Ridesharing Resolution

I wanted to mention that this forum topic is how I discovered FAN, and the respectful and thoughtful tone of this discussion is one of the reasons I decided to join. I am very interested to see how FAN approaches new technologies and movements like the sharing economy, collaborative consumption, and on-demand services.

I’ve been driving for Lyft since last September, and for about a year it’s been my primary source of income. I certainly don’t want to get caught up in any debate right off the bat, or make anyone feel like I joined to accomplish my own agenda. This really seems like the kind of organization that will love.

I did post a rather thorough look into the ordinance approved ordinance and the political environment surrounding ridesharing companies like Lyft. If you’re interested in checking it out, it’s over on Medium.

Thank you for welcoming me to the group! :smile:

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Welcome to the group Skylar! A large part of the discussion here has focused on the home sharing resolution. Do you have any suggestions for the ride sharing resolution? It appears that the city council is still going to be making some changes to the TNC ordinance in January, so if you have anything that you’d like us to change/add/or come up with something new instead, please let us know. Feel free to jump right in if you want to. =)

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Welcome, Skylar! Thanks for sharing your post. It really lays out the facts and shows what the council just voted on has nothing to do with safety - it’s all about protecting the taxi drivers from competition.

I’d really like to see FAN weigh in officially on TNCs for two main reasons - (1) they provide a way for average people to make money during a time of increasing unaffordability, and (2) the provide a way for people to get home safely and conveniently from anywhere in the city during anytime of the day.

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The one thing that really spoke to me is that the NAACP says fingerprinting TNC drivers is a social justice issue. The NAACP is against fingerprinting TNC drivers because it “disproportionately impacts low-income individuals and minorities in Austin.” There’s little or no evidence that this requirement has any safety benefits. However, the impacts appear to make it more difficult for families to make ends meet, especially the families that need the most help. 78% of drivers drive for 15 hours or less and those drivers will be less likely to jump through more hoops in order to make more money, thus decreasing their yearly income, which could also lead to less available drivers and higher pricing for users. If as a city we would be for removing the check box on hiring applications that asks if applicants have a criminal record, then we should be against this fingerprinting requirement also.

“The practice of using fingerprints to access a background database is not a real safety measure as it all-too-often captures only an individual’s arrest, not their conviction. As a result, this practice would disproportionately harm Austin’s African-American and Hispanic populations as they are already disproportionately arrested, but not necessarily charged or convicted of any offense.”

“Thus this provision could unfairly and inadvertently disqualify many in our community from accessing economic opportunities.”

“Furthermore, we know that the added time and financial cost of requiring drivers to undergo two background checks will add new and unnecessary barriers to the process, preventing people who are low-income from driving on rideshare platforms to make extra money. Given that many people rely on TNCs as a means to make ends meet, we’re also concerned that imposing additional costs of finding childcare and forcing people to take off time from their day job in order to complete the city’s duplicative process will only present further challenges for families. As a result, the people who need this flexible earning opportunity would be hurt the most.”

Read their full statement here: https://www.scribd.com/embeds/285911804/content?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fmedium.com%2Fmedia%2F9d3e41133a5ec26e95e50ec3db3dc2c3%3FmaxWidth%3D600

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Sorry that I couldn’t give my recommendations earlier. I found out a day or two after publishing my article on Medium, that a community coalition led by TechNet, ATX Safer Streets, and Austin Music People was in the works. They launched a petition signature drive today, which would replace the City Council’s ordinance with a permanent version of the operating agreements that Lyft and Uber have been operating with since October 2014.

Here’s the press release: http://austinmusicpeople.org/technet-atx-safer-streets-and-austin-music-people-launch-petition-drive-to-keep-ridesharing-in-austin/

The Ridesharing Works for Austin website: http://RidesharingWorks.com

And the Ordinance proposed by the coalition: http://ridesharingworks.com/library/pdf/Ridesharing-Works-Ordinance.pdf

So… My recommendation would be endorsing that.

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All, I’ve borrowed from various suggestions and put together this draft of a ride sharing letter FAN could send to Council if the membership approves it by supermajority (our new policy for determining FAN’s official positions).

