0. Cory Doctorow:
"In 2016, the City of Austin played a game of high-stakes chicken with Uber and Lyft. Austin cab drivers have to get fingerprinted as part of a criminal records check, and Austin wanted Uber and Lyft drivers to go through the same process.
Uber and Lyft violently objected to this. They said it would add a needless barrier to entry that would depress the supply of drivers, and privately, they confessed their fear that giving in to any regulation, anywhere, would open the door to regulation everywhere. They wanted to establish a reputation for being such dirty fighters that no city would even try to put rules on them.
(Notably, Uber and Lyft did not make any arguments about criminal background checks perpetuating America’s racially unjust “justice system” in which people of color are systematically overpoliced and then railroaded into guilty pleas.)
Austin wasn’t intimidated. They enacted the rule, and Uber and Lyft simply exited the city, leaving Austin without any rideshare at all. All the drivers and passengers who’d come to rely on Lyft and Uber were out of luck.
But the drivers were undaunted. They formed a co-operative and in months, they had cloned the Uber app and launched a new business called Ride Austin, which is exactly like Uber: literally the same drivers, driving the same cars, and charging the same prices. But it’s also completely different from Uber: the drivers own this company through a worker-owned co-op. They take home 25% more per ride than they made when they were driving for Uber. Uber and Lyft drivers commute into Austin from as far away as San Antonio just to drive for Ride. That’s how much better driving for a worker co-op is. [Edit: RideAustin reached out to us to correct this information. RideAustin is not a driver co-op, and was not founded by drivers. Also, RideAustin did not launch “months” after Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin, as the article states. RideAustin was founded within a week after the big guys left, and began rides less than a month later (first ride was on June 16, 2016). " (http://locusmag.com/2019/01/cory-doctorow-disruption-for-thee-but-not-for-me/)
1. Toby Baker:
"In cities across the world - London, Philadelphia, Paris - we are seeing a backlash against ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. In Austin, Texas, voters rejected a deal that would have allowed both companies to self-regulate their activities. Two days later, the ride-sharing giants pulled out of the city leaving a gap in the market.
Within two months, RideAustin was built as a non-profit platform which enables individual taxi drivers to operate in much the same way as before. However, the non-profit status of RideAustin means that drivers take home a greater proportion of their earnings." (https://digitalsocial.eu/blog/44/workertech-fighting-for-better-work-through-technology)
2. By Leila Collins
"The rapid proliferation of ride-sharing applications like Uber and Lyft leave both drivers and riders at risk from worker exploitation and personal harm from unvetted drivers, respectively. Many cities have not had a chance to catch up and regulate the platforms to protect its residents, but some have started doing so, not without consequences. In 2016, Uber and Lyft pulled their operations from Austin, Texas, out of protest after the city council passed an ordinance to tax and regulate ride-hailing platforms like traditional taxis.
Since they left, however, new ride-sharing alternatives began to thrive there. The most notable one being RideAustin, a local nonprofit ride-hailing organization whose objective is to pay its drivers well and keep costs low for riders. Their mobile app has a feature to enable paying users to round their fare up to the nearest dollar, wherein the difference is donated to a loca charity of their choice. As of March 2017, the service had given over $100,000 to Austin-based groups through this program. RideAustin saw exponential growth in ridership within the first year of its launch, reaching its millionth ride in eight months. Pending legistation at the Texas state level threatens to nullify Austin’s ridehailing regulations, which would lead to Uber and Lyft to resume operations in the city. Even if they do, RideAustin’s nonprofit status and explicit community-oriented aims will hopefully enable the organization to retain a loyal following despite the big companies’ return." (http://www.shareable.net/sites/default/files/SharingCities_FullBooktoPDF_v2%281%29.pdf)
"RideAustin is the most innovative of the companies to pop up in Austin post-Uber. Founded as a nonprofit by two local tech leaders—Joe Liemandt, founder of software company Trilogy, and Andy Tryba, CEO of tech job placement company Crossover—RideAustin tapped the talents of Austin’s developers and designers, creating an explicitly local service never intended to grow into something that could challenge Uber and Lyft in cities around the globe. Announced two weeks after the Prop 1 vote, it began offering rides a month later. RideAustin’s nonprofit model was an attempt, executives say, to bridge the divide between Austin’s tech community and the residents who had repudiated Lyft and Uber at the polls, while also ensuring that a city with unmanageable traffic, insufficient public transportation, and a famous late-night bar scene would continue to have reliable ride-sharing.
“This was really sort of an olive branch to say, ‘Look, the tech community saw some of these open wounds, and we’re going to do something to try to heal that,’” explains W. Joe Deshotel, RideAustin’s director of community engagement. “You invest in RideAustin because you care about Austin, you live in Austin, and it’s important that we have something like this in our city.” Since its launch, RideAustin has raised more than $7 million in donations, mostly from members of Austin’s tech community.
It’s a very different type of ride-hailing service. The company allows passengers to round up their fares to the nearest dollar, donating the extra to a local charity (Deshotel says that RideAustin has raised over $100,000 for charities so far), and users can opt in to surge pricing to get to the head of the queue and ensure that their drivers are properly compensated. Residents have embraced the startup, which gave its millionth ride in late February and currently averages nearly 60,000 rides a week. Growth has been accelerating: it took 31 days from the company’s June 15 launch for it to give its 10,000th ride but less than 100 to hit 100,000, and it hit a million in just under 250 days.
The $100,000 raised for local charities has certainly attracted plenty of media attention, and the company partners with major events like the Austin City Limits Music Festival to keep its profile high. It is quite transparent with its data as well.
The company also retains drivers’ loyalty by having a clear—and favorable—payment system. “With RideAustin, I get to keep all the money—whatever pops up on the screen,” says Lin Hughs, a driver who’s worked with RideAustin, Fasten, and Lyft and says that RideAustin is the most profitable service for drivers. “If it says $7, I get to keep all of that. That gets deposited into my account on Thursday,” Hughs says. “With Lyft, whatever you would see on the screen, they’d take almost 20 percent of it.” (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603792/hailing-a-different-ride-in-austin/?set=603799)
- Austin Ordinance No. 20151217-075: https://www.austintexas.gov/
- MIT Technology Review on Austin’s ride-hailing situation: