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IPFS News Link • Texas

One Year After Fleeing Austin, Uber and Lyft Prepare a Fresh Invasion


It has been a year since Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin, after residents of the Texas capital voted to maintain strict regulations the ridehailing companies refused to abide, including fingerprinting of drivers.

Uber and Lyft had fought hard for more permissive rules, spending a combined $8 million on the campaign (nearly seven times the previous record for a municipal election in the city). Without their services, they warned, drunk driving deaths would spike, 10,000 drivers would lose their jobs, and innovation in the booming tech hub would falter.

Austin dodged the dystopia. DWI arrests hit a five-year low in the six months following the vote. Former Uber and Lyft drivers signed up with the slew of services that filled the vacuum. Austin's tech bubble continues to inflate. Yet the twin titans of the ridehailing world are on the verge of a comeback—not because Austin needs them, but because it may not be able to fend them off.

The Post-Uber World

Uber and Lyft waited just two days to shut down operations in Austin after voters rejected Prop 1, which would have replaced the City Council's strict rules with a much more lax regime. Replacements willing to follow the rules—Ride Austin, Fasten, GetMe, Wingz, Fare, InstaRyde—rushed in. Despite embarrassing service outages during the rainy second night of SXSW, which brought over 37,000 extra people to town, they have provided solid service. Apps don't drive people, they argue. People drive people. And as long as they offer safe rides at reasonable prices, who cares which company is playing middleman?


Uber and Lyft care, of course, which is why they responded to the loss by ignoring Austin and lobbying state legislators for regulations that would supersede any local rules. The strategic shift is working. Last month, the Texas house passed a bill that looks a lot like the proposition Austin voters rejected, removing the fingerprinting requirements. If it clears the Senate and Governor Greg Abbott's desk, whatever Austinites prefer stops mattering. Same for residents of other cities with their own ridehailing rules, including Houston, Galveston, and Corpus Christi.

All of which raises the question: What does ridehailing look like in Austin in a post-post-Uber/Lyft future?