UPDATE: RideAustin went live on June 16, and an Android version of the app became available in August. The ride-hailing service is currently covering the downtown area as well as the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. More neighborhoods and the charity portion of the app are coming soon.
Uber and Lyft are gone, and you're probably aware that all of Austin has an opinion on the departure. Regardless of where you stand on Prop 1, a rather pressing question remains: Who will fill the void left by Uber and Lyft?
A new Transportation Network Company (TNC) by the name of RideAustin hopes to. The nonprofit ride-sharing platform is led by Joe Liemandt of Trilogy, Andy Tryba of Crossover, and other high-profile members of the Austin community. Like other TNCs in town, they're hoping to provide the city with what it wants — a reliable and affordable ride-share service.
TNCs currently operating in Austin include GetMe, Fare, Wingz, and zTrip. Of the four, it's difficult to say which is the current leader of the pack, as they seem to be in a shared scramble to scale up to the point where they'll resemble what ride-share users have come to expect. This continued development may explain why some Austinites haven't bothered with any of these apps and are still using Uber and Lyft by setting a pickup spot outside of the city limits, then calling the driver and giving them their actual location.
Unlike Uber and Lyft, RideAustin is falling in line with the city’s background check requirements and will fingerprint all drivers. RideAustin is also unique in that its nonprofit status will allow it to "pay drivers more and keep fares low and prioritize our charitable work." The charity portion of RideAustin allows users to round up their fare to the next dollar and donate that amount to an organization of their choice.
The RideAustin app for iPhones is live now, but the service (and an Android version of the app) won't launch until June. To better understand some of the intricacies of the service, CultureMap caught up with Joe Deshotel, a representative for RideAustin.
CultureMap: Where will RideAustin initially service?
Joe Deshotel: The initial launch will be limited to Central Austin and the airport so we can control quality of service during the phased roll out. The smoother things go, the sooner we will expand our coverage area to include the entire city. The limited service area is for ride origination and will not limit riders' destinations.
CM: Will the app tell you how long until the driver arrives? Will it offer a fare prediction?
JD: Yes and yes.
CM: There's been talk about having an opt-in surge (or skip the line, if you will) feature in the app. Could you explain what that is?
JD: This feature will not be available in the initial version of the app but our developers are looking at how to create such a function. This idea came from trying to balance the needs of both riders and drivers. Drivers love surge pricing but it doesn't work for everyone, so we want to give riders the option to opt-in to get a ride quicker.
CM: Do you have more information on how the "rounding up" of the fare will go towards charities? How will users choose a charity?
JD: We're still working through the details, but riders will choose from the charities available through the app. It will only round up to the nearest dollar.
CM: Once drivers sign up for RideAustin, they'll be contacted to set up a time to get fingerprinted. What's the expected turnaround time for this process? Do you have a projection on how many drivers will be available once you launch?
JD: We have an ambitious goal to get thousands of drivers through the onboarding process before the end of June. We have set up a driver onboarding location at Crowne Plaza where drivers can have their cars inspected. After providing the requisite documentation, they will be handed a voucher to cover the cost of fingerprinting. Crowne Plaza is conveniently located within walking distance of the IdentoGo fingerprinting location.
Interested in signing up as a RideAustin driver? Get more information here.