Rideshare companies not under city or state oversight during this year’s ACL

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — There is a change you should know about before you or a loved one catches a ride to the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Neither the city nor the state will have any oversight of rideshare drivers during this year’s festival.

The governor signed a bill in May that establishes a statewide approach when it comes to regulating and permitting rideshare companies. But the rules aren’t spelled out yet. The only interaction the city is allowed to have with companies like Uber and Lyft is during big events, like ACL, to communicate pick-up and drop-off locations.

For Rhonda Jones’ daughter, ACL has been a staple for years.

“She’s gone since 2008 and she’s taken different ways of transportation down here. I’ve taken her, dropped her off, which takes me about an hour. She’s ridden a bus and she’s also done Uber and all that,” Jones said. “I’ve felt safer with my daughter taking the rideshare companies. I don’t think they’ve ever felt unsafe in any of the cars.”

To help assure that safety, last year the prime pick-up and drop-off spot of Austin High School was reserved solely for fingerprinted rideshare drivers. At the time, Lee Davila, with Austin Transportation Department said, “There was a line outside of the office of people wanting to get their permits.”

“We supported the city to have its own community standards and backed it at the state but then, as you mentioned, HB 100 came and took away those rules so we’ve done everything we can to work with the state to comply with the new rules as they roll out,” Fasten’s Joe Deshotel told KXAN.

The thing is, the state has yet to implement any rules to back up the new state law. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation says it’s hopeful that will happen at the end of the month. Until then, oversight really lies within individual rideshare companies.

“We still have our very vigorous background check process that we go through and we make sure that each driver is vetted properly. And so from a user experience, it won’t be much of a difference to notice,” Deshotel said.

State law will require a criminal background check, just not fingerprints. Something Jones says she feels comfortable with.

“I just think the more options you have, the better it will be. I just feel like Austin is a safe town to travel in,” she said.

The state has yet to determine what the penalties will be for not following the law.

During Thursday’s city council meeting, members approved changes to allow people with out-of-state driver licenses to drive taxis and limos. The Austin Transportation Department says the move is necessary to create a bigger pool of drivers because demand is so high.  The new rules allow college students with out-of-state licenses to drive taxis, as well as people who move to Austin and have not gotten a Texas ID yet. Rideshare drivers are not required to have a chauffeur’s permit.

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