No Shortage of Ride-Sharing Options in Austin

May 2016 saw Uber and Lyft voluntarily leave Austin after voters voiced their support for stricter regulations for ride-sharing companies by opposing Proposition 1. Prop 1, which sought to reinstate the looser restrictions that the companies had operated under previously, was defeated by 55.8 percent of voters—despite the companies’ multi-million dollar campaign effort, including a flood of ads on TV, radio and other media. The new requirements, approved by the City Council in December 2015 but not yet in effect at the time of the vote, included mandatory fingerprint-based background checks and other restrictions that would bring requirements more in line with protocols already in place for taxi drivers.

The people had spoken.

After the vote, the companies weren’t required to leave Austin, but they did, and quickly, and Austinites’ response to the companies’ swift departure varied. Some people expressed surprise that the companies were willing to leave such a lucrative market; others perceived that the City was overstepping its bounds; still others celebrated that Austin voters had sent a clear message: we weren’t going to succumb to corporate bullying.

Shortly thereafter, several companies swooped in to fill the void created by Uber and Lyft’s departure, including RideAustin, Fare, Fasten, GetMe and Wingz, among others. But the fight was far from over. Correspondence and meetings between Uber and Lyft officials and the City Council continued, and in November and December, two new bills proposed statewide—rather than local—regulations of ride-hailing companies.

Fast forward to May 2017, and a contentious legislative session that included the passing of House Bill 100. HB 100, which established statewide regulations for ride-sharing companies and reversed local laws such as the City’s ordinance requiring fingerprint-based background checks, essentially undid the will of Austin voters. Almost immediately, Uber and Lyft returned to Austin.

So where does that leave Austinites who enjoy the convenience of ride-sharing? It leaves us with lots of great options for getting around town. In addition to Uber and Lyft, here are the most widely-used ride-sharing services, in a nutshell:

RideAustin

  • The only app built by Austin for Austin, and the only non-profit rideshare in the industry
  • Features a local charity “round-up” feature that has contributed nearly $250,000 to local Austin charities
  • Has a “female-only” mode that lets female passengers order female drivers
  • Is the only ride-sharing company that gives drivers on standard rides 100 percent of the ride fare

Fasten

  • The only ride-hailing service in Austin that offers riders a real-time fare meter, along with a 100 percent fingerprinted driver base
  • Charges drivers only 99 cents (or less or nothing) for each ride referred to them, with the rest of the fare going to the driver, even during high-demand times (other ride-hailing companies take 25 percent or more from a driver’s fare)

GetMe

  • No surge charges or dynamic pricing; instead has flat day rates and night rates
  • Offers promo codes that customers can use on a regular basis—not just one referral code

Wingz

  • Airport rides with flat free pricing
  • Pre-scheduled rides that require at least two hours’ advance notice, but can be booked months in advance

zTrip (Yellow Cab’s ride-hailing app)

  • No surge pricing—one rate, 24/7
  • Offers a choice of traditional taxicab service or a luxury vehicle
  • Licensed, fully insured drivers who have undergone thorough FBI and fingerprint background checks
  • Can be hailed on the street, by phone or with the zTrip app
  • Option to pay by cash or by credit card through the app: no other service provides this flexibility

If you haven’t already, be sure to give one of these companies a try!

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