Ride sharing companies, or transportation network companies (TNCs), provide an important mobility option for residents of our neighborhoods by connecting drivers and passengers with a seamless user experience. Friends of Austin Neighborhoods (FAN) supports the original TNC regulations the Austin City Council passed in 2014, and we oppose onerous rules that would jeopardize the many positive experiences neighbors have enjoyed so far.

Ride sharing empowers ordinary neighborhood residents to earn income while enabling families to access employment, goods, and services without the expense and burden of owning multiple cars. It provides “last mile” connectivity to destinations beyond the reach of public transportation, thereby making public transportation a more viable option. FAN supports residents making their own choices about whether the ride sharing experience works for them.

Since the City Council approved the original TNC regulations in 2014, drunk driving incidents have declined. Additional regulations that unduly burden TNC drivers, such as requiring fingerprinting, place obstacles on Austinites seeking to earn income by driving for a TNC, would ultimately lead to less access to ride sharing, and could cause an increase in drunk driving incidents.

We urge you to reconsider the recent imposition of additional regulations and to focus on how they may negatively affect the experiences of ordinary Austin residents.

Thoughts? The language doesn’t call for a voter referendum on ride sharing, but it does strongly argue in favor of ride sharing and against onerous regulations on it. The second paragraph connects ride sharing to the FAN vision as well.

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I think that looks great. It’s a much better version and seems to cover everything that probably needs to be covered.

Why should TNCs have a different background check requirement from Taxis? To be clear I’m not suggestion one form of background check over the other, I’m asking why they should be different.

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For those who want a quick summary of recent policy actions on ride sharing, Movability Austin has this piece.

I personally don’t think the City should impose background checks on taxi companies, either. We now have a market where our neighbors can make their own choices. If, due to safety concerns, consumers decide they aren’t comfortable with the safety of a particular ride sharing or taxi service, the market will respond. The response may include fingerprinting or perhaps more innovative methods with greater effectiveness and less of an obstacle to responsible neighbors becoming drivers.

It’s also worth noting that fingerprinting has been pretty much entirely discredited forensically. If anything they should be getting saliva samples with the background checks.

Dave, that’s a really good point! I don’t believe TNCs should get special treatment. What Austin really needs are regulations that allow other ride services to be able to compete effectively.

Matthew Mitchell from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University was interviewed by a Fox Affiliate on June 27th. Here’s the part where he starts talking about competition and fairness: - YouTube

The R Street Institute’s annual Ridescore report analyzes transportation regulations and their Austin received an A for TNC friendliness, a C for Taxi friendliness, and an F for Limo friendliness. This page has more details: http://www.ridescore.org/report/austin

It’s also really interesting that the Transportation Department recommended twice that the instpection standards for Taxis be changed to mirror TNCs.

I like this draft very much.

Its my belief the primary driving force behind the changes to the ordinance was that there was not equity between TNCs and Taxis. This draft resolution does not address this issue.

Discussions around which background check is superior is a debate that is not easily won by either side.

I see three possible options:
1.The TNCs be treated as a pilot program to vet whether or not the current background checks are sufficient with the end goal of making the TNC and Taxi background checks equivalent.

2.The Taxis use an equivalent background check to the TNCs.

.3. We wait and see what the affect of the current regulation is.

I can find no logic as to why they would have different background check standards on an ongoing basis.

The TNCs as well as many of us are concerned that a burdensome background check will make the TNCs business model non-operable. I’m not certain that it has been proven that the model will not operate under the new conditions (Lyft is doing so in Houston). If we knew that the business model could still work with fingerprint background checks no one would be debating this.

Offering up a resolution that advocates for fewer regulations on TNCs without addressing the equity issue seems problematic.

I’m still conflicted as to whether a wait and see approach or advocating for fewer regulations is a better approach. With all that said I want to see TNC continue to be successful as they have had a huge positive effect on mobility and safety.


@neider_dave, In one sense, TNCs and taxis are apples and oranges despite their many similarities. One key difference is that the city issues taxi companies a limited number of permits, rendering them a regulated oligopoly. The original TNC regulations that Council passed defined TNCs in such a way as to allow taxi companies to become TNCs if they meet the criteria. However, the companies then lose their oligopoly status and compete directly in a market with unlimited driver permits.

