Ride Austin responds to Uber/Lyft likely return

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A bill aimed to take ride-hailing regulation statewide is headed to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk making Uber and Lyft’s return to Austin nearly inevitable.

The two major ride-hailing companies left Austin in early May of 2016 to protest Austin's ride-hailing ordinance that requires drivers be fingerprinted in addition to getting a background check. The new statewide bill requires annual background checks, but not fingerprinting.

Andy Tryba, the CEO of the local non-profit Ride Austin said he still plans on requiring Ride Austin drivers to have finger print background checks.

“We created this to help the driver, to help the mobility services in Austin and to help local charities, so we’re not leaving,” said Tryba.

At a quarterly meeting in the parking lot of the Ride Austin headquarters on 5th Street, Tryba presented several Austin charities with a $200,000 check. Giving a portion of Ride Austin revenue is part of non-profit’s platform. Tryba announced to his drivers and participating charities he’s planning on doubling down on that platform as Uber and Lyft plan a comeback.

“Honestly, we don’t know if it’s going to work or not. But we’re going to try,” he said.

Ride Austin plans to allow drivers to become full employees with benefits. Tryba said his decision to allow drivers to sign W-2 was “controversial.” The nearly one-year-old non-profit also plans to have drivers promote a charity for their riders. And Tryba hopes to lower their rates.

“It will have an impact on overall volumes,” said Tryba.

Tryba estimates Ride Austin’s volumes could decline 50 percent when the two big ride share corporations come back to the streets of Austin, but he feels the Austin community will stay loyal to his local ride share company that abides by the city ordinance and never left when Uber and Lyft did.

“It’s a strange model when the state comes and overrules the local population on something that appears to be working quite well for the Austin community,” he said.

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