Austin prides itself on being a fun place for travelers to visit, but suddenly, with Uber and Lyft bailing in a political dispute, it’s not such a great party town anymore.
Austin has gone back in time 20 years, to an era where the taxi monopoly and the Hertz cartel had a total chokehold on visitors.
“Austin’s trying to be Oh yeah we’re so cool by rejecting ridesharing,” she says, “but it’s just showing how backwards we are. I probably should have just walked.”
Meanwhile, ten thousand drivers are out of a job—or at least a second job. The city’s huge phalanx of former ride-sharing drivers finds itself scrambling for work. The city responded by setting up a useless hotline and a “job fair” that consisted of little more than telling people how to apply for expensive chauffeur’s licenses and cab medallions. Most people can’t afford those, so instead drivers are offering their services on hastily assembled underground Facebook ride-sharing communities, marketing themselves in the same way a freelance handyman or pool-repair guy would. And desperate riders are responding.
Other than the occasional savvy low-scale entrepreneur and sharky car-rental and cab companies, no one appears to be benefitting from this insane transit apocalypse. Though the city frightened voters with terrifying depictions of a plague of Uber-rape, it’s now come out that people with sexual assault convictions, and even drunk-driving arrests, are actually allowed to drive cabs in Austin, few questions asked. “If you have ever been convicted of theft at any point, you could never get a chauffeur’s permit,” a city council member told a local news station. “That just seems like too much.”
Also, the city allows cab drivers to smoke in their cars.
The market creates. The politician destroys. The world moves on albeit…much more slowly.