December 15, 2015
The beauty of living in Austin, TX isn’t a secret anymore. The population of our region is exploding with between 100 and 160 people moving to our city every day for the professional opportunities and quality of life that make ATX so special.
As one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, Austin faces a number of wide-ranging challenges, but transportation concerns consistently top the list. Our roads are swollen with traffic and more and more of our time is spent in gridlock. Austin has adopted an “all of the above” approach to address transportation challenges, including expanding transportation options to ease congestion, providing safe rides and removing cars from an overwhelmed ground transportation infrastructure. Among those options are Transportation Networking Companies (TNCs) such as Lyft and Uber.
In November of 2014, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance hailed nationally as a model for regulating TNCs. The ordinance paved the way for TNCs to innovate and introduce exciting new programs in Austin while tackling issues that have proven difficult for local government to effectively address, including a drunk driving epidemic, creating economic opportunity as our cost of living increases, improving the “last mile” challenge we often hear about and a desperate need for more transportation options.
We are troubled by claims that our City Council’s vision for TNCs and the sharing economy have taken a disturbing turn, threatening to impose unnecessary costs and regulatory burdens on hugely popular services that Austinites want and need to succeed.
The current discussed approach would impose duplicative onboarding requirements for TNC drivers, although City Council has been repeatedly informed that such requirements would cause them to cease operations entirely in Austin. At the same time, the City Council is considering imposing operating fees on TNCs that are higher than those in any other city in the country –– fees that will be passed on to consumers in desperate need of safe rides home and alternatives to driving their own cars on our gridlocked roads. We suggest that the City of Austin endorse regulations that would not require TNCs to leave Austin. We are all interested in public safety but not regulation that would require TNCs to leave. Further, we suggest that the city work with the TNCs to determine a fee structure that covers the City’s administrative costs and is equitable with fees imposed by other cities.
The City Council has a critical choice to make: maintain a model ordinance that creates flexible jobs for Austinites looking to make ends meet, provides more transportation options, fights congestion and drunk driving; or impose onerous operating requirements on TNCs that could very well force Lyft and Uber to leave Austin, as happened in San Antonio when faced with similar mandates. The City of San Antonio realized the error of its ways and quickly brought these transportation providers back after only a few months.
As Austin continues to grow as a city, we respectfully urge the City Council to maintain a robust, equitable and welcoming posture for economic development and transformative technologies that can make our city more livable, navigable, economically viable and safe.
Ward Tisdale, President, Real Estate Council of Austin
Joseph Kopser, CEO, RideScout
Dan Graham, Founder, CEO of BuildASign.com
Dewitt Peart, President/CEO, Downtown Austin Alliance
Jessica Sager, President, Young Women’s Alliance
Sara Levine, Executive Director, ATX Safer Streets
Jennifer Houlihan, Executive Director, Austin Music People
Andrea Rado, Hamilton Founding Member, EngageATX
Joshua Baer, Founder/Executive Director, Capital Factory
Tyson Tuttle, CEO, Silicon Labs
Pete Winstead, Founding Shareholder, Winstead PC
Jason Rhode, CEO, Cirrus Logic
Caroline Joiner, Executive Director, TechNet (Texas)