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#1 2015-12-31 15:25:45

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,168
Website

TNCs (Uber, Lyft) trying to avoid regulation

TNCs (Transportation Network Companies) like Uber and Lyft have been fighting tooth and nail at City Hall over the prospect of being regulated, threatening to leave the City if they don't get their way.  I liked how the Chronicle portrayed the issue:

Austin Chronicle wrote:

You've got to hand it to these multi-billion-dollar dot-com giants for having portrayed the process as a moral struggle between heroic entrepreneurs against the tyrannical powers of the city of Austin and its feckless band of overseers, the City Council. For the record, ride-for-hire giant Uber is currently valued at $62.5 billion, while its most notable competitor, Lyft, is in the midst of a frenzied capital campaign that should bring it to a rather paltry $4 billion – thereby outstripping the entire annual budget of the city....You also have to admire their business model: They provide the app and its online network, and their drivers provide their vehicles and maintenance, their time and labor, and assume most of the financial and all of the personal risk – while the companies dictate pricing and take a cut of every transaction. Even better: In the event of a political beef with elected officials [e.g., fingerprinting], you can count on all these indentured servants to campaign on your behalf as an army of Little Guys fighting oppression from The Man – peppering the neighborhoods with cute little pink signs that say 'Support ridesharing,' as though these multi-billion dollar corporate behemoths were the vehicular equivalent of a Saturday yard sale....

While the nominal issue is 'fingerprinting'...it's something of a distraction. The real issue, represented in the explicit threats of the companies to leave the large and growing Central Texas market if they don't get their way, is whether the community's democratically elected representatives retain the authority to regulate businesses operating in Austin, or if the driver-eat-driver 'free market' imposed by billionaire corporations will instead rule the day, where the weakest go to the wall.
http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/201 … -to-there/

Here's how the TNC lobbying group (shamefully) puts it in their full-page ad:  "The City Council recently voted to adopt extensive new regulations that will lead services like Uber and Lyft to shut down."  They will literally shut down if they get modest regulation?!  Please!

Of course, the dead giveaway that they don't care to be honest is that they call their services "ridesharing" (as though it's a form of carpool), when the reality is that they're really private taxi services.

There's a debate raging too (which I helped instigate) at Nextdoor.com.

I was sad to read in the Chronicle that the group ATX Safer Streets, which had been formed to promote transit to decrease drunk driving, is now apparently helping TNCs lobby to avoid regulation.  As such, I removed the link to them from the sidebar of this site.

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#2 2016-01-01 00:13:06

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 549

Re: TNCs (Uber, Lyft) trying to avoid regulation

MichaelBluejay wrote:

There's a debate raging too (which I helped instigate) at Nextdoor.com

NextDoor only lets people see discussions that are either in their neighborhood or *sometimes* in an adjacent neighborhood -- but no further.

So most people won't be able to see this, unless they live close to you.  Which is a pity -- I wanted to see it.

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#3 2016-01-01 11:01:55

Donald Lewis
Member
Registered: 2009-07-11
Posts: 181

Re: TNCs (Uber, Lyft) trying to avoid regulation

I think Lyft and Uber raising a huge stink about the "hardship" of drivers' fingerprints being taken is a crop of crap.  If someone seriously wants to drive for either of these services a cost equivalent to a tank of gas should not be a deal breaker.

The "contract labor" business model seems shaky:  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/201 … ss-riordan

Don

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#4 2016-01-01 12:11:29

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,168
Website

Re: TNCs (Uber, Lyft) trying to avoid regulation

Yeah, I wondered whether the discussion was going to be public to everyone or not.  Basically, someone said she drives for Uber and asked if neighbors wanted to sign the petition against fingerprinting.  Excluding those who cheerfully said they'd sign, here are some other responses:

Cara, thanks for the note. As a driver who has gone through fingerprinting processes before, can you shed some light on why you think fingerprinting is such a big deal for Lyft/Uber that they would threaten to leave over it?

The City agreed to cover the costs, and grant plenty of time to do the checks, so I don't understand why this is a deal breaker. Most drivers I've heard from would be willing to do a fingerprint, given plenty of time and that they don't have to pay. Thanks for your consideration.

I really wouldn't want a service that doesn't provide fingerprinting or background checks. Why would this be an issue? As previously noted, the City will cover the cost of these scans and I feel that the compromised proposal would be advantageous to Uber and Lyft. Seems to me that if you're going to chauffeur someone you should go through a proper vetting process just as Taxi drivers do.. I agree with Andrei. I also welcome the coming of "Get Me" who is relocating to Austin and has no problem with City requirements. It's a matter of your safety. It's that simple. I'm not against anyone making a living as a driver for either company referenced above. We undergo background checks for employment and volunteer positions, why would this then be an issue?

Chiming in too- absolutely not. Fingerprinting/background checks for someone who's going to be picking up complete strangers, who are probably alone and probably drunk and therefore prone to being victimized, seems completely reasonable, especially if the city is paying for it. I'd discourage anyone I spoke to from signing this petition. What's your problem with it, Cara? Is there something we're missing here?

It's not that fingerprinting is bad. It's that the city shouldn't regulate it. It's for our free economy to regulate. If there's a need for it, if the market wants it, then one of the companies will respond and it will become a competitive advantage that allows them to take market share--just as über and lyft have responded to an open need in the market. As these services and companies mature, their offering will evolve naturally based on market demand. In this case, the city is trying to regulate that-/because of a push from the taxi companies who continue to not evolve and respond to demand. I have no problem ubering. Would I likely choose a company that fingerprints, yes. But do I think the city needs to regulate that? No.

Michael Bluejay wrote:

"It's not that fingerprinting is bad. It's that the city shouldn't regulate it. It's for our free economy to regulate. If there's a need for it, if the market wants it, then one of the companies will respond and it will become a competitive advantage..."

Yeah, because that worked so well for protecting child workers from what was essentially slave labor during the industrial revolution.

And really, we don't have to go back that far: did paint and gas companies voluntarily take lead out of their products, or did they do it only when it was legislated? Did auto manufacturers add safety equipment to cars of their own volition, or did it require a government mandate to make them finally take action? Did food producers offer to put labels on food products so consumers could know exactly what they're eating, or did that happen only when laws to that effect were passed? History shows over and over that companies generally don't protect their workers or make their products and services safer until they're forced to do so -- libertarian delusions notwithstanding. The current state of affairs is that Uber is fighting commonsense safety measures tooth and nail. THAT'S what an unregulated free market gets you.

Regardless of where you stand on fingerprinting, TNC's are the best thing to Austin transportation in years. There are more important issues that need to be addressed by our city council than the "hot topic" of the month.

I respectfully disagree with the market argument. I'm not trying to get into an ideological debate, but the market doesn't care about women getting assaulted. It only cares if the assaults become public knowledge and affect profits.

It's not enough for the TNCs to say no (and none of their reasons so far have convinced me). I would also like them to acknowledge and propose alternatives. If the TNCs came back and gave concrete data saying, "in the X number of reported assault cases, fingerprinting would have not have prevented any of these. Instead, we propose features Y and Z" then I might change my mind, but so far, they have done none of those.

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#5 2016-01-01 23:51:01

chuckthomas
Member
From: Far NW Austin
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 76

Re: TNCs (Uber, Lyft) trying to avoid regulation

If fingerprinting is required of drivers, shouldn't it also be required of riders to protect the drivers?

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