I want to keep Uber and Lyft in Austin, and I want to do it in a way where passengers have a meaningful choice that makes them feel safer. That’s always been the goal.
Now that we have a verified petition in front of us, we only have two options. We can either set an election in May, or we can accept the Uber-Lyft petition ordinance as is with no changes.
If we set an election, it will cost taxpayers between $500,000 and $800,000 and would take our attention away from transformative affordability and mobility projects.
If we just accept the Uber/Lyft ordinance, some attorneys argue that Austin’s Charter means we would not be able to touch that ordinance for two years, and then only with a super-majority thereafter. This would impose a rigid regulation upon Austin, stifling innovation and closing opportunities to adapt. This could mean that we lose the authority to do innovative solutions like the voluntary, non-mandatory Thumb’s Up! recently passed by Council.
But maybe there’s a way out of this box. Perhaps we can accomplish the petitioners’ and my goal of keeping Uber and Lyft in Austin by not mandating fingerprinting and our goal of creating fingerprinted rideshare drivers at scale while preserving our ability to innovate with ideas such as rewarding drivers who volunteer to get fingerprinted.
I want to know what the community would think about adopting a new Austin Innovation TNC Ordinance different from both our December ordinance and the Uber/Lyft petition ordinance. The Austin Innovation TNC Ordinance would specifically prohibit mandatory fingerprinting and clearly allow incentive programs such as the Thumb’s Up! badge. In concrete terms, this would not take anything away from Uber and Lyft drivers who choose not to participate. This could allow Austin to reward our city’s rideshare drivers with hundreds of thousands of dollars (paid for by the fee that the Uber/Lyft petition ordinance deleted) simply for choosing to give their passengers a choice that makes them feel safer.
But, this would require holding an election in May. Both sides would want to keep Uber and Lyft in Austin. However, only a “no” vote would preserve the Austin Innovative TNC Ordinance that allows the Austin to use the Thumb’s Up! badge or other incentive program. The Uber/Lyft Ordinance would seek to enforce rigid regulation, while we would be campaigning to reward drivers and encourage innovation. Maybe that could be the choice that goes to voters in May.
What do you think?