In May 2017 residents of Austin, TX voted to uphold legislation passed by the Austin City Council which required a gradual strengthening of ride-sharing (or “ride-hailing”) safety standards (including fingerprinting-based background checks for all drivers), all of which both Uber and Lyft adamantly opposed. Both Uber and Lyft left Austin on May 9, and several insiders doubt they’ll return. So what will become Austin’s Uber alternative?
We explored the ride-sharing saga in depth and are now detailing Austin residents’ alternative rideshare options. So far, Ride Austin, Fasten, and Fare are doing their best to fill the void that Uber and Lyft left. But with the massive hole created by the departure of both, all ridesharing companies have room to grow and improve.
Below, all of the companies with TNC approval (or pending approval) to operate in the city of Austin. TNC (Transportation Network Companies) is the official way of describing ride-sharing/ride-hailing companies.
Austin’s Uber Alternative: Available Ride-Sharing Services
GetMe appears to be among the ride-sharing options most similar to Uber and Lyft in Austin. However while GetMe appears to have the will of Uber and Lyft (and a similar business model), they don’t have the billions in capital. GetMe rides reportedly cost more than Uber and Lyft used to, though drivers report that they earn more than they did with the ride-sharing giants. The app reportedly has many frustrating glitches, though the company has already introduced several updates to improve things. One big problem remains: GetMe still doesn’t have a great way to assign drivers to nearby passengers. Each request goes to all drivers, no matter how far away they are. An Austin-area driver who works for several ride-sharing apps had this to say about Uber and Lyft departing and making room for GetMe: “It’s good for me, and bad for you,” he told AustinInno.
GetMe also has a delivery service available wherein they’ll pick anything up from wherever you choose (like a latte and a scone from your local coffee shop) – similar to Favor.
Fare, another Uber- and Lyft-like ride-sharing app, began operations in Phoenix, and they opened for business in Austin on May 20. Fare has a unique referral-based model which both drivers and passengers can use. Drivers keep 80% of each fare (90% of fares they refer to themselves), and they can keep track of clients and referrals to build business. Drivers also earn 10% of each fare their referrals take with other drivers, and passengers earn 10% of fares for each of their referrals which they can use toward ride credits. On June 6, Bloomberg described Fare as, “a glitchy early build of the Uber app,” though in their opinion, it is currently better than GetMe. From The Zebra’s Austinites’ points of view, Fare seems to be gaining the most traction so far.
The Boston-originating ride-sharing app began operations in Austin on Wednesday, June 1 and promises, “the lowest rates for riders and biggest bang for drivers,” reports the Austin American-Statesman. Fasten CEO Kirill Evdakov said, “drivers are truly our customers and the core of our operations. Our goal is to remove challenges and give them an extremely fair way to make a living.” He added, “The Fasten model allows riders to pay less while drivers make more.” Fasten collects a flat fee of 99 cents from drivers for each fare, rather than taking a percentage. Fasten appears committed to passenger privacy and has several safeguards in place protecting their private information.
The service isn’t ride-sharing in the style of Uber or Lyft, and instead offers app-based connection to taxi and car services. With the zTrip app, users can hail a black car or a taxi, either immediately or in advance. The service is owned and operated by Transdev. Riders get a rate quote before the trip begins, and drivers keep 100% of each fare. zTrip covers all vehicle maintenance and driver insurance.
Wingz is also somewhat different than Uber or Lyft, but it certainly is helping to fill a large transportation need in Austin: airport rides. Wingz has a partnership with the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and they plan to launch WingzAround soon, which will offer service in the city of Austin. Rides are pre-booked and have a flat-rate. A ride from downtown to the airport costs about $25.
Wondering how much each of these services really cost? Check out Ridefinder.io to compare fares from GetMe, Fare, Fasten, and Wingz.
RideAustin (Launched June 16)
RideAustin is a non-profit ride-sharing service developed by some of the city’s most prominent tech leaders, many of whom championed Prop 1, reports the Austin American-Statesman. RideAustin arose from Prop 1’s defeat to fill the void left by Uber and Lyft’s departures. It is also reportedly recruiting Uber and Lyft executives to run the nonprofit, though company leaders want to keep the business transparent (in contrast to both Uber and Lyft), and plan to share information with researchers at the University of Texas.
RideAustin recently finished beta testing 200 riders and 20 vehicles, with plans to slowly expand. (Our editor was selected as a beta tester, but was never able to secure a ride using the app and never heard back after attempts to contact RideAustin. Here’s hoping all issues are cleared up.) For now, service is only available for the airport and downtown in zip codes 78701, 78702, 78703, 78704 and 78705, reports Austin Business Journal. RideAustin says they’ll only expand when the company has enough drivers to offer comparable service to Uber and Lyft, and they will guarantee driver incomes (at least at first). Drivers will get 80% of the fare, with the hope that the driver cut will increase over time. An option in the app will also allow passengers to round up to the next dollar, with the extra cash going to charity.
Described by Bloomberg Technology as a company that “claims to be a tech startup but is really just a private Facebook group,” Arcade City seems to have found its own niche in Austin. Getting access to the group is reportedly easy, and members (of which there are currently almost 35,000) can both post and request rides. Notably, Arcade City isn’t a TNC and doesn’t strive to be. This summer, though, they plan to professionalize drivers more by covering them with insurance. Arcade City will not force drivers to comply with Austin’s fingerprinting-based background check rules, though they are free to if they wish. One big issue for Arcade City drivers so far? Riders failing to pay up. Drivers, however, can apparently add riders who flake to blacklists for others to avoid in the future.
Companies with plans to launch in Austin:
InstaRyde comes to Austin from Toronto. They haven’t launched yet, nor do they have approval from the city to operate within its limits, but they do have offices in the city. It appears the company will work much like Uber and Lyft did for passengers, though the company claims drivers can make up to $50 per hour.
ScoopMe has applied for approval from the city of Austin, but has not yet received permission. It appears ScoopMe will operate similarly to Uber and Lyft: an app-based ride-sharing service that offers real-time maps.
Tride began in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a party bus on-demand company, but is now a general purpose TNC. Tride has not yet received approval from the city of Austin to operate within its limits, but they announced plans to expand to Austin in mid-June.
Have you taken any of these services? Do you have an update to this list? Let us know in the comments.