The people have spoken: 'Ridesharing Works' petition worked

In December, City Council approved a new ridesharing ordinance that would crack down on ridesharing companies.

Uber and Lyft have said if fingerprint background checks become a requirement, they'll leave the city.

The ordinance did pass but the fingerprinting part was left unfinished -- with what happened at City Hall on Tuesday, it most likely won't end up being mandatory.
"In these boxes are tens of thousands of signatures from 'we the people' of Austin and today we are going to be heard," said Jennifer Houlihan with Ridesharing Works For Austin.

The boxes were full of signatures from 23,000 Austinites who don't want ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft to leave the city.
The coalition "Ridesharing Works for Austin" dropped them off in the City Clerk's office Tuesday morning.

"Over the last 21 days, we averaged 3,100 signatures a day.  We collected more signatures than votes received by any mayor ever elected to Austin," said Caroline Joiner with Ridesharing Works.

And if the City Clerk has any problems validating the 23,000 signatures, there's more to choose from.  The total number of Austinites who signed the ridesharing petition -- 65,103.

"Once the clerk validates our signatures, the Mayor and the City Council will have 10 days to either adopt the ordinance or put it on the ballot in May," Joiner said.

Council member Ellen Troxclair has never supported the council's desire to put new regulations on ridesharing companies.

"The easiest way forward is for the council to decide to adopt the ordinance outlined in the petition.  Then we wouldn't have to go through the time or expense of having an election in May and we can just decide to listen to the people now," Troxclair said.

The Ridesharing Works ordinance is basically the existing rules put in place by Mayor Lee Leffingwell's City Council but adding a few bells and whistles here and there like requiring the companies to pay fees to the city.

The City of San Antonio recently made fingerprint background checks optional for Uber and Lyft drivers.  In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Austin Mayor Steve Adler says his focus now is to go a step beyond that.

"Ultimately the goal is not to have an optional system, the goal is to actually drive and deliver a meaningful choice of fingerprinted drivers for those people in our community that would feel safer that way," Adler said.

Adler's idea is something he's calling "Thumbs Up" -- basically a visual indicator that a driver has been fingerprinted.

"When I use Twitter there's a checkmark next to my name so that you know that my tweets come from me instead of one of my faux accounts that now exist,' Adler said.

After the coalition let their voice be heard Tuesday morning, Lyft driver Aubrey Hays felt good about what had just happened.

"When it comes down to it I think the reason that we're doing this is it saves lives.  It really does.  That's why I'm passionate about it as well.  I think that it's a wonderful thing," Hays said.

Again City Council will have to choose one of 2 things here:

  • Adopt the ordinance Ridesharing Works came up with.
  • Or put it on the ballot for the people of Austin to vote on May 7th.
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