Uber and Lyft stopped their operations in my hometown of Austin, Texas on Monday after the city voted against Proposition 1—a set of measures aimed at overturning various regulations including fingerprint-based background checks for drivers. For weeks before the vote, the companies threatened voters through text and over the phone that if the city required a fingerprint check, they’d leave for good. I personally received 19 texts from Uber over the course of last week, even though I haven’t used the app since I was home for the summer.
The companies spent a combined $8.6 million on the aggressive marketing campaign, clearly to no avail. And while there’s a kind of satisfaction to seeing their glorified whining end in failure, I’m disappointed that they couldn’t have simply complied with new safety precautions instead of taking their services away from the city like a parent putting a kid in time-out.
I completely understand the concerns that have been raised about Uber and Lyft since their launches. There is certainly a risk to taking a ride from someone with no information aside from a first name, photo and car description. But when you’re trying to get home quickly late at night, these apps are undeniably convenient—especially in a sprawl city like Austin, where it takes 25 minutes to get a cab.
So it’s frustrating to see these companies that usually base their advertising on the safety of their rides go to such obnoxious lengths to refuse making those rides even safer. It seems like the only reason they’re avoiding this extra step is because it would be inconvenient.
It won’t surprise me if one of these companies, or maybe both, re-enter the Austin market once they realize how much money they’re cheating themselves out of. Even if that happens, it still stands that all ride-sharing drivers in Austin will need to have their fingerprints scanned by February of next year. Hopefully Uber and Lyft will swallow their pride in time to give me more rides this summer.
—Jenna Ramsey, News Editor