Curbed by coronavirus

Austin rideshare service temporarily hits the brakes due to COVID-19

Austin rideshare service temporarily hits the brakes due to COVID-19

RideAustin ride-sharing app
Ride Austin is suspending operations.  RideAustin/Facebook

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, one of Austin’s rideshare services is shutting down temporarily effective Monday, March 30.

In a Friday, March 27, email to customers, RideAustin says it’s temporarily suspending operations in the name of community safety.

“We do not take this decision lightly, as we know that our users rely on our service,” RideAustin says. “Given how the virus has spread, we must make the responsible decision in order to protect both our drivers and riders. Please note that we are not closing permanently. This is a temporary suspension of operations (a pause), and we will notify you about the restart date … when we have more information.”

RideAustin, founded in 2016, says its top priority remains the safety and well-being of Austinites.

“In that vein, we want to do all that we can to slow the spread of coronavirus and flatten the curve. As medical professionals and healthcare experts encourage social distancing, we believe that continuing operations would put our drivers and riders at risk,” the rideshare service says. “Because there are still so many unknowns about the virus and the effects that its spread will have on the community, we want to be prudent and proactive in doing our part to follow the recommendations.”

RideAustin operates as a nonprofit. The service touts its low fares, and promotes its ability to let drivers keep a higher percentage of fares compared with for-profit rivals like Uber and Lyft.

RideAustin’s service territory includes Austin, Bee Cave, Buda, Cedar Park, Elgin, Georgetown, Hutto, Kyle, Lakeway, Leander, Manor, Pflugerville, Round Rock, San Marcos, Taylor, and West Lake Hills.

Although RideAustin has halted its service for now, Uber and Lyft are still operating in the Austin area. Those companies say they have instituted coronavirus safety measures to protect riders and drivers.

With many employers and businesses closed during the coronavirus pandemic and air travel coming to a virtual standstill, rideshare drivers in Austin and elsewhere are struggling financially. 

A March 13-16 survey of Uber and Lyft drivers in the U.S. found that around 80 percent had seen lower demand and earnings. More than half of the drivers said they had no other work or income source to rely on. Nearly 200 drivers responded to the survey, conducted by The Rideshare Guy website.