So I’m not sure if there is really a need for a “level playing field” if companies can simply choose the regulatory and competition-limiting environment they prefer. It may cause some cognitive dissonance for our brains as we try to reconcile the different frameworks, but I’m not sure it should stand in the way of acting on the central principles in the latest draft of the resolution.

Someone with more direct knowledge of the details of the City Council’s original TNC resolution (Chris Riley, we need you in this forum) could speak more authoritatively than I can on these matters, however.

But remember that any FAN member can craft resolutions and suggest amendments. So please feel free to amend the resolution to address your own concerns!

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So… this might be a little late in the discussion to ask this, but… can I move to split the question? It’s hard to follow the discussion when we’re switching back and forth between ridesharing and homesharing.

We should have split the discussion a long time ago I guess! It was hard to split the two into separate threads since many people talked about both at the same time, but the last part of the thread was mainly dealing with ridesharing/TNCs, so I split that out into this separate thread.

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I agree with comments here and elsewhere that the fingerprinting issue is security theatre. I also feel that TNCs have been a positive disruption in favor of mobility options and availability (though perhaps at the cost of congestion but that’s another matter).

That said, I don’t believe Council’s actions have forced Uber and Lyft out of the Austin market; if these companies leave, that is their own decision.

I am appalled at how Uber and Lyft have conducted themselves, particularly in ad hominem attacks our on City leadership. Further, I am honestly befuddled at the degree to which so many Austinites are sticking their necks out to support two multi-million dollar businesses who, frankly, have not been very good neighbors.

Me, I want no part in supporting these companies in light of how they continue to carry themselves. I support TNCs operating in Austin, but this feels like advocacy held hostage. Respectfully, I cannot support this resolution.

Brendan, I completely agree that there is no place in the City’s discussion of ridesharing regulations for personal attacks directed at our elected leaders. I was personally appalled by Uber’s “Kitchen Mode” (the video advertisement and ride mode that allowed passengers to request a horse-drawn carriage downtown). Mocking our City leaders is very inappropriate, and did very little to increase public support for ridesharing.

However, I’ve been generally satisfied by Lyft’s approach to the campaign. While Uber was releasing that video, myself and a few other Lyft drivers were knocking on doors in various parts of town and asking folks to put up a Support Ridesharing sign in Lyft’s signature magenta.

Since late Summer 2014, I’ve completed 1,659 Lyft rides and 2 Uber rides. Personally, I do not like how Uber does business, so I choose not to earn them a profit. I encourage everyone to make sure we aren’t allowing the childish behavior of a single company to be sole justification for these regulations.

When I spoke during the General Citizen Communications section of the City Council’s meeting on Nov. 19th, I tried to address my concerns that the City Council could throw the baby out with the bathwater. Here is the full text of speech I delivered: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1e4RAcXxYbuzgR1Wg-RPXRFOl45adtmk7iNNm2WcUx1E/edit?usp=docslist_api

Regardless if Lyft, Uber, or some other company chooses to operate in Austin under the City Council’s new regulations, Austin’s City Council did indeed pass regulations which are anticompetitive, discriminatory, bureaucratic, and incomplete.

Let’s try a little allegory. Assume I invited you to a dinner party and asked for your list of food allergies. When dinner was served, you were shocked that every item on your plate was something you couldn’t eat. To make matters worse, I overheard you mention to another guest after dinner that you were hungry, and I made a scene by calling you out publicly and ranting about how you could have eaten dinner, but chose not to. So now everyone believes you’re unreasonable and immature because you wouldn’t the dinner I cooked for you.

That’s how I see this situation. These regulations negatively impact TNCs & Drivers with little justification or positive impact to society. I’m glad Lyft has taken such a clear and principled on these regulations. If they choose to leave because of the City’s regulations, it will be a clear indicator that Austin isn’t the right city for me anymore, either.

How did you know I was a picky eater? That hits a little close to home.

Seriously, though, I appreciate your thoughtfulness on the issue, as well as your response. It does feel that Council’s response to this matter is, at best, incomplete.

Ultimately, I simply cannot separate my protest against these companies (I do agree Uber’s trespasses in Austin have been more egregious) from the issues and principles in this instance. Were we talking about ridesharing regulation without the specter of corporate bullying present, I’d like to think I’d feel differently.