Back on May 7, voters in Austin, Texas, defeated Proposition 1, 56-44 percent. That meant the city’s plan to pile more regulations on Uber and Lyft — in this case, requiring a fingerprint-based background check for drivers— would proceed.
But to the surprise of city officials, Uber and Lyft both packed up shop and left town two days after the vote, leaving as many as 10,000 drivers without jobs.
As a result, reports Ryan Beckler of Austin website Vocativ.com, the drivers “did what anyone in 2016 does, they turned to Facebook to mobilize — and soon enough, the passengers followed.” A month after Prop 1’s failure, one “Request A Ride” outfit reached 35,000 members, and an underground page has 7,000 members.
It’s another example of the free market reacting much more efficiently than the public sector. And of course, Austin officials couldn’t stand for that. Drivers providing rides to willing and consenting passengers absent permission from bureaucrats? Oh, the humanity!
The Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday that the city is now using sting operations to crack down on drivers working for unlicensed ride-hailing companies. Four cars were impounded from drivers working for a service connecting them with passengers through Facebook. It wasn’t enough for Austin to regulate people out of jobs, now city busybodies will take their cars, too.
So what exactly did the city get for “winning” this battle? How about higher rates of drunken driving. “In the first three weeks after Uber and Lyft left Austin, DWI arrests were up 7.5 percent over the same time last year,” Mr. Beckler noted.
Much like here in Nevada — where Uber and Lyft now can operate even as local governments try to bury them under more and more mandates — Austin officials claim that ride-sharing services have safety problems and that overly zealous regulations are the answer.
But the risk in disrupting these popular ride-sharing endeavors may be a significant increase in DWI arrests. That hardly seems like a good trade-off.
No one is calling for zero regulations on ride-sharing services. But as Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, the government is best which governs least.