Austin, Texas, Impounds Cars Because Their Drivers Were Giving People Lifts


Said lifts were via the wonderful smartphone app Lyft, which summons GPSed, community-rated, friendly, paid-through-credit-cards-on-file drivers to you wherever you are and gives you rides—in Texas and much of the country, for a suggested donation (though in California it is directly fee-for-service).

For anyone who has used it, you will understand why traditional regulated ride for hire services are scared to death of it, because it is almost always superior in nearly every way to those services. It's a real computer-age consumer-friendly miracle.

Naturally, city governments want to really mess up the lives of people providing the service.

See Reason's copious archives on Lyft and its main competitor Uber for many such stories. The latest is out of supposedly super tech friendly, self-consciously cutesy and "weird" city Austin, which should vibe with Lyft's whimsical pink moustache attachment and fist-bumpingly friendly style, but instead is out to ruin it.

Via Austin Business Journal:

On May 31, a city-run sting near the downtown Four Seasons Hotel impounded two Lyft drivers' cars and cited them for operating without a valid chauffeur permits. Another driver was cited on May 29, according to a spokeswoman for the city. The move comes after a continuing escalation following the transportation networking company's announcement that it would begin service on May 29.

Still, the possibility of legal trouble didn't dissuade Austinites from checking out the service. The company reports that more than 15,000 people in the Austin area have downloaded the app….

Lyft, which has faced similar situations in cities across the U.S., has indicated that it would bear fees and legal costs for its drivers – though a driver could still risk having the relatively minor charge on his or her record.

"We responded immediately to provide support and we are also covering the cost of impound fees and any necessary legal assistance," a spokeswoman for Lyft said in an emailed statement.

There is nothing that makes life better for so many people so grand that regulators won't try to harm people for doing it.

The entire city currently allows only 756 taxi licenses, and demands that ride sharing suppliers receive as compensation no more than the federal tax code's auto mileage reimbursement rate of 56 cents a mile.

I wrote in detail about California's far more sensible regulation of these e-hailing services last October.

Last year, Sidecar, another smaller company in this business, sued Austin's Department of Transportation over its restrictions.

NEXT: Louisiana Tries to Bring Back Electric Chair and Make Lethal Injection Drugs Secret, Luckily Fails at Both

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  1. Tony, et. al., are all for this. After all, it’s what the majority want and are expressing through their elected officials, right?

    1. A community has the right to organize itself in the way a majority of its voters see fit.-Restoras

      1. Brandon said nothing to the contrary.

        1. I didn’t say he did, just informing the ‘et. al.,’ part.

  2. There is nothing that makes life better for so many people so grand that regulators won’t try to harm people for doing it.

    This sentence is like some kind of verbal Mobius strip.

  3. Ah Austin, that liberal oasis in the conservative desert of Texas.

    1. Lake Travis is out of water. Why do them goddamn liberals want water?

      1. Go fuck yourself.

  4. Austin is not Texas. Then again, everywhere else has their own tribes of petty tyrants obsessed with the doings of others.

    1. I loved these quotes from an Austin resident shocked he has to pay for the free shit he voted for.…..voted-for/

  5. So, this is literally a case of, “Nice car you got there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it.”

  6. Great job, guys! More criminal goods taken off the streets! You’re improving life one raid at a time.

    How could anyone be antagonistic against the government?

  7. Ooh, Lyft covers the South Bay now in Los Angeles. Before they wouldn’t go south of the airport.

    1. Before they wouldn’t go south of the airport.

      Is this some kind of new euphemism I’m not familiar with?

      1. A filthy one.

        1. I suspected as much. So if anyone ever asks me to go south of the airport I will just politely decline.

          1. Square.

            1. Hugh eschews kinkiness like he eschews pants. You’d think the two would go together, but apparently not for him.

          2. I suppose that’s a good reason for not joining us into shoveling grilled meat into our faces in Torrance last week.

            1. Jesse you followed up a possible filthy euphemism with SHOVING MEAT IN OUR FACES? You’re incorrigible.

              1. That’s what Epi’s mom always says (before I put the ball gag in, of course).

                1. Anything to shut her up, amirite, jesse? You know what I mean.

  8. Well, these Lyft drivers want to avoid their “social responsibility” – Tony’s words – because they refuse to apply for the “necessary” permit.

    Everything that people do to improve their lives that do not involve government is now “avoiding your social responsibility” in the eyes of our resident socialist.

  9. Houston finally allows Uber and Lyft now, I’m excited to try them. Playing around with the app at various places it even looks a little cheaper than yellow cab. The other awesome part is that I’ve noticed that the yellow cab’s app has been vastly improved and the service better. Guess they knew the competition was coming.

