AUSTIN, Texas – Like cars in the night, they come and they go. Through break-ups and make-ups, ridesharing services and the city of Austin shared a tumultuous relationship until one gave into compromise and decided to make things work for the community.
The rollercoaster of emotions took a toll on Austinites when Uber and Lyft had a falling out with the Austin city government in May 2016 forcing alternative options to rise.
The city demanded the ride-sharing services require fingerprint testing background checks of all drivers. But Uber and Lyft argued that was an unnecessary cost they did not want to cover. They threatened to leave, and after Austinites sided with the city in a vote, they did–for a year.
Residents from Austin who depended on the service felt an immediate loss.
“I was an avid user of Lyft and Uber-so were a lot of my friends,” said Eric Shea, 24, a member of the Austin community and Mueller area resident, “Many of us don’t own a car and used a combination of public transportation and ridesharing apps.”
During the 2017 legislative session, Gov. Abbott signed a statewide ride-hailing law that did not require fingerprint testing. So, Uber and Lyft made-up with the city and citizens they left stranded and returned to Austin in May.
The two ride-sharing giants were welcomed with open arms by the very people that drove them out.
But watch out Lyft and Uber, there’s new transportation in town. And it’s offering free pickup and drop-off services, until June 2018, that is.
Pickup is sponsored by CapMetro, a public bus service in Austin. The new service is the first transit agency to operate a ridesharing service using their own vehicles. Pickup began its pilot service in June 2017 offering free rides to everyone within the service area.
“As the way people use transportation is changing, with increasing popularity of ridesharing services, we are looking for ways to integrate this into our public transportation service,” said Mariette Hummel, a spokeswoman for CapMetro, “This is a pilot, so it’s important to us to find out what works and what doesn’t.”
Now until June 2018, rides are free on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. within the pilot service zone.
“The route was chosen because it’s a diverse area including schools, a pool, shops and residential areas,” said Hummel, “It also includes both Mueller and senior living centers.”
The cost of the service after the pilot program has yet to be determined, according to Hummel.
“I’ll definitely take advantage of the free service,” said Shea, “But I would love to know how much everything would be after this pilot program. I just don’t know if I would use it enough to get my money’s worth.”
With a heavy target to the right demographics, CapMetro’s Pickup service seems like a reliable transportation service, but all will be determined once the pilot program concludes and they start playing with the big boys.