Ridesharing companies fighting tighter regulations in Austin

Wednesday, Uber, Lyft, taxis and the Austin Transportation Department battled it out at City Hall and the fight over proposed regulations for transportation network companies is far from over.

It seems like neither side is happy with the proposed regulations. Uber and Lyft are asking not to have their drivers held to the same regulations as taxi drivers.  While taxi drivers are asking that those companies be regulated even more than is being proposed.

For 10 months ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft have been operating legally in Austin. 

 
"More than 10,000 Uber driver partners have earned $27 million over the last year alone," said Uber Technologies spokesperson Brooke Anderson.  
 
The previous City Council allowed those companies to operate on a temporary basis and largely unregulated, but that could be about to change. 
 
The Austin Transportation Department has proposed charging Uber and Lyft a rider tax of $1  per ride as well as requiring a state background check and Texas auto insurance. 
 
The Taxi Driver Association in Austin said they agree with all three of those ideas. 
 
"We would prefer if they have a state background check like the drivers of taxis have to go through and provide that information to the Transportation Department," said Dave Passmore, president of the Taxi Drivers Association in Austin.  
 
"That hurts drivers. It hurts riders. It makes it a less accessible product. And it also hurts our ability to invest in this city, which is competing with the world in innovation and technology," Anderson disagreed. 
 
Taxi drivers actually want Uber and Lyft to face even stricter regulations than the Transportation Department is proposing, like limiting the number of Uber and Lyft cars allowed on city streets during peak traffic hours. 
 
"So, if you have an unlimited amount of vehicles on the street, and keep adding to that unlimited amount, what does that do to the Austinites who have to live in Austin and the drivers that take the customers? How easy has it become to get around the city?" Passmore asked.  
 
Taxi drivers said they can't survive forever in a city that unfairly benefits ridesharing companies.
 
"We are taxi drivers. Low-income workers. The majority of taxi drivers are immigrants that are doing this job. You hear how good Uber is and they provide a service, 51% of Uber drivers are part-time employees. What are the contributions to the economy with part-time workers?" said Passmore.  
 
"There's no one-size-fits-all approach to regulate industries in the same way and you don't want to throw away all the progress we're making and undo a good thing to take the city backwards in order to apply the same kind of regulations, broadly, to a variety of industries. I just don't think that makes any sense," said Anderson. 
 
The Mobility Committee will discuss the topic again at their next meeting in October. 
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