What Now: Austin Looks for Ways to Bring Back Ride-Hailing Services

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it is expanding its service to several Texas cities, including Austin.

The rhetoric around the election was about more than Uber and Lyft’s demands. For those who supported the ride-hailing companies, the regulations amounted to unneeded government intrusion that would tarnish Austin’s reputation as an innovative city.

City officials said they were simply acting in the best interests of public safety, a civic concern. Many of their supporters regarded with disdain Uber and Lyft’s aggressive electioneering—they spent more than $8 million—for their position during the campaign—the companies texted and called users with unsolicited appeals for their vote, prompting much public ire and a lawsuit. The companies threatened to leave Austin if the vote did not go their way.

Uber and Lyft left the Texas cities of Corpus Christi and Galveston in a similar fight, and briefly left San Antonio, coming back only after that city made fingerprint checks optional.

Joshua Baer, the founder of the Capital Factory and a strong supporter of Uber and Lyft’s campaign, wrote in a Monday blog post that he doesn’t believe that the election outcome means that Austinites agreed with the fingerprinting regulations.

“Most of the people I’ve talked to who voted against Prop 1 weren’t concerned about fingerprinting—they were just annoyed or offended by Uber’s tactics,” Baer wrote. “They didn’t like the threat of ‘our way or the highway,’ … the aggressive advertising, or the robocalls and text messages. They didn’t like how much money they were spending and the feeling of them ‘buying the election.’ ”

Still, in order to bring back ride hailing to Austin, he said both sides must get beyond an angry “Tech vs. Austin” debate that caused much rancor on both sides.

“There are a lot of things about Silicon Valley that we want to emulate, but the relationship between tech and the rest of the community is not one of them,” Baer wrote. “Bad attitudes and egos are what got us into this mess and only cool heads and open arms will get us out of it.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a statement Monday that the city is offering an “enhanced one-stop shop” for fingerprinting drivers and background checks.

“Austin is a creative and innovative city, and we’re going to find creative and innovative solutions to ensure Austinites have mobility options,” he says.

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