As Austin Struggles To Understand Life Without Uber & Lyft, DUI Arrests On The Rise

from the not-cool dept

A month ago, folks in Austin Texas voted against a proposition that Uber and Lyft supported, concerning a number of new rules that would be put on ride hailing operations. Given that, both companies immediately shut down operations in Austin — a city with over a million residents and only 900 cabs. In response, people are so desperate for rides that they’re seriously trying to recreate the Lyft/Uber experience by using a Facebook group where people can post their location, negotiate a fee, and have someone pick them up (something that seems a lot more dangerous than typical Uber/Lyft).

DUI (driving under the influence) arrests have gone up by 7.5% compared to the previous year.

This does not mean that Uber/Lyft leaving is absolutely the cause, as there may be lots of other factors. But the anecdotal evidence certainly suggests it’s having an impact. From the Vocative story linked above:

?The first Friday and Saturday after Uber was gone, we were joking that it was like the zombie apocalypse of drunk people,? Cooper said.

People were so desperate for rides, she said, that she?d pull up to a corner and pedestrians would offer to hop in her car as soon as they spotted her old Uber and Lyft emblems in the windshield. ?They don?t even know who I am,? she chuckled in amazement.

Even more troubling than the late-night pedestrian concern is Austin?s rampant drunk driving problem?last year the city had more than 5,800 DWI arrests, according to police data. Back in December the city?s Police Chief Art Acevedo expressed concern for how an Uberless Austin would affect the road safety. ?If we take away the (ride-hailing firms) here and in other cities, it definitely will impact DWI,? he said. ?There?s no doubt about it.?

No matter what you think of Lyft or Uber, it’s pretty clear that they’re very, very useful services for lots of people — and that includes drunk people who no one should want behind the wheel themselves. Putting in place regulations to limit those services seems to be backfiring, and hopefully it doesn’t lead to loss of life either through drunk driving or less safe drivers making use of the informal Facebook groups.

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Companies: lyft, uber

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Comments on “As Austin Struggles To Understand Life Without Uber & Lyft, DUI Arrests On The Rise”

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trollificus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I had a rider (Uber) from Austin, little artist gal, who told me the police were actually SUPPORTING the laws killing off the ride-share services, because of the revenue from DUI fines!!

I found this shocking. I said, “Tha fuck? Putting the lives of the people they’re supposed to be “serving and protecting’ at risk just for money? Hell, even I’m not that cynical!”

She said “It’s Texas, man. You can’t be too cynical.”

She said the restrictive laws were passed with a grand total of 8% of registered voters actually voting for them. Turnout was something like 17%.

Hope they have a better turnout for the “Texit” Referendum, eh?

Whatever says:

Yet, the balance here is that Austin doesn’t have a bunch of unlicensed taxis driven by unchecked drivers pushing 20% of their revenue out of state.

A city with a drunk driving problem (or a problem with “zombie apocalypse of drunk people” problem perhaps needs to work more on public transit options and so on. It may also be an indication that the American car culture and the American “drink until you puke” culture don’t mix very well.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Okay, I’m with you here, Whatever. Mind you, we have minicabs over here, who use UBER to get business. These are checked and licenced as cabs. We have to book those in advance, we can’t just wave them over.

Black cabs compete by having a monopoly on our being able to wave them over. They cost more, so I tend to use minicabs when there’s no public transport option. The UBER app allows us to book them over the internet.

Both services compete and co-exist. Doesn’t America have something like that?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I think the American analogy to that is limo services (being a bit like your description of mini cabs). Limo services are licensed, etc., but cannot be hailed on the street or wait for someone to open the door. You have to call them.

They are substantially more expensive than taxis, though, and — true to their name — mostly consist of actual limousines.

I think the legally problematic thing about ride-sharing services is that they are neither of those things. But I’m more than a little fuzzy on all of that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Correct me if I'm wrong

but Texas didn’t outlaw ride-sharing companies completely.

