Fingerprinting requirements for 'rideshare' drivers up in the air after passing of ordinance

It was the night ridesharing companies (and taxi cab companies) had been waiting for -- essentially a City Hall battle over fingerprint background checks for Transportation Network Company drivers.
Uber and Lyft have said they would leave the city if they became a requirement.
But they haven't left yet and fingerprinting hasn't become mandatory...yet.

"There's nothing in here that says...TNC's need to comply with fingerprinting or they can't operate in the city.  So does that mean that it's optional?  Does that means it's mandatory?  I'd say that it's incomplete," Adler said.

Just hours before Thursday's council meeting, the Mayor and other council members laid out a new framework that sets benchmarks for achieving fingerprinting for drivers -- offering incentives and disincentives to drivers for getting that done.  Mayor Adler explained what those might look like in a reporter round table discussion on Friday.

"We talked about things such as geo-fencing events so that drivers that do fingerprinting get to pull up to the front door and those they don't...can't," Adler said.

Adler says the incentives and disincentives will be fleshed out at the end of January before the ordinance goes into effect February 1st.  But Adler says it's possible they will end up making fingerprinting an absolute requirement instead.

"I think it's real significant and important to note that the ordinance that had been before us did give authority to the city to revoke a permit and what we voted on yesterday removed that," he said.

Dave Passmore with the Taxi Drivers Association of Austin commended council for their work saying in part "We are not against competition or any particular business model, but we want the competition to take place under one set of rules."

Lyft's Chelsea Wilson also sent us a statement saying "Lyft will operate in Austin until mandatory fingerprint requirements force us to leave.  In the meantime, we will remain at the table in an effort to create a workable ordinance and preserve the benefits ridesharing brings to visitors and residents.  We do not operate in cities that require mandatory fingerprint background checks."

Police Chief Art Acevedo spoke before council late Thursday night drawing applause from the ridesharing crowd.

"Fingerprinting obviously, it provides another layer.  You have bio metrics.  But I think it's a misnomer to say without fingerprints there isn't a background.  Both of them have their pros and cons, I think they're both good.  Having both would be great but I think the worst thing that could happen would be to lose 10,000 options for our citizens at 2:00 in the morning," Acevedo told council.

Statement from Uber: 

It is surprising and disappointing to see the Council pass a new ridesharing law that public safety officials have warned will have a devastating impact on Austinites’ safety.

Mayor Adler and Council Members said they wanted a solution that would keep Uber in Austin, but this law will not do that. 

The current law, under which Uber has operated for more than a year, has allowed ridesharing to flourish and is seen as a model for the nation. The Council can choose to make those rules permanent and continue that progress. 

We love Austin, and have been humbled by the support of riders and

We hope the Mayor and City Council listen to their constituents and prevent hundreds of thousands of Austinites from losing flexible earning opportunities and safe rides. - Debbee Hancock, Uber Spokesperson


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