The Guardian– Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft are suspending operations in Austin, Texas, after the city’s voters rejected a proposal that would have allowed the companies to self-regulate their drivers.
Instead, the voters upheld stricter regulations that the city council passed in December: ride-sharing drivers are required to pass fingerprint-based background checks, clearly mark their cars with the ride-sharing company’s logo, and not pick up or drop off their passengers in certain lanes of the city’s streets.
Uber and Lyft wanted those regulations to be repealed, and if Proposition 1, which went to the polls on Saturday, had passed, they would have had their way. Instead, despite combined spending of nearly $9m against opposition of just over $100,000, voters rejected the proposition 56–44.
Huge news out of Austin, Texas this morning as Uber and Lyft have declared they are suspending all of their operations in the popular city. This measure comes after local voter’s rejected a Proposition that would have let the companies better regulate their own drivers. By now, almost everyone understands how popular and useful these companies are, providing safe rides to millions of riders across the country and world. Recently, as Uber and Lyft have moved to expanding their positions throughout the US, they have been moving to gain more regulatory power over their own operations. To the dismay of taxi corporations throughout these cities, the ride-sharing companies have successfully been able to negotiate many rights in these areas. This has taken away business from many of these taxi services that have profited from slow service, unsafe conditions, and high charges along with questionably racist practices in pickup selection.
Local pollsters (lets face it, probably an average age of 55 here) went out to the voting booths this weekend and upheld the council regulations passed in December, which call ed for fingerprint-based background checks, better designations of Uber and Lyft cars, and the limitations on pickup within city lanes. Without question, this would take away some of the power that these companies have shown to have over the big cities. If these companies say they are going to leave if government officials begin to regulate them, they need to follow through or they will lose out on their main bargaining chip. It seemed to work out last year in New York City at least, where Uber was able to fend off Mayor de Blasio’s attempts on capping the amount of Uber’s in the city limits.
At the end of the day, Uber and Lyft have proven that they will follow through on their pledges to stay under their own regulations. Of course, we all love the services the companies provide, but all of these drivers are still “taxi” drivers. Who is to say that these drivers should not be held to the same standards that every other driver in the city and in the US is subject to. We seem to put a ton of faith into Uber and Lyft to background check and screen their employees, yet we seem to not trust taxi services where the drivers are even more strictly screened. The City of Austin offered to even pay for the fingerprint testing for the drivers, which seemed to be the most contentious point for the companies. Regardless, there probably needs to be some sort of compromise between the cities and Uber/Lyft before we see a mass exit from cities across the US. For now, the companies are most likely paving the way for the complete removal of all drivers in favor of autonomous vehicles, which will keep profits in the hands of the companies and truly revolutionize the industry.