Rideshare drivers blocking lanes downtown to load, unload customers

Drivers and passengers believe rideshare services, like Uber and Lyft, are adding to congestion in downtown Austin. 

“I try not to do this, but I see a lot of people do it. Just pull over in the right lane of traffic and stop and let their passengers out,” said Andrew Carlson who drives for Uber, Lyft and Ride Austin.  

Rideshare companies employ thousands of drivers in the Capital City and some of the most common spots to hitch a ride are in entertainment districts downtown. 

“So downtown can be a mess, as we all know, and there are times where your passenger wants out at a specific location, but there's just no convenient place to park,” Carlson said.  

“You'll see congestion all the time. People will get out that are working in the office, that are staying at the JW, they'll get out and just stop traffic and just have a whole bunch of buildup going on behind them,” said Tyler Price who uses rideshare service about once a week.  

Passengers said that is not only annoying the drivers behind them, but also creating a safety hazard. 

“For me, when I'm driving and I see someone stop, they just suddenly stop. And you have to hit your breaks and hope the person behind you doesn't rear end you,” said Krystal Montgomery who is also a rideshare customer a few times a month.  

Even though they're the ones who could face legal consequences, rideshare drivers said they feel obligated to pick up passengers wherever they're waiting. In downtown Austin, that’s often mid-block. 

“What are you going to do? They might get mad at you or give you a low rating, so, sometimes, you feel like you may not have a choice,” Carlson said. 

“There's got to be a better way,” he added. 

In November, officials at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport came up with what they believe is a better way, creating pick up zones in the rental car garage. Last month, the Deep Ellum entertainment district in Dallas did the same. 

Austin designated an area for rideshare drivers during South by Southwest, but the rest of the year is a different story. 

“As downtown gets more packed, it's going to be a problem. I've seen that already,” said Jordan Rosa who uses rideshares on weekends. 

Customers said there might be a better option. 

“I think that there could be designated rideshare drop offs. Most places I see people take rideshare is downtown, going to Rainey, 6th Street, but, at all of those, there could be a safe spot you could drop off at,” Montgomery said.