What We Really Voted Against with Prop 1

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  • May 9, 2016
  • Kari Hernandez

I had planned to write an entirely different blog today about Austin’s transportation future. Instead, I’m scrambling to find words for what I perceive as a destructive and unnecessary vote resulting in a shut down by Lyft and Uber in Austin (effective this morning, 8 am). My petty frustration with having to drive to the airport or park downtown aside, the bigger issue is a lot of people lost their livelihoods this morning, or a good piece of it, and the freedom to work for themselves. More people will drive drunk. A lot of restaurants will have smaller crowds this week. Parking garages will be full as cars circle downtown in gridlock searching for parking.

Since I don’t believe there is a true safety issue here, we only have bad politics on both sides to blame for this entire episode. All in all, I believe we voted – or didn’t vote – against our best interest as a city and against a solution that was working to alleviate some of Austin’s biggest, toughest challenges. Here’s what we essentially voted against:

  • Affordability – Austin is losing its creative professionals because it’s so damn expensive to live here. TNCs (transportation network companies) provide a way to make extra money and make ends meet. Most of my Uber and Lyft drivers (of the probably 200+ rides I’ve taken) have been musicians, designers, entrepreneurs, and moms and dads driving in off hours to supplement their income. Almost all have been delightful to talk with and not one has ever made me feel one iota scared.
  • Reduction in drunk driving – While actual % reduction of DWI fatalities and collisions is debatable, it was reported by KVUE that statistics from APD showed a 16% drop in DWI arrests and a 23% drop in DWI-related crashes in 2014, the year after TNCs came to Austin. There is no question from my experience that many people now choose rideshare over getting behind the wheel after a few drinks. Cabs have always been a crapshoot in Austin; rideshare is easy and reliable.
  • Mobility – We need all types of public and private transportation to make Austin accessible for all and alleviate traffic. Even with an effective Cap Metro bus and light rail system (which we know it is not yet), there is still the last mile issue to get from the bus or train stop to your home or destination. TNCs provide that flexible last mile transportation for many and make our investment in public transportation more valuable and effective. Just last week, Austin-based moovel (formerly RideScout) launched RideTap, a developer kit that unites public transit and a network of alternative transportation options including Lyft and Car2Go, to address the last-mile challenge and give riders more options and convenience.
  • Economic opportunity – This is why we can’t have nice things, Austin. Just in the last week we get named no. 1 city for small businesses and become a finalist in the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City challenge, and then we show the world that we’re willing to cut off our nose to spite our face.

Mayor Adler said in a statement that an “against” vote for Prop 1 “puts Austin and the rideshare companies constructively back at the negotiating table” and “will allow Austin to find the right solution.” With great faith in Adler, it gives me hope that the City will be able to come to an agreement with TNCs that will bring rideshare back to Austin. I hope they move swiftly and that this serves as a wake-up call for many Austinites and businesses to get involved and let their support be heard – I know it did that for me. Thank you to the folks that have already devoted their time and influence to this debate and I hope this setback doesn’t discourage you from continuing to do so.

This Wednesday, we’ll participate as a company in the Austin Don’t Rush campaign encouraging citizens to trade their typical commute for an alternate time, carpool, or public transport option. INK supports alternate commute times and work-from-home flexibility in our day-to-day policies but on Wed., May 11, we’ll be working together from neighborhood coffee shops north, south, and otherwise in the morning and sharing pizza at the office that evening to further avoid the rush home, for those that can stay later. I’m hopeful as a city we can work together to not only find new solutions but to hold on to the ones that are already here!