    1. I’m sure our nitwit mayor and council here in Calgary are putting up obstacles all over the place. I hope the Wildrose alliance takes over and forces the city governments to acquiesce to freedom.

      1. Hah, I just looked it up, apparently the Mayor and city council haven’t approved and Uber and Lyft are doing it anyways daring them to do something about it. That’s even more awesome.

        1. This physically arouses me.

          1. Apparently they started it as free with donations, which the mayor was none to happy with:

            “There are some working girls that work the streets of Houston who say, ‘We’re legal because it is just a donation,’?” she told the Houston Chronicle Wednesday. “I’m sorry, we will enforce our ordinances.”

            Now they are straight up taking payment and covering any citations:

            In a letter to city elected officials Wednesday, regulatory affairs department head Tina Paez said 26 citations had been issued thus far, 15 to Uber or its drivers and 11 to Lyft or its drivers.

            Twenty-six is not a whole lot. For some context, I reached out to spokespeople for the two companies to ask them about their ridership numbers in Houston so far. According to them, there have been over 20,000 rides via UberX, and five thousand via Lyft. Now obviously enforcement is dependent on the number of enforcement officers out there, but still that’s a pretty high trip-to-ticket ratio, and I don’t know that I want a swarm of cops out there policing ride sharers ? surely there are higher priorities than that.

            1. And the poor poor baby cabbies have filed suit in federal court:

              Hill said city penalties aren’t strong enough to keep the companies from violating strict rules that govern taxi companies and drivers.

              “If I could run a bar and all I had to do was pay a fine for $500 for not paying taxes, I might still run the bar and pay the fines,” Hill said. “That’s what’s happening here.”


  10. I was in Austin a month ago and they have the worst taxi service I’ve ever experienced.

    1. “I was in Austin a month ago and they have the worst taxi service I’ve ever experienced.”

      And they are apparently working hard to keep their customer experience unchanged in the face of radical new technology.

  11. because it is almost always superior in nearly every way to those services. It’s a real computer-age consumer-friendly miracle.


    I got a Lyft ride the other day in a Cadillac. $20 to get downtown in luxury, the driver had snacks and water, and he let us play our MP3 through the radio. It was the cheapest limo I ever had.

    Cab companies HAVE to be freaking out.

    1. Of course they are. Which is why the rent-seeking little shits turned to their buddies in the government and asked them to set the goon squad on Lyft.

  12. What if you carpool with someone and every month you give them money for gas? Its a private voluntary transaction. Saying “society” when they’re a gang of thieves.

    1. Saying “society” when they’re a gang of thieves

      Government in a nutshell.

  13. I was always under the impression that Austin was good at cultivating innovation-based businesses, particularly technological innovation. I guess I was wrong.

    I wonder if the situation would turn out the same if Lyft had been founded in Austin?

    1. I wonder if the situation would turn out the same if Lyft had been founded in Austin

      Good point, Ryan.

      Considering Lyft is based in SF and CA has allowed them to actually charge for the service up front (unlike every other state which requires them to walk the “donations only” tightrope) I would guess that helps answer the question; no, the situation would have been the complete opposite.

      1. Suggested tactic: say that the drivers are working for less than minimum wage, and demand that they RAISE their prices to a mandatory minimum.

        How dare you pay drivers less than the “suggested donation”?

    2. I was always under the impression that Austin was good at cultivating innovation-based businesses, particularly technological innovation. I guess I was wrong.

      As long as that business is strictly internet-based, with hipsters coding in city-provided ‘incubator’ lofts. Once your model is so successful it actually displaces entrenched local industries, hang on to your cowboy hats, podnah!

    3. I was always under the impression that Austin was good at cultivating innovation-based businesses,

      A very significant part of the Austin-based tech biz is actually not in Austin proper, but in the surrounding communities. See, e.g.,* Dell (located, I believe, in Round Rock).

      *That’s how you use exempli gratia, bitchez.

  14. The IJ should find an angle of attack here.

    1. It’s critical that the IJ never stall in its mission to guarantee and expand freedoms such as Lyft depends on.

    2. Ow that physically hurt.

  15. But…but….but….they distanced themselves from the bad capitalists. They dubbed it the sharing economy. THIS WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.

    1. It could be argued that the branding exercise helped with adoption in California.

      1. Right, but I kind of think that the old “Hang together, or hang separately” applies here. Honest business is a good thing, not a bad thing, or a mixed bag. It is an unalloyed good to conduct peaceful consensual trade with our fellow man. It is the source of wealth and the creator of community.

        Calling people out for their double standard on business is very important IMO.