Uber and Lyft basically left because they didn’t want to fingerprint their drivers?

It seems to me this is would be a perfect opportunity for a third party ride-sharing company to step in without any competition from the ‘big boys’.

Or am I missing something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Correct me if I'm wrong

It looks like that in addition to fingerprinting drivers as part of a background check, UBER/LYFT drivers were prohibited from stopping in traffic lanes to pickup/drop off passengers.

The City Council proposed this in the interest of public safety. Guess they didn’t predict the rise in DUIs when UBER/LYFT left town.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Correct me if I'm wrong

Well, I presume there’s significant startup costs, especially with regard to getting the technology that those companies used to make themselves successful/useful. It’s not as simple as getting a few drivers to sign up.

There’s also the fact that there’s no guarantees the screw turning wouldn’t continue. Just because you can start a company to accept the rules that Uber found unacceptable, that doesn’t mean the rules won’t keep changing until the new company also found them unacceptable. Why invest in a market that has the government deliberately trying to kill it?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Oh, wait. They still have taxis, ones that don’t charge surge pricing…”


“Austin — a city with over a million residents and only 900 cabs”

I’m sure those taxis will all be available and never charge a premium at their busiest times, right?

“instead they’re acting like the world crashed around them”

No, they made a business decision to leave a market. The article is about how other people are acting afterwards.

trollificus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You lying sack of shit.

Although I suppose I really shouldn’t say that, since you’ve taken a page from the proggy playbook and carefully made sure your post was completely fact-free.

Does that evil “surge pricing” ever, EVER rise to even HALF the nice, steady ripoff pricing of the cabs??

Yeah, I really love to participate (as the victi…err…’customer’) in transactions where the person serving me is incentivized to rip me off in any way he can. That’s just swell. Great alternative.

Also, subtract from your apologia for the downtrodden cabbies the middle eastern gentleman who glared at my un-burka’d, tipsy friend for the entire duration of what she swears was her LAST cab ride ever. Bit of a microaggression there, eh wot? She’s lucky he didn’t blow up at her over the absence of a gratuity. so to speak.

So make it 899 carefully vetted, professional “service providers” on the cabbie side.

Drake says:

Re: Re:

I’ve lived in Pilly (2,000,000 people, no idea how many cabs), The cabbies didn’t take credit cards until ’06 or so, and wen they started (literally required by law, not by choice) would often refuse and shake you down (left in ’08, maybe better), I lived in city limits, but out of center city, they’d take over 45 minutes to show up, and try to dodge taking be home (I had to flag one, the dispatchers refused). My friend lives in Brooklyn, the cabs are similarly awful outside of Williamsberg.

Where I live and work now (Wilmington, DE) you could not get a cab reliably outside of bar times or airport rides. Even bar close is unreliable. I have seen someone’s car break down where I work, over 2 hours for the cab (uber was 15 minutes after I called it for them).

In big cities the cabs sort of worked bu sucked, in small cities, they may as well not have existed. Uber and Lyft reduce drunk driving, because they reliably show up quickly. It isn’t even about money, when I was in New Oleans, I was paying more for Uber (constant surge pricing, it was St Patrick’s day weekend), but still uber was used 60% of the time, because they showed up, and didn’t complain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I thought the point was Uber and Lyft drivers were explicitly contractors, they didn’t need to be employed.

As contractors they can work as much or as little as they want; pick-up some extra money working weekends, work 80 hour weeks or anything in between. If they feel like taking time off at random or working overtime, their choice.

As employees, I’m not sure there can be as much freedom.

I thought that freedom was a major attraction for many drivers.

If they wanted to be employed with benefits, then they can apply to be taxi drivers.

trollificus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

^ This. Exactly this.

And the red herring of purse-clutching alarm over “surge pricing” (otherwise known as’supply and demand’) is misplaced, since it serves most effectively as the organic component of the software. Imagine: people freely choosing when and where to work, ‘magically’ and promptly responding to riders’ needs!

