Lyft, Uber throw Texas-sized tantrum over Austin driver law

Car services leave in a huff over fingerprinting requirement

Photo by Raido Kaldma

Uber and Lyft have suspended operations in Austin, Texas, after failing to amend a city law requiring drivers to be fingerprinted.

The two ride-booking app makers said on Monday that they were closing shop in the Texas state capital after voters rejected their bid to amend a city law mandating fingerprinting for all drivers working for the ride-sharing services.

Uber and Lyft had been backing proposition one, a special election ordinance that would have exempted the ride-sharing services from a law in Austin that requires drivers working for transportation companies to be fingerprinted by the city. The law also mandates that drivers keep an emblem sticker on their car at all times and prohibits loading and unloading in travel lanes.

Austin's city council passed the regulations last year, with an effective date of 2017. The ride-sharing companies had sought to amend those laws to exclude their drivers, arguing that the rules would put a burden on the part-time drivers who work for Lyft and Uber.

Both companies had previously warned that they would close up operations in Austin if Prop 1 was defeated.

"Unfortunately, the rules passed by city council don't allow true ridesharing to operate," Lyft said in announcing its closure.

"Instead, they make it harder for part-time drivers, the heart of Lyft’s peer-to-peer model, to get on the road and harder for passengers to get a ride."

According to local news station KXAN, backers of Proposition one donated more than $5m to push the proposition, but voters rejected to bid to rewrite the city law by a 56 to 44 per cent margin.

Both companies say they will continue to operate services in other parts of Texas.

Lyft and Uber are no strangers to battling with city governments. The dial-a-ride app-makers have been in almost constant battles with local officials in major cities around the world, usually over charges that the ride-sharing services violate taxi codes. ®

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