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.
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.