Uber and Lyft both announced that they will depart Austin, Tex. after the city voted against a proposition that would have allowed ride-sharing companies to use their own background check systems. The Texas city will require fingerprint background checks in the future.
The two companies spent more than $8 million inundating locals with ads, phone calls, texts and mail in hopes of passing Proposition 1. But in the end, 56% of Austin voters said no to the companies regulating themselves.
In the lead-up to the vote Austin Mayor Steve Adler has maintained that Uber and Lyft won’t leave the city permanently and can negotiate a solution with the city. “The people have spoken clearly tonight. Uber & Lyft are welcome to stay & I invite them to the table regardless,” Mayor Adler said in a tweet after the vote.
Uber and Lyft argued that fingerprint background checks depend on out-of-date databases that would make it hard for them to expediently hire enough drivers for the service. Critics say fingerprinting is more likely to screen out potential criminals and cited the Kalamazoo shooting spree by an Uber driver as a reason to question the company’s safety protocols.
The vote could have a ripple effect across the country. Ride-sharing services have already been sued in California over background check regulations. And Uber and Lyft have threatened to leave Houston because of a similar law to that in Austin.
“Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin,” Uber said in a statement. “We hope the City Council will reconsider their ordinance so we can work together to make the streets of Austin a safer place for everyone.”
Lyft issued their own statement: “The rules passed by City Council don’t allow true ridesharing to operate. 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. Because of this, we have to take a stand for a long-term path forward that lets ridesharing continue to grow across the country.”
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