But fuck that. Why suffer the indignities of freedom and choice when we can have city council grifters and union bosses decide these things for us? Why should we listen to satisfied customers and drivers, or take into account public safety when there’s an incumbent, entrenched business doing a lousy job to be shaken down?

Shane C (profile) says:

Parroting Uber, and Lyft talking points don't make them any more legit

Good God! I freaking amazes me how many people, apparently Mike included, feel compelled to come to the defense of companies trying to strong arm local government. Somehow believing that because those companies used a newer technology to operate, they must somehow be above reproach?


Uber, and Lyft were/are trying to strong-arm the government into writing laws specifically tailored for their monopoly. They were (past tense) the only companies operating in town when they spent millions of dollars spreading false statistics so they could further their own agenda. In an immature hissy-fit they’ve now left Austin, and been REPLACED WITH FIVE LEGAL (and one questionable) ALTERNATIVES. Five companies that want to operate legally, with the local government, and community.

People around here in particular, like to complain about how lobbyists are rewriting the laws for their greedy desires. But now when the local community stands up and tries to stop them, how many of you are siding with those same lobbyists?

And to Mike specifically;

What the hell dude! Talk about bad reporting. First off you forget to mention that there’s five fully legal ride sharing alternatives currently operating in Austin. Instead you concentrate, and ONLY MENTION THE ONE QUESTIONABLY LEGAL OPERATION! What the hell?

Then the article you link to doesn’t even come close to supporting that bull shit statistic that you so blindly parroted. In fact, it shows that ride sharing made no impact on DWI’s at all.


Between June 2015 and February 2016, the number of DWI-related wrecks increased by 4 percent when compared with the same nine-month time period in 2014 and 2015, a Statesman analysis found.

Over the past five years, the largest decrease in that June-to-February time period occurred between 2012 and 2013, when the number of drunken driving accidents dropped by 26 percent. That was before Lyft and Uber came to Austin.

In the Statesman analysis, the figures for each period run from June, the month that ride-hailing services came to Austin in 2014, to February, the most recent month that statistics were available.


If ride sharing never reduced the number of DWI arrests, how can it somehow spike them after they’ve left?

And that’s from the article that YOU LINKED TO! Come on Mike, I expect much better reporting out of you and Techdirt in general.

vancedecker (profile) says:

Re: Parroting Uber, and Lyft talking points don't make them any more legit

Please STFU. You ignorant shill.

Nobody likes the Taxi companies because they suck. I don’t have to say anything else, it’s a shared experience, and everyone already knows.

Recently, I called a Taxi in one of the cities I work in:

As usual, some minimum wage retard answered the phone:
“What is the address?” conversation ensued. I did not know the address so I gave an intersection.


Half an hour later the Taxi calls and asks me why I am not at the 7-11??


This is what the Taxi experience is. 1960’s technology, minimum wage, don’t care attitude, overpriced, big attitude if you want to pay by credit card.


STEVE HARTER (profile) says:

Re: Re: Parroting Uber, and Lyft talking points don't make them any more legit

I own yellow cab in Austin.

DUI’s would have to consider a lot of other factors before a one month increase could ever be considered valid. Most of the Uber studies have been proven to be flawed and with most of their business practices.

We have been able to service 99.9 percent of customers by app or phone since Uber and Lyft left Austin. Our drivers are able to make a living wage vs Uber drivers who lose money on every mile but do not understand their costs of doing business. Uber is a giant Ponzi scheme and that is what I told the House committee meeting two weeks ago.

amoshias (profile) says:

Nobody is arguing

that Uber doesn’t offer a great service. They’ve got great tech and make something that was really annoying vastly more pleasant.

Now, if only they hadn’t attached that great tech to a business arm which basically said “Okay, we’re going to ignore every law and regulation known to man, and hopefully by the time anyone notices us we’ll be big enough that they won’t be able to do anything.”

Shane C – well done, great comment!

trollificus (profile) says:

Re: Nobody is arguing

Shill gives shill high shill rating. Noted.

