Arcade City drivers concerned about possible future city stings
AUSTIN, Texas —
Drivers for an Austin rideshare company are worried about the legality of their business and if the city will start conducting stings.
In 2014, the city started conducting sting operations, acting as riders to catch Uber drivers picking up passengers illegally in Austin. Two years later, Arcade City drivers are worried about the same thing.
The rideshare company, that calls itself a peer-to-peer group for rides, is solely based on Facebook at the moment. The company is working on a new app to help connect drivers and riders. For the first time, Arcade City drivers in Austin met together to talk about how everything is going and their concerns.
The talks ranged from how people are enjoying it, how to organize "pods" to work together as drivers and about police.
"They're keeping an eye on what's going on," one driver said in the meeting.
Some drivers said they're concerned about the legality of Arcade City. According to the city, "If a company or individual is providing a ride for compensation and that compensation exceeds the federal reimbursement rate for privately-owned vehicles, those services are subject to regulation by City Code Chapter 13-2. Companies and individuals providing transportation service and charging more than the federal reimbursement rate without appropriate documentation are illegal in the City of Austin."
As of earlier this year, that reimbursement rate was 54 cents a mile. "Our drivers to my knowledge are not charging 54 cents a mile they're going on a free rides basis, taking tips whatever," Arcade City CEO Chrstiopher David said.
Still, it's a concern for drivers. "If anybody says that they're not worried about the legality of it they're being naive," driver Sarah Cooper said.
Cooper said she actually got a warning Wednesday night after an officer saw her take out a payment app out while dropping off a friend. "I figured it was an eventual thing," Cooper said.
The city would not say how they're enforcing the city code. However, the transportation department said it has four dedicated officers in its ground transportation regulation and enforcement division. It says APD can enforce city code as well. Drivers at the meeting talked about stings as a way of enforcement. "If the stings pick up and people do start getting pulled over and questioned. You can just inform them, officer I don't answer any questions," one person said at the meeting.
Council member Don Zimmerman joined the meeting about halfway through. "I find it fascinating, it's very interesting," District 6 Austin Council Member Zimmerman said.
He says if the city starts conducting stings that could be compared to an abuse of power. "This is a lot of what organized crime does, what they do is they come in a city and say you agree to abide by our rules and pay us tribute," Zimmerman said.
Arcade City is organizing another meetup on Monday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Brave New Books in Austin. This one, though, is for both drivers and riders.