the competition, they’ll be continue to prevail against competition in other cities. The local regulation doesn’t strike me as crazy on its face, even if it is not one that I would seek in my town.

    • #15
    • May 10, 2016, at 8:34 AM PDT
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  16. Member

    bagodonuts:It’s hard for me to get worked up about this. As conservatives, we talk about states as laboratories of democracy, and the importance of localism. If Austin’s government thinks background checks are important to the safety of riders, there are companies (e.g. GetMe) that will accommodate them. Maybe it’s an unwise decision. If Uber and Lyft really deliver a better service than the competition, they’ll be continue to prevail against competition in other cities. The local regulation doesn’t strike me as crazy on its face, even if it is not one that I would seek in my town.

    But purposely swaying the vote to go their way by wording the ballot so people read it the opposite of its true intent is smarmy.

    • #16
    • May 10, 2016, at 8:38 AM PDT
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  17. Member

    My family still lives in Austin, and I was visiting a few weeks ago. My crazy older sister, the Sanders supporter, still lives at home with my parents. She knew nothing about Uber or Lyft, their business model, the context of the conflict, or the actual wording or intent of the ballot question. But, man, was she angry about the ads Uber was putting on–several times a night during prime time. So, this is dead on:

    “Uber and Lyft went overboard on the advertising, and it backfired on them. When the issue shifted to “wow look how much money these corporations are spending,” the battle was lost.”

    As for Austin being progressive: it used to want to be libertarian. But the progressives got there first.

    • #17
    • May 10, 2016, at 8:52 AM PDT
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  18. Member

    RightAngles:

    bagodonuts:It’s hard for me to get worked up about this. As conservatives, we talk about states as laboratories of democracy, and the importance of localism. If Austin’s government thinks background checks are important to the safety of riders, there are companies (e.g. GetMe) that will accommodate them. Maybe it’s an unwise decision. If Uber and Lyft really deliver a better service than the competition, they’ll be continue to prevail against competition in other cities. The local regulation doesn’t strike me as crazy on its face, even if it is not one that I would seek in my town.

    But purposely swaying the vote to go their way by wording the ballot so people read it the opposite of its true intent is smarmy.

    Well, instead of overriding the direct ordinance vote, this is the place for the Texas Legislature to act- implement a statewide law regarding ballot measures that requires them to be worded so that even Democrat low-information voters can explain the measure and what the impacts would be of voting for or against. Then make it easy for people to ask for re-consideration of measures that were voted on in the 2 years prior to the “plain language” law going into effect.

    • #18
    • May 10, 2016, at 8:54 AM PDT
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  19. Member

    And now, a comment from the center-right. Providing a set of fingerprints is not hard or very expensive. I have done it for professional licenses and found it to be a minor inconvenience. But is it more effective than the alternative on-line methods? Just requiring fingerprints may keep some dirt bags from even trying to become a driver, but how do we know? Are we better safe than sorry, or should the burden be on the proponents of the regulations? For all the information elite New York Times reporter Mike McPhate provided, Austin’s new regulation could be a reasonable, modest burden that increases public safety or a hack job ultimately motivated by campaign contributions from competitors and left-wing prejudice against corporations. If only there were a national, politically neutral news organization with curious, professional reporters to look into this.

    • #19
    • May 10, 2016, at 8:55 AM PDT
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  20. Contributor

    billy:How common is it for an Uber driver to assault a passenger?

    It’s rare, but it does happen.

    However, what makes it interesting is that Uber and Lyft geotag, datestamp, and log every single ride. In the event there’s an incident, all the parties true identities are known, as are all the specifics about where the incident took place.

    Assaulting someone while driving them in an Uber is like using Four Square to check-in to a house you’re burglarizing.

    • #20
    • May 10, 2016, at 9:04 AM PDT
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  21. Inactive

    Hey, I loathe Austin and its culture, but I’m with the Tofu crowd on this one. I’ve been suspicious of the whole “sharing economy” concept from day one. If regular cab drivers have to pass the check, Uber drivers shouldn’t be exempt just because most of them are part time.

    • #21
    • May 10, 2016, at 9:27 AM PDT
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  22. Inactive

    bagodonuts: If Uber and Lyft really deliver a better service than the competition, they’ll be continue to prevail against competition in other cities. The local regulation doesn’t strike me as crazy on its face, even if it is not one that I would seek in my town.

