As Uber and Lyft have left the City of Austin following the adoption of a nebulously worded ballot proposition, new ridesharing companies have rushed to fill the void. And in their zeal to protect their financial and regulatory stranglehold on transportation services, it looks as though the City is attempting to squelch their attempts.
Later this evening, one such company, Arcade City, is planning on hosting an “app reveal event” — where they’ll discuss the direction/structure of their new company, and their new mobile application to make requesting rides easier. Just moments ago, however, a video was posted to their Facebook page, where John — the proprietor of the venue for the event — describes a hostile interaction he’d had with a City of Austin representative who attempted to shut down the event — in response to an anonymous complaint about proper permitting.
Their action is a typical response to an economic environment impacted by the imposition of a sudden void — which has been disastrous for residents. An article by Reason magazine describes the extent of the catastrophe:
“By all reports, the results have been a mess. About 10,000 drivers lost their gigs, bars are reporting a decline in business, and some honestly unanticipated hiccups have been reported, such as particular inconvenience for disabled residents who need to find new ways to get around.”
Even with such evidence of their obstruction, it’s hardly surprising that Austin interests would stifle innovation to protect their own. After all, Councilmember Ann Kitchen — who led the efforts to subject the ridesharing companies or “Transportation Networking Companies” to the same bureaucratic regulations as traditional cab companies — received substantial political contributions from the city’s established cab industry.
And now, as those left behind scramble to pick up the pieces of Austin’s transportation industry, the city looks as though it can be expected to step on their hands.