Austin council delays action on rideshare changes

By • on August 16, 2013

June 6, 2013

By Ben Wear
American-Statesman Staff

The Austin City Council has once again delayed action on a proposed city ordinance that would restrict what people can be paid for offering ridesharing services.

On a 4-3 vote, with Council Members Kathie Tovo, Laura Morrison and Mike Martinez opposed, the council postponed action until Aug. 8. In the meantime, Sidecar, a San Francisco-based company that has an app linking rideshare drivers and riders, agreed to suspend operations while some sort of public stakeholder process takes place.

The city Transportation Department, taking a position that many other city governments around the country have adopted, contends that Sidecar and other like online services are in effect functioning as non-registered taxi dispatchers. Sidecar’s app suggests a "donation" amount for rides and then takes 20 percent of whatever is paid by riders.

The measure delayed Thursday would have restricted what rideshare drivers can collect, allowing them to recover tolls, parking charges and a per-mile rate equal to the federally set amount for operating a vehicle. That is currently 56.5 cents per mile.

Sidecar supporters argue that what the company and its drivers are doing is more akin to carpooling and should not be discouraged by what the city staff has in mind.

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