Published on May 15th, 2016 | by Kate Harrington
Prop. 1 Failed – What Now?
Austin’s Proposition 1 drew a lot of ire, mailers, accusations, and text messages right up until May 7, when Austin voters voted down the ordinance in underwhelming – a 17% voter turnout – numbers. The “no” vote means voters rejected the ordinance supported by transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft that would have reverted regulations to their original form instead of the stricter regulations City Council adopted in December 2015.
True to their word, Uber and Lyft ceased operating in Austin, at least temporarily, on the morning of May 9. Uber and Lyft spent $9 million on a campaign to support Proposition 1, making this the most expensive campaign in the City’s history.
As returns came in on May 7 and it became clear that the ordinance would be defeated, Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a statement that held out an olive branch of sorts.
“The people have spoken tonight loud and clear,” Adler said in a statement. “Uber and Lyft are welcome to stay in Austin, and I invite them to the table regardless. Austin is an innovative and creative city, and we’ll need to be at our most creative and innovative now.”
There’s no word yet on whether Uber and Lyft will circle back to talk with City leaders. Jason Stanford, communications director for Adler’s office, said that for the time being the City is not commenting on potential talks with Uber and Lyft, even to say whether they are or are not happening.
There is another TNC in Austin, GetMe, which has said it will comply with the City’s regulations, including fingerprinting. GetMe moved its headquarters from Dallas to Austin several months ago. Days after the Proposition 1 election, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport announced it would partner with smartphone app Wingz, which offers rides to and from the airport. And on May 11, City staff recommended that Austin’s taxi industry should be partially deregulated, something Adler’s office says could put more taxis on the street.
There’s also been talk of legislative action. State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) has said he plans to introduce a bill in the 2017 legislative session to establish statewide regulations for TNCs, and called local regulations anti-competitive.