If you’re just getting off of an airplane at a place like Austin-Bergstrom Airport in Austin, Texas and are looking to get a ride to wherever it is that you may be staying, the chances are great that more common services such as Lyft or Uber won’t be the ones to get you there. This is because, surprisingly, neither company operates in the city of Austin. Instead, you would need to search for more off-brand names such as Wingz, Fare, GetMe, RideAustin, and others.
Back in May of 2016, Uber and Lyft both left Austin following perhaps the most expensive political fight that had ever taken place within the city, which saw a total of $8.2 million dollars spent to obtain votes in a special election that was known as Proposition 1. This special ordinance would have enabled regulations that had previously been put in place by the Austin city council to be repealed and required companies such as Lyft and Uber to follow the exact same rules as traditional taxi drivers in terms of being fingerprinted as part of a criminal background check. It instead would have put rules in place that were created by a political action committee that was formed by the two companies. The proposition ended up failing by approximately 11 points, resulting in both Uber and Lyft shutting down their operations in Austin within 36 hours of this happening, with the reason being that they felt their presences in the city would have been virtually unsustainable without it.
Out of the 587,000 individuals that voted in the Proposition 1 election, the majority of the city’s political establishment were said to oppose it. This included unions, environmental groups, and neighborhood groups. On the other hand, the Real Estate Council of Austin and the Travis County Republican Party came out in favor of the measure.
After the departures of Uber and Lyft, many replacements began popping up, as they suddenly wanted to take advantage of a market that had swung wide open. Furthermore, drivers who had previously worked for both Uber and Lyft created a Facebook page entitled Arcade City, in which those who were searching for a ride could post their location and the destination in which they wanted to travel to. Drivers could then bid on the right to drive those individuals.
Perhaps the most innovative of these new companies is RideAustin, which was initially founded as a nonprofit company. It has truly tapped the talents of many of the city’s designers and developers, thereby creating a unique service that was almost certainly never intended to challenge major companies such as Uber and Lyft in other cities around the world. RideAustin was announced two weeks after the Proposition 1 vote, and it officially began offering rides to citizens one month later. It’s also a much different type of service, to say the least: RideAustin allows passengers to round up their total fare to the nearest dollar and donate the extra amount to a local charity. In fact, RideAustin has, thus far, donated over $100,000 to charity ever since the company initially launched. Furthermore, those who use the service can also utilize surge pricing to get themselves to the front of the line, which will ensure that their driver is nicely compensated. On average, RideAustin provides approximately 60,000 rides per week, and that number is only expected to rise further as time goes on.
It’s also equally great for the drivers as well in terms of the payment system, as they get to keep all of the money that they earn. This is not the case with a company such as Lyft, who takes almost 20% of a driver’s total earnings.
RideAustin is also continuing to build trust among its team at a time when Uber continues to face serious challenges, ranging from horrible management to cases involving allegations of sexual harassment, as well as the company’s behavior regarding the recent executive order regarding immigration that was signed by President Donald Trump. In fact, ever since late January, around 200,000 individuals are said to have deleted their accounts with Uber because of many of these issues.