Uber, Lyft halt operations in Austin over background checks as Hillsborough nears deal
TAMPA — As Hillsborough County nears a deal with Uber and Lyft to operate legally here, the ridesharing companies are pulling out of a major U.S. city, at least temporarily.
Uber and Lyft halted operations in Austin, Texas, in the past 36 hours to protest changes to security operations. Austin residents on Saturday voted to uphold a measure passed by city council that required Uber and Lyft drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks.
Those kind of background checks hung up negotiations here between the Public Transportation Commission and ridesharing companies for months. PTC Chairman Victor Crist had insisted that Uber and Lyft drivers should be held to the same standards as taxi drivers, who are required to pass FBI background checks to drive in Hillsborough.
But as the Tampa Bay Times reported on Friday, a tentative deal has been reached that allows Uber and Lyft to conduct their own checks. A vote is expected on Wednesday and the taxi companies are fighting to block it.
As of 8 a.m. Monday, Uber joined Lyft in suspending service within the city limits of Austin.
Uber and Lyft drivers will still pick up passengers outside the city limits of Austin if their destination is also outside the city limits. As a result, the apps show that some Lyft and Uber drivers are still idling in the city.
The ridesharing app GetMe is still operating. GetMe officials have repeatedly said they would stay in Austin regardless of the outcome of Proposition 1, which voters rejected on Saturday. The ride-hailing app Wingz offers rides to and from the Austin airport.
Yellow Cab taxis also have an app called Hailacab Austin with a similar interface to Uber and Lyft’s.
Nearly 56 percent of voters on Saturday rejected Proposition 1, which would have repealed rules that the Austin City Council approved in December that requires drivers with ride-hailing apps to undergo fingerprint-based background checks by Feb. 1, 2017, instead of using the name-based checks that Uber and Lyft prefer.
Some people with the Lyft app also got the following message when they tried to request a Lyft Monday morning: “Due to City Council action, Lyft cannot operate in Austin. Contact your City Council member now to tell them you want Lyft.” Below the message is a “Let Them Know” button.