Austin Police to SXSW Attendees: Uber Not Permitted



Despite strict city-wide transportation regulations, Uber, the high-tech ride sharing service, is doing everything it can to capitalize on South by Southwest. But Saturday night, local police warned festival attendees against using it. "Use only permitted transportation services," the Austin police department tweeted Saturday night in a jab at ride-sharing services.

They linked to a blog with more details:

Unpermitted ground transportation services are possibly recruiting for drivers in Austin, so the City of Austin wants people to be aware of the rules and risks before unintentionally breaking the law and incurring legal costs.

Regulations call for a minimum fare of $55 and rides arranged 30 minutes in advance. The steep price cuts novel ride-sharing services out of the market. In the blog, the police department warned that non-compliance could result in a $500 fine for each violation. Police might even impound violating vehicles.

Despite these challenges, Uber Austin offers a few SXSW services that comply with the law. Uber pedicabs, or bicycle taxis, are advertised as a way to soak up the scenery. UberBLACK requires a minimum fare of $55 in order to accommodate pricey regulations. Riders get a ride in a stylish black sedan equipped with water bottles and Blowfish "hangover remedy."

But when asked in a tweet if Uber rides were permitted, the police department replied with a sweeping, "No they are not."

Uber is using the festival to edge its service into Austin. The Austin Uber Twitter account is flush with "you're welcomes" to happy customers and apologies for the state-induced supply shortage. Uber started a campaign with the #AustinNeedsUber hashtag. Customers are using the hashtag to complain about the shortage of taxis in a packed SXSW climate.

Ride-sharing services have had a difficult time entering new cities. Taxicab interests, feeling threatened by the new tech, have fought against the startup in cities all over the world. French drivers attacked an Uber car a couple months ago. New Orleans municipal government issued a cease-and-desist letter to Uber, though it does not offer rides there. Chicago, Milwaukee, and most recently Seattle, are just a few of the most recent battlegrounds. 

Read more from Reason.com on Uber.

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  1. Obviously crime has vanished in Austin, since this is what the cops are reduced to doing for a living.

    1. That and manhandling joggers for not respecting their authoritah.

  2. Jesus @#$@$ christ. So when I go down there for the Lone Star Roundup, will I not be allowed to drive my friends around in the Chebby?


      /Austin PD

      1. That reminds me, don't bring the dog.



    1. While IRS employees were screening applications, documents show that Lerner and other senior officials contemplated concerns about the "hugely influential Koch brothers," and that
      Lerner advised her IRS colleagues that her unit should "do a c4 project next year" focusing on existing organizations.

      Looming large!

  3. Those racist red-necks are standing in the way of prog-wait, Austin is ruled by TEAM BLUE?

    These regulations are necessary to assure the safety of the proletariat who could never make an informed choice on their own!

  4. "Use only permitted transportation services,"

    The old "that which is not permitted is forbidden" rule rears its head again.

  5. I got the following in an email from Uber this morning:

    Senators Ted Harvey (D) and Cheri Jahn (R) and Representatives Dan Pabon (D) and Libby Szabo (R) understand that innovation needs to be channeled and championed. That's why they introduced SB 14-125 to ensure that uberX is in Colorado for the long-term. This bill would create a new vehicle class called "Transportation Network Companies" and would require that:
    Every driver pass a rigorous background check that includes driving records and felony offenses;
    Every vehicle on the road has been inspected for safety and quality;
    Every trip is insured up to $1 million.
    The Senate passed this legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support and it now moves on to the House Committee on Transportation and Energy. Now is the time to show your support for uberX! Now is the time to let Committee members know that #COLOVESuberX by emailing the Committee Chairman and your representative:

    This significantly decreases my appreciation for Uber. Fuckin toadies.

  6. What are the odds Uber and Lyft lobby for protectionist policies once they are established in a market?

    1. Beat you by a minute.

  7. "Use only permitted transportation services,"


  8. Too slow.


  9. The old business models are evolving, and some are crumbling altogether, yet our government betters are trying ever harder to prop them up. Eventually people are going to understand the diminishing returns they get from their tax dollars. Even proggie, hipster Uber drivers may wake up and realize that the same dollars they send in to the State, are being used to control and command themselves.

    Maybe that's the problem with the whole thing. Everybody kind of pays taxes and is generally okay with a larger government. Proggies and liberals think they pay taxes to help poor kids eat, for universal education, and to protect the environment. Conservatives see taxes as defending US borders, maintaining order, and spreading democracy overseas. Both liberals and conservatives resent their tax dollars being spent on the others causes. No one ever steps back and looks at the whole picture. Except, of course, for libertarians.

