Everything you need to know to properly understand Prop 1

What exactly is Prop 1?

With all Proposition 1 petitioning happening around campus, I think it’s important we take a step back and evaluate the situation. It’s important to know the facts around an issue before diving headfirst into protests.

Let’s figure out exactly what Prop 1 is.

What is Prop 1 debating?

You’re being asked to vote on whether to keep an existing city ordinance on ridesharing or replace it with a political action committee funded by Lyft and Uber (Ridesharing Works for Austin).

The thing that makes voting more complicated on this issue is that the ballot is asking you to decide on the Uber/Lyft ordinance. So a vote “for the ordinance” is a vote for Uber/Lyft and a vote “against the ordinance” is a vote to keep the existing city ordinance.

What’s all the talk about banning Lyft and Uber?

The existing city ordinance never actually talks about banning either service: what happened is after the ordinance was passed in December, the companies disliked parts of it and started a petition and PAC to work against it, which is why it’s being put up to vote.

What parts of the ordinance did the companies dislike?

The city ordinance orders ridesharing companies to have fingerprint checks on their drivers to level the playing field with other ridesharing services (taxis, limos, etc.). Uber and Lyft argue that fingerprinting adds an extra expense and severely damages the business.

How does fingerprinting hurt business?

The argument is that they already perform background checks on hired drivers and fingerprinting would add an extra charge onto prospective drivers. This would limit the number of people applying to be drivers which would increase wait times for passengers and in the long term hurt the companies’ reputation.

Is fingerprinting all the ordinance requires?

No, there it requires many other things such as banning certain drop off and pickup locations.

Does fingerprinting increase security?

Right now this is impossible to prove (Lyft and Uber do not release data about their drivers). Allegations have been made against fingerprint checked taxi drivers and Uber and Lyft drivers. Contrary to the claim made by Austin City Council member Ellen Troxclair there’s no proof showing Lyft and Uber are safer than city approved ridesharing services ( or vice versa).

So will Lyft and Uber leave Austin?

If the Prop 1 does not pass, then both companies have implied that they will leave the city. However, Houston recently made fingerprinting mandatory and while Lyft left, Uber still operates there. Also, in light of the companies’ departures, a new ride sharing service called Get Me has recently launched. Get Me will operate by city regulations but currently lacks the availability that Lyft and Uber have.

This is a more complicated matter than just “Voting to save Lyft and Uber”: these companies definitely provide valuable city services by minimizing the traffic and preventing drunk driving, but do they hurt the growth of local businesses? If Lyft and Uber remain in the city, the chances of smaller businesses succeeding, such as Get Me, are severely hindered.

On the other hand, Lyft and Uber are widely used and extremely popular within the city. UT students rely extensively on the service for safe rides home from the entertainment district and for daily tasks, such as grocery shopping.

Prop 1 needs to be evaluated in all aspects before we sign petitions declaring our views.

UT Austin