Nobody messes with Texas and wins, except maybe Uber and Lyft…
After being gone for a little over a year, driving giants Uber and Lyft have finally made their return to the city of Austin. Following Governor Greg Abbott signing House Bill 100, which made cuts on the city’s regulations and imposing statewide rules in their place, both companies resumed operations by the middle of Monday afternoon. And all this for the low low price of $5 million dollars in Texas campaign contributions since 2014, $2 million of which was spent in 2017 alone.
Prior to Governor Abbott signing the new bill, many residents thought that Uber and Lyft would be able to pick up right where they had left off. Uber also issued an apology for the company’s quick exit from Austin, as well as issuing a large number of email blasts to the city’s users. In terms of Lyft, a blog post from the company not only expressed excitement about the company’s return to Austin, but also focused on the company’s partnerships with both local businesses and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. But is this enough? Forgoing thorough criminal background checks in the name of safety for all for the convenience of signing up new drivers in the name of ease of access?
Even though both drivers and passengers alike are equally excited about the return of both of these driving giants, Uber and Lyft are returning to a ground transportation market that appears to be much different than when they first left Austin. In addition to the fallout created by their refusal to adhere to Austin’s stringent criminal background checks, Uber’s public persona has been further damaged by former CEO Travis Kalanick’s ouster pursuant to months of corporate crisis.
The return of Uber and Lyft to Austin isn’t seen as a good thing to many people, especially local taxi drivers. In fact, one co-op taxi cab company is prepared for a real fight, as many of their workers suffered in the form of reduced wages and working more hours once these companies moved into Austin. They’ve gone on record of stating now that both Uber and Lyft are back they realize reduced wages and extended hours will happen once again, as well as wait even longer to find potential fares.
Many of these workers rightly suspected that Uber and Lyft would make an attempt to win back customers with all sorts of attractive incentives. For instance, Lyft promoted a 50% discount until June 11th. On the other hand, services such as RideAustin and Fasten are said to provide a much better experience, as well as guarantee higher earnings for drivers, follow more ethical business practices, and, perhaps more importantly, care very deeply about the city in which they both live and operate.
Now both companies are scrambling to earn back the trust of riders and drivers in many Texas towns. Co-op drivers have also stated that some of their customers have expressed a real disappointment with Uber and Lyft initially leaving Austin, as they felt as though the companies had abandoned them. They apparently had even gone so far as to uninstall both applications from their mobile devices and have no plans to reinstall them, with many of the co-op drivers feeling the same way.
Only time will tell, but with Texas governments staunch pro-business platform and recent crack-downs on municipality driven regulations, the question remains whether Austin can still be a proving ground for sticking to their grassroots guns and ethical options or whether capitalism will reign supreme.
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