  10. innovation needs to be channeled and championed.


    1. The worst part is that that's not even the slavers talking, it's the slaves.

    2. "If you are anyone but P Brooks, you are stealing my bit"

  11. These Uber people are such menshes, lol


  12. lol, silly rules are for honest folk lol


  13. Regulations call for a minimum fare of $55 and rides arranged 30 minutes in advance. The steep price cuts novel ride-sharing services out of the market. In the blog, the police department warned that non-compliance could result in a $500 fine for each violation. Police might even impound violating vehicles.

    I'm confused here. Austin is supposed to be a place of free-wheeling tolerance, openness, artsy-fartsyness, and several other 'nesses I have neglected to mention. Why would a democratically elected city council enact such price controls and bans?

    1. So tolerant they have a plastic bag ban in the city. No, they are succeeding in spite of themselves, like the Bay Area. Although, they have to be careful about offending businesses who can move to Dallas or Houston if the granola gets too crunchy.

      1. Or just move outside the city limits to Round Rock or Cedar Park or ...

        It's a big city, but it's not THAT big.

    2. Tolerance for everything but profit.

      1. Tolerance for everything but profit for the wrong people.

        When they mandate a $55 minimum fare, it is clear they don't have a problem with profit per se.

  14. Reality is that during SXSW, the city is so clogged anyway that getting a car through is a matter of luck. In my years in Austin, I never went near that cluster-fuck.

    1. So the Uber pricing would go up anyway during SXSW, meaning the minimum pricing isn't much of a deterrent.

      1. The waiting-in-traffic time is astounding. Normally, traffic there is pretty nasty, SXSW (and ACL) take it over the top to Full Dante.

      2. You mean they would GOUGE??!!1!

    2. Eh. in 2011 I went (back) for the first time in the 2000s. We drove in from an airport hotel every night. Sure, $20 to park is highway robbery, but fuckit. Beer was still reasonable. Last year we rented a car but stayed at a hotel off Anderson Lane that was on the shuttle route. That is the way to go. Have a car during the day, have a ride at night. But yeah, expect to walk up to 12th or down to 1st to meet your Uber driver.

  15. OK, so can someone clue me in on what the government argument is against Uber? I know it will be BS, but what is the pretense, at least? Is just licensing and bitching from entrenched transportation interests?

    1. The entrenched interests are the bootleggers, and the baptists are the politicians crying about the danger of unregulated taxis (car safety, driver backgrounds, insurance etc.)

    2. Government hates it when people engage in economic activity without asking permission and taking orders.

    3. Safety. Public health/security/safety is always the first justification, as it's easiest to justify your bastardosity by appealing to people's anxieties.

    4. I believe the honest-to-god publicly stated justification is that the government wants to see everyone survive and prosper, and services like Uber and Lyft are disruptive, coming on too fast and threaten an established industry if not regulated.

      To the government, a 'level playing field' is everyone charges the same minimum price.

      As you can guess, economics education wasn't a priority in whatever school our current crop of dipshit legislators went to.

  16. I think the massive backlash against ride-sharing by city governments is an excellent indicator that cab and livery companies are greasing a lot of palms.

    1. Cops on leave quite often drive taxis for extra cash.

      So ride-sharing cuts directly into their personal bottom line.

      1. On leave?

        Is this a clever extension of the militarized policing paradigm or merely a Freudian slip (e.g., use of the term "civilians")?

  17. Regulations call for a minimum fare of $55 and rides arranged 30 minutes in advance.

    I'm sure Spike Lee will turn up any moment now to condemn the exorbitant, gentrifying fares that price the working class out of taxi rides. Any second now.

    With all the metro-Uber controversies Reason's published in the past few months, I can't wait to see how taxi cartels and their political lackeys freak out when the first fleets of self-driving rental cars and even complementary corporate shuttles arrive and begin offering safer transportation at a fraction of the price.

    The taxi cartel will be one of the first victims of the creative destruction wrought by the Google Car, and it'll be all kinds of Thatcher-vs.-miners beautiful to see the rent seekers go tumbling down.

  18. How the hell would they know it's an Uber car?

  19. $55 minimum is outrageous. In fact, in all my travelling I have never paid that much for a cab, even when a downtown and its airport are way far apart. That's just legally mandated gouging.

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