    Uber already operates with fingerprint background checks in some areas (New York City, for one). This wasn’t a principled stand. This was Uber picking a city to play chicken with, so they could make an example out that market as a warning to others. They’d never pull out of NYC, for instance.

    • #22
    • May 10, 2016, at 9:32 AM PDT
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  23. Member

    What a wonderful, shining example of our system at it’s best! The voters made their choice and the business owners made theirs. I think it’s called freedom!

    This is how it should work….at the state and local level – not some bureaucrat in Washington “re-interpreting” regulations based on decades-old legislation (which is happening at a frightening pace right now with our “lame duck” administration!).

    We all make our choices – that’s what makes freedom so great. Most of us grown-ups realize we have to live with the consequences of our choices – even the unintended variety. It’s time the government realized that, too.

    • #23
    • May 10, 2016, at 10:17 AM PDT
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  24. Member

    OK, I’ll quote her if no one else will:

    “Brother, you asked for it!”

    If Uber and Lyft manage to hold out against pressure, this will be a learning experience for Austin. The next steps, otherwise, would be a rising set of demands for “safety:” special equipment, signage, fees, mandatory trainings, disclosures, surveys, special preference for targeted groups, impact statements, offsets…

    you know—Good Government.

    See also: https://ricochet.com/tennessee-criminalizing-shampooing/

    • #24
    • May 10, 2016, at 10:19 AM PDT
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  25. Member

    Seawriter: That is why, when Texas achieves its independence, the Republic will build a wall around Austin, and charge admission for entry.

    The inverse of Hong Kong vis-a-vis China.

    • #25
    • May 10, 2016, at 10:41 AM PDT
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  26. Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    billy:How common is it for an Uber driver to assault a passenger?

    It’s rare, but it does happen.

    However, what makes it interesting is that Uber and Lyft geotag, datestamp, and log every single ride. In the event there’s an incident, all the parties true identities are known, as are all the specifics about where the incident took place.

    Assaulting someone while driving them in an Uber is like using Four Square to check-in to a house you’re burglarizing.

    I meant the question sarcastically.

    This Uber paranoia reminds me of the hysteria over vaping.

    • #26
    • May 10, 2016, at 10:44 AM PDT
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  27. Member

    So I gotta ask, having never used Uber. What’s the problem with Uber knowing and checking the folks who drive in their name? I would think they would jump at this voluntarily. The fact that Austin requires it by law indemnifies Uber from being sued by the drivers for Uber requesting it. As a user of ride share, wouldn’t you feel more comfortable knowing your driver isn’t yet on some sinister registry? Wouldn’t the certified safety of one company’s driver over another’s be a sales advantage? Why would Uber pull out of a lucrative market because of this. Sorry, i am not getting it yet.

    • #27
    • May 10, 2016, at 12:15 PM PDT
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  28. Member

    cdor:So I gotta ask, having never used Uber. What’s the problem with Uber knowing and checking the folks who drive in their name? I would think they would jump at this voluntarily. The fact that Austin requires it by law indemnifies Uber from being sued by the drivers for Uber requesting it. As a user of ride share, wouldn’t you feel more comfortable knowing your driver isn’t yet on some sinister registry? Wouldn’t the certified safety of one company’s driver over another’s be a sales advantage? Why would Uber pull out of a lucrative market because of this. Sorry, i am not getting it yet.

    Uber and Lyft already do background checks. They just don’t want to do fingerprint checks through the city

    • #28
    • May 10, 2016, at 1:23 PM PDT
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  29. Coolidge

    Seawriter: That is why, when Texas achieves its independence, the Republic will build a wall around Austin, and charge admission for entry.

    No, no. Admission is free, but getting out will cost you.

    I read elsewhere that only some 12% of the city voted on the provision. It wasn’t so much that “the people have spoken”, but that 7% of them spoke and most of the rest couldn’t be bothered to disagree.

    • #29
    • May 10, 2016, at 2:15 PM PDT
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  30. Member

    Funny how the New York Times and Washington Post don’t have quotes about the number of jobs that could be provided when they decide to focus their attention on, oh, say, Chick-fil-a and Walmart.

    • #30
    • May 10, 2016, at 2:17 PM PDT
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