Council to finally decide on penalties for not following TNC rules

103 items is a lot to get through.  With a daunting agenda in front of Austin City Council on Thursday we chatted with Council Member Ann Kitchen early in the afternoon about item 66...apparently finally establishing some penalties for not following the TNC rules like fingerprint background checks for drivers. 

"They're not eligible for 'Safety Assurance' which means they have to pay an additional 1% and they also can't get the benefit, the drivers can't get the benefit of being closer to events like ACL," Kitchen said.

The item also includes penalties for the companies who don't submit their data to the city. 

Kitchen says there's plenty of teeth to it but it's reasonable.

"In our existing ordinance right now, there's language that an operating authority can be revoked for failure to meet the requirements," Kitchen said.

The next benchmark is on August 1.  TNC's have to be 50% in compliance by then.  Ultimately 99% in compliance by February of next year.

Michael Leto is the CEO of Fare, a TNC that started in Arizona but they set up shop in Austin too when Uber and Lyft left. 

He says about 5,000 drivers have contacted them about driving and about 2500 have passed the background checks.

"We've gotten at least 100,000 Austinites to and from locations safely over the last 5 weeks that we've been in operation so it's been an exciting thing from us,"
Leto said.

Leto was at City Hall to discuss fingerprinting with city officials -- Leto says Fare is complying with the rules.

"There's a meeting as far as the Transportation Dept. is concerned on how the data is going to transfer for the fingerprinting and we're excited to just to see that.  The goal is to be that 50% by August 1, our company internal goal is to be closer to 75% compliant by August 1," Leto said.

Wingz is another Austin TNC.  CEO Chris Brandon says they have several hundred drivers.  A smaller company but they take pride in higher quality.  Brandon joined us via Skype.

"We're working closely with the city to ensure that not only do we meet that minimum compliance of 50% on board by August 1 but we also want to try to get to 100% by August 1," Brandon said.

But you might be wondering...what happens to companies like Fare and Wingz if Uber and Lyft decide to come back to try and reclaim the throne?

"We're here.  If anybody comes back we're pretty confident that the City of Austin is...they've got their feelings about what those companies did.  We're just excited that we could be here and help fill the void.

Some other big items: council is expected to make a decision on purchasing body cams for APD, also the big mobility bond package...what will it look like?  The mayor's $720 million 'go big' plan?  Or a smaller $500 million plan Ann Kitchen is proposing this week?  We're also hearing council may be able to put both on the ballot in November to let the voters decide how much they want to spend.