Vehicle signage, data reporting for ride sharing companies discussed at City Hall

As is usually the case when ride sharing is on the hot seat at City Hall, the council chambers were packed on Monday.

Uber supporters in blue, Lyft supporters in pink.  

On Monday the Mobility Committee discussed more Transportation Network Company regulations to be included in the final ordinance.

One of those changes: trade dress. Meaning Uber and Lyft drivers would have to put signage on the vehicle.  Something Kitchen says could have helped when a sexual assault took place recently after someone got into a car thinking it was an Uber but it wasn't.

"The signage would have helped her know not to get in the car. I mean it's pretty hard to identify the person as being the right person before you get in the car and once you get in the car, it's too late," Kitchen said.

"I don't understand the mentality for making a part time rideshare driver wear trade dress like a cab driver would.  It just seems like trying to shoe-horn Taxi regulations onto rideshare and they just don't fit," said Council Member Don Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says even though his constituents are asking for tougher rules on "Short Term Rentals," that's not the case with TNC's.

"Nobody wants this, I don't understand the push to drive this through," Zimmerman said.

Another proposed change: reporting more data to the city.

Zimmerman wondered why Austin doesn't do the same for pizza delivery drivers.

"I wonder if we ask to collect the data for TNC's why not demand to collect the data from all companies that do delivery as a business," Zimmerman said on the dais to applause from the audience.

"I don't see how we can compare this to pizza delivery when we're talking about comparing a pizza to a person which is our most precious commodity in this city, it's 2 different things," said Council Member Delia Garza in response.

Other changes addressed at the meeting: rules on loading and unloading passengers, tougher safety inspections and cooperating with the city during special events.

Uber driver Alan Miller drives because he recently lost his job after 23 years.  He's hoping Uber and Lyft don't have to leave the city.

"I'll go back to square one," he said. "I wish that the city council would understand the plight of the company and its drivers."

In statement to FOX 7, Chelsea Wilson with Lyft said

Instead of a thorough public discussion about the right rules for ridesharing, the committee rammed through six major policy decisions in less than 20 minutes. Thousands of people in Austin rely on Lyft as an economic opportunity, and tens of thousands more use TNC's to get a safe ride home.  We urge the full council to listen to their constituents, and have a thoughtful, open discussion about the impact these regulations will have on this industry.

Council Member Ann Kitchen says the next step is to take the language of all of these items -- what was discussed Monday -- as well as the fingerprinting -- back to the full council for a vote on December 17th.
  
As has been mentioned before, fingerprinting is a major point of contention for Uber and Lyft. The two companies continue to remind people they don't operate in any cities with rules such as those in place.

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