***Click here to check out our NEW Uber vs Lyft piece. What is Uber? How does Uber work? These are the questions. Recently there has been a lot of talk about “ridesharing,” in Austin. Is this the new Mopac Express lane? No. Some new, all-encompassing car pool program? Unfortunately not. Ridesharing refers to a series of TNC’s or Transportation Networking Companies that have recently popped up in Austin. Among these TNC’s are Uber and Lyft. Now, when I said there’s “been a lot of talk,” I wasn’t kidding. Think pieces have popped up like people waiting for a taxi on a Saturday night after the bar; they are everywhere. Some detail the risks, while others call it the start of a revolution. The real answer is probably somewhere in between, and I’ll direct you to other sources discussing the legal issues surrounding the launch of these ridesharing services in Austin. But I ask again, how does Uber work?
How Does Uber Work?
The first thing you’ll do to use Uber is sign up via the website. When you create your account you’ll input your credit card information. See, Uber is fascinating because no cash changes hands for a fare. The drivers are paid by the company and your transit fees are deducted straight from your bank account or credit card. A 20% tip is automatically added. FreightPros makes Inc. 5000 list!!! Once you’ve got an Uber account, you’ll download the app on your smartphone. After signing into your account through the app, you’re ready to go. Simply request what type of car you want (there are 5 options ranging in price and comfort) and input your location. The mobile application will find you a driver, and let you know how much you can expect to pay. A major plus to this system is that it’s possible to know an approximation of how much your ride will cost before you get in the car, something that a taxi cab cannot offer. The app will show you where your driver is via GPS, keeping you better informed. You’ll know how long your wait will be until you’re picked up, and even a guess at how long your ride will take.
Why Do We Need Uber In Austin?
Because it’s a viable transportation alternative in a city that is lacking BIG TIME in public transportation. Austin is a fast-growing city, with more and more people coming into town each day. Austin traffic is terrible, and probably won’t be getting better any time soon. There’s no shame in leaving the car in the garage, both for purposes of sanity and cost. The new “rapid” bus system is off to a slow start, to say the least. There’s always talk of a rail system, but the idea has never gotten much traction and the costs to the public would be substantial. Note to self: People don’t like to pay more in taxes. And then there’s the taxis. Let’s talk about the taxis. I’ve been here for five years, and like any relatively young person in a hip city with lots of fun bars and nightlife activities, I like to sample these activities from time to time. Obviously, everyone wants to be safe, and drunk driving awareness is at an all-time high after the terrible events of SXSW this year. Car keys are left on coffee tables, and that’s a REALLY good thing. But let’s face it, there are simply not enough taxis in this city to accommodate the amount of people downtown (and everywhere else) on a Friday or Saturday night. Multiple times I’ve waited hours to get a cab downtown. That time stretches to 3 AM or even later! As my father used to say, “Nothing good happens past 3 AM, son. Nothing.” The old man might have had a point, as I’ve mostly gotten in trouble in those hazy early morning hours. Maybe you have too. Apart from the waiting, most of the taxis in this town (especially at 2 AM) are like sharks that smell blood. Listen, I get it; drunk people are annoying. Yes, it would be a pain to drive them all around and, sure, if you want to overcharge some wasted college kid, more power to you. We’ve all had our days with that stuff. But the taxi monopoly that exists in this city allow the taxi cabs to operate a racket that is unacceptable. They overcharge for rides on a regular basis, take long routes to increase fares, and drop “Hail-a-cab” appointments with impunity. This is not a personal attack on Austin cab drivers. I’ve taken cabs in New York City, San Francisco, London, Rome, and Paris, among other places. Most of the cabs I’ve taken a ride in share these unattractive qualities. It’s certainly not just Austin. BUT WHY DO WE HAVE TO ACCEPT THIS POOR SERVICE?!?!?! If someone sucks at something, and someone else can provide better service, why should I be forced to pay for the worse service? Our world is rapidly expanding because of technology, and this technology and expansion brings more choices than ever before. It’s true in cable television, music, food, car insurance, and pretty much everything else. Why should it be any different for the transportation industry? So, what’s the hold up? The city council is historically slow-moving with these sorts of things, and the current system has been in place so long its like watching concrete dry when you’re trying to enact change. We’re talking about the city council here, AKA a government entity. God bless our government, but efficient it is not. If you listen to the police officers and the people in charge, the hold-up is all in finding the best way to protect the citizens of Austin, both present and future. I’m not a total contrarian, I know there’s truth in that. Insurance is an issue with these ridesharing companies, as accidents and lawsuits in San Francisco can attest to. I do believe that the ultimate goal of the goverment is to protect its citizens. I also believe that those in positions of power rarely give up said power without a fight, and I believe the taxi companies are trying to protect their monopoly. There are government regulations that are met by taxi companies in the Austin area, and there’s certainly some question as to whether companies like Uber and Lyft are meeting these regulations. Another question that needs to be asked? Are these regulations appropriate and do they serve the public in the best possible way? Ultimately, as we’ve seen in other cities like Dallas, I believe companies like Uber and Lyft will have their day in the sun. In the end, we are a country built on the voices of the people, and I believe the voices of Austin will make themselves heard in support of ridesharing services. Both Uber and Lyft have signup forms to give voice to your choices, so I encourage you to do some research of your own and determine if you think the city of Austin should lift the sanctions on ridesharing services. There’s plenty of information out there, you’ve only got to look.
Logan is a Content Marketing Associate at FreightPros in charge of social media and content creation. He has a writing degree from the University of Oklahoma, but lives life on the edge and resides in Longhorn country. He loves Murakami books, Tarantino movies, and Vonnegut books. Lots of books. One day he will own a dog, but first he'll have to get a yard.
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