Earlier this month, Uber was spotted around Austin, mapping our roadways for a new in-house system. And this week, Uber initiated a new discussion with the city, council member Sheri Gallo confirms. So are the wheels in motion for the ride-hailing service to reenter the market?
On Tuesday, representatives for Gallo and council members Ann Kitchen and Delia Garza (all of whom serve on the mobility committee) met with Uber's Texas policy manager Chris Miller and new public affairs member Trevor Theunissen.
"We requested a meeting with the council members to reiterate our desire to work collaboratively with the city. We hope that the council will consider amending the ordinance to reflect a similar TNC framework adopted by 13 cities across Texas and 34 states across the country," Uber says in a statement to CultureMap.
Late last year city council passed an ordinance on TNCs that included new payment requirements, vehicle identifiers, designated pick-up and drop-off areas, and fingerprint-based background checks for drivers. The city believes that the ordinance, which regulates TNCs in a similar way to taxi companies, provides more safety for users and Austin overall.
TNC giants Uber and Lyft — who conduct background checks, but without fingerprinting — believe these requirements are unnecessary and harmful to business. Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin in May after Proposition 1, a referendum that would allow TNCs to manage their own background checks through third-party companies — no fingerprinting necessary, failed to pass.
"The voters voted," Kitchen tells CultureMap. "There is no indication or reason for us to make any changes."
"I encourage Uber to provide their services to Austin residents and operate under the current regulations, as nine other transportation network companies have agreed to do," reads a statement from Gallo.
Here is a complete list of ride-sharing companies currently operating in the city.