        1. I’ll add the double standard on the minimum wage.

          Fast food workers must be paid $15 per hour, but it’s immoral to pay your driver any more than 56 cents per mile.

  16. Let me.guess.

    “We really want with regulators.on this. We.completely understand the need for authorities to assure safety in transportation, and.we think we can collaborate on a make sure everyone’s.needs.are.satisfied.”


    They got them some good goddamn GOP praying going on in Austin!

    1. My goodness, those people are nearly as fanatical as those global warming alarmists.

    2. Is that actually in Austin City Limits?

    3. Those kooks bleeve in an infallible deity that lives in the clouds.

      You bleeve in an infallible deity that lives in the White House.

      Yeah, those Christians are real fucked up.

    4. And this has to do with the article how? Oh yeah, that’s right, to shift blame.


      1. Well, you know, Dem cock won’t suck itself.


  18. Thank goodness Australian state governments have acted almost proactively in this area:…..6935566791

    1. “Yes, [Uber] has safeguards in there as well, but I’d prefer to use a ridgy-didge cab.”

      WTH is ridgy-didge?

      1. WTH is ridgy-didge?

        A black-out drunk guy trying to say rinky-dink?

      2. It’s Dinky Di’s sister company.

    2. The Aussies are the kings of retard. And they damn well don’t intend to the let the Limeys or the Murikans take the crown back!

    1. Cool. Variation on “original”. I like that.

      1. FWIW: the VERY Australian saying “fair dinkum” also means genuine/Bona fide.

    2. Sheepshagger : A New Zealander


  19. Never underestimate the government’s ability to regulate or ban something through sheer force of will.

    1. I think you have an extra “of will” in there, Paul.

  20. So… Austin, that’s a famously progressive enclave in Texas, no?

    Progressive, pushing ideas forward, instigating change from the status quo. Opposition to entrenched power.

    Where would this action fit inside that philosophy?

    1. Ruling with a moron fist and crushing all that is not permitted?

      Yeah, that sounds like a progressive, alright.

  21. Well, being the old, not cool and hip, grumpy old curmudgeon that I am, there have been a couple of days in the last week or two that I was driving to work and I saw a car pass me that had a fuzzy pink stache on the grill. I thought, ‘hey, what the fuck was that?’

    Cronyism is a deadly disease that is destroying freedom. It need to be wiped off the face of the planet like any other nasty disease.

    1. You’re never going to wipe out cronyism, chief. It just isn’t going to happen; it’s human nature. The best we can do is try to limit the amount of, well, anything politicians can divert to their cronies.

      1. What we need to do is basically overwhelm them. Just give them 1000x times the things that they will want to regulate when they are already struggling with what they already have to regulate.

        Technology is the ticket.

        1. They’re already overwhelmed. They created far more rules than they can ever fairly enforce. But that’s the point. When there are so many rules that no one can follow or enforce them, then they can be selectively used to punish anyone who doesn’t show sufficient respect.

  22. How can anyone be sure that they’re doing it right unless they’re licensed and regulated? Huh? How can someone be trusted to do anything for money without a license from the government? How can you know they will do it safely if they’re not regulated by the government? How can you know? Huh? How? Be specific. None of this theoretical market crap. I want specifics. Who will give permission and issue regulation if not government?

    Yeah. That’s what I thought. Only government can keep us safe from buccaneer businesses.

    1. How do you know that fast food workers are making your burgers right without a license from the government?
      Why shouldn’t you have to be licensed and permitted before you can work in a fast food joint? People could be sptting in your hamburgers and stuff.

      People who make hamburgers should do it out of love and generosity towards their fellow man, not for crass profits!

  23. In April I had my b-day there, went to Rainey Street both nights – Yellow Cab service sucked bawls. Asked for a minivan, they brought one Crown Vic. We ended up having to pay for TWO Crown Vics, and the girls got there a half hour before the second one even came to pick the guys up.

    No wonder they’re shitting their pants.

    1. Oh and me and Jess totally forgot to try the pot brownies someone left in the rental house.

      1. Probably armadillo shit. Fools the tourists every time.

        Explains why the mellow was slow arriving, right?

        1. I’m a tourist from within Texas. I know of armadillo shit, my good sir, and I certainly would be able to discern it piquant flavor!

  24. Texas, land of the free.

  25. There’s at least one town in Washington state that, without warning by signs or other obvious means, uses cops to harass drivers threatening them with arrest and vehicle impoundment for merely picking up hitchhiker. And in at least one case, mine, the hitchhiker was an attractive young lady working directly for the police department.

    1. Which is especially interesting since, as far as I can tell, there is no law against picking up a hitchhiker in WA.

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