Both ride-sharing companies are bidding farewell to the Texas capital because voters just rejected their proposal to lighten up on background checks. They suspended operations in the city limits as of Monday morning, May 9th. (However, UberEats is apparently still up and running.)
Voters shot down Proposition 1 on Saturday. It was Lyft and Uber’s attempt to loosen up background check requirements passed last year by the Austin City Council. It requires fingerprint background checks, which both companies oppose. It essentially means the ride-sharing companies must operate like taxi companies.
Prop 1 asked voters to approve leaving background checks in the hands of the companies rather than the city. Voters rejected it by 56 percent, even after Uber and Lyft spent $8 million trying to convince them otherwise.
“The voters have spoken and they want these requirements,” says Council Member Ann Kitchen, who pushed for the stricter regulations. She says no one wants Uber and Lyft to leave and hopes they can reach an agreement. Austin Mayor Steve Adler is also encouraging Uber and Lyft to reconsider.
However, that’s not something either Uber or Lyft seem prepared to do unless the fingerprinting clause is flat-out repealed.
“Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin,” said Uber’s Chris Nakutis. “We hope the City Council will reconsider their ordinance,”
Lyft agrees with Uber.
“Lyft and Austin are a perfect match and we want to stay in the city. Unfortunately, the rules passed by City Council don’t allow true ride-sharing to operate,” Lyft said in a statement.
What’s happening in Austin is similar to what happened last year in San Antonio. The two companies left because of similar regulations, but returned two months later when fingerprinting became voluntary. Uber is also threatening to leave Houston over its new stricter regulations.
“If it comes down to public safety on one hand and Uber staying on the other, I don’t think it is even close, “ said Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner.
The Associated Press reports Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles are also considering similar background check regulations.