Dear Members of the Austin City Council:
We ask that interim regulations for Transportation Network Companies (such as Uber and Lyft, also known as rideshares) be put into place so that these companies can temporarily operate until a permanent legal framework is established.
These companies are bringing a much needed service to Austin by allowing intoxicated people to easily arrange a sober ride home. The Urban Transportation Committee’s TNC Working Group is expected to have regulations in place by December; in the meantime these companies are already running without regulations, and the city is impounding TNC drivers’ vehicles.
Austin’s taxi industry claims that TNC’s could potentially be unsafe for passengers. We believe that intoxicated drivers are a more dangerous and credible threat than TNC drivers.
There are currently 756 taxi permits authorized by the city. At a recent stakeholder meeting, the taxi industry admitted that only about 60% of those taxis are being driven during peak hours (Thursday through Saturday nights), leaving only 454 taxis to service thousands of passengers.
Data shows that from 10 PM to 2 AM from October 2013 to March 2014, there were 405,330 trip requests but only 157,097 completed trips. These numbers do not include passengers that are regularly turned down for street hails because the driver illegally refused service based on destination or because the passenger isn't paying with cash.
TNC’s provide a convenient alternative to drinking and driving. Between now and December, the following events (and many others) will potentially bring tens of thousands of people into the Downtown Austin area:
- Pride Week: September 13 - 21
- Pecan Street Festival: September 27 - 28
- Austin City Limits Festival: October 3 - 5 and October 10 - 12
- Formula One: October 31 - November 2
- FunFunFun Fest: November 7 - 9
We propose simplified regulations as a temporary fix until the permanent regulations are put into place. These suggested regulations are similar to the ones currently required by for-hire vehicles, and we ask that regulations such as these be put into place as soon as possible:
- Commercial liability insurance along the lines of what is currently required for vehicles-for-hire in Austin, but also recognizes the part-time nature of using a personal vehicle;
- Background checks and notification requirements similar to those required by the city for chauffeur's permits;
- An accessibility plan similar to the one required by the California Public Utility Commission.
- A vehicle inspection/requirements policy and established removable trade dress;
- A prohibition on "street hails";
- An agreement to provide data to the City about how the service is operating.
There is a place in Austin for taxicabs and TNC’s; Austin has the demand and the customer base to support both platforms. Please establish permanent regulations to keep TNC’s in Austin, and please come up with interim regulations to allow these companies to operate in the meantime.
ATX Safer Streets
ATX Safer Streets is a non-profit organization that advocates smarter late night transportation networks and improved parking options as an alternative to drinking and driving. We believe that a better bus, train, and taxi system in Austin, as well as expansion of overnight parking, is the key to reducing impaired drivers on the roads. More information on our organization can be found at our website: http://atxsaferstreets.org/