Ride sharing companies Lyft and Uber discontinued their services in Austin following the defeat of Proposition 1, which would have exempted ridesharing services from carrying out mandatory fingerprint background checks on all of its drivers.
Voters rejected the proposal on May 7th, 2016, and shortly after Lyft and Uber pulled their services from inside Austin city limits, denying citizens what many see as a safe and convenient service. Legislative officials and others against the proposal maintained that voting for it would put ride sharing-users at risk. They argued that if these ride-sharing companies were not required to obtain bio-metric data from its drivers, these drivers could use false or stolen identity information in order to get hired. In these cases, the argument goes, people with criminal records could get through the screening process, putting customers at risk. Prior to the introduction of Proposition 1, Lyft and Uber conducted their background checks based on information provided by those seeking to be employed as drivers.
However, proponents of Proposition 1 argued that the current screening process is more than sufficient, and requiring fingerprints would only reveal those criminals who have a record with the FBI. Further, proponents argued that not passing Prop 1 would do more damage than good, in a city known as the “seventh drunkest city in the nation” because it would deny people an affordable and reliable alternative to expensive taxis. Their argument goes, the ride-sharing service is very important in a city where drunk driving is a chronic and serious problem.
Proponents also argued that while Lyft an Uber conduct their screenings using a national database, taxi drivers only undergo their screenings stateside. This leaves the very real possibility a taxi driver may have committed a crime in another state, then slipped through the system to continue working as a taxi driver. This, they argue, is much more alarming than the very slim possibility a Lyft or Uber posed as someone else.
Other proponents of Proposition 1 later claimed that it was not passed because Austin city officials were concerned about the fingerprint processing fees they would lose. Further, critics charged, officials worried they would lose a lot of revenue from DWI and DUI fines since citizens would have use of the safe and affordable ride-sharing service, causing a big drop in the number of people driving while under the influence.