IF the only way to break down a bought-and-paid-for scam is to circumvent the sleazebags in local government who’ve been selling out their own constituents for decades, so fucking be it. No apologies.

I only wish the Uber/Lyft approach could be as effective at the fed level.

I.T. Guy says:

Re: Re: Nobody is arguing

Straw-man Notice:
“Okay, we’re going to ignore every law and regulation known to man, and hopefully by the time anyone notices us we’ll be big enough that they won’t be able to do anything.”


Which law and regulation exactly are they ignoring? Citation needed.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nobody is arguing

which law and regulation exactly are they ignoring

Many [all?] Uber drivers are operating cars which are licensed as standard personal transportation rather than carrying taxi licenses. Moreover, they are insured as personal transportation rather than as liveried carriers.

When one gets in an accident, I expect to see some interesting responses from the insurance company.

Jake says:

Uber/Lyft Spent Too Much on Advertising

Before the election, I was getting at least one mailer a day from Uber. I had no plans on voting because I could care less either way. Uber seems like a D bad company run by D bags. After I noticed they were spending millions and millions of dollars on advertising, I realized something dirty must be going on. I voted against. It’s not that hard to get a cab in Austin, there are other ride sharing services available that didn’t cry like a baby and leave town, and DWI numbers could mean anything. We’ve had more rain this year than we have in years, which could affect driving and DWI arrests. Don’t believe the Uber/Lyft hype, those fuckers are full of shit and just trying to cash in.

I.T. Guy says:

Re: Uber/Lyft Spent Too Much on Advertising

Hey Jaykie,
How is uber sending mailers any different than any other business out there? The soda companies had no Phila soda tax commercials running 24/7. Does that make them Dbags? They all do it. Did you take the time to read the mailer… Jake?

Just trying to cash in, well Jayke… thats what businesses do. They are there to make money while providing a valuable service.

See PPL this is why any sort of public voting is a nightmare. Jaykie had no clue on the issues but voted against because of the must-be-bad-mailers he was receiving.

You seem like you live there. Go try and get a cab in Brushy Creek, Round Rock, or Georgetown. Go ahead. Make sure you record it on your phone and post it to youtube.

Phila is the same way. Travel 20 min out from center city and getting a cab could take hours.

drewdad (profile) says:

What struggle?

As an Austinite, I can tell you there is no “struggle.”

A couple of ride-sharing companies took their ball and went home.

Five more showed up to take their place.

The only people “struggling” after Uber left are idiots who apparently can’t google “what ride sharing companies operate in Austin.” I suspect they’d be struggling in any case.

Meanwhile, I suspect every “Austin is done for!” article of being bought and paid for by Uber, because they’d rather run bullshit propaganda machines than actually compete.

Austin was fine before Uber. Austin is arguably better after Uber.

Suck it, Uber, you went all-in and you lost.

I.T. Guy says:

Re: What struggle?

“Austin is arguably better after Uber.”

Maybe you should have to be forced to provide fingerprints and a background check for your job.

I am sure the company used will keep your bio-metric data safe and sound. Amiright?

Just wait until all the bio-metric data being kept gets breached. Good luck changing your fingerprint.

I think it’s admirable for Lyft and Uber to stand for their contractors privacy. They could have gone all evil and forced their contractors to comply with regulations. But instead…. instead are taking the loss of revenue by leaving.

drewdad (profile) says:

Re: Re: What struggle?



“Just wait until all the bio-metric data being kept gets breached. “

I’m pretty sure Uber gets the results of the background checks, not the raw biometric data itself. There are plenty of jobs that require criminal background checks, and yes, I have been through that process.

“I think it’s admirable for Lyft and Uber to stand for their contractors privacy. “

This was never about employee privacy. It’s always been about Uber wanting the cheapest labor possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What struggle?

I think it’s admirable for Lyft and Uber to stand for their contractors privacy. They could have gone all evil and forced their contractors to comply with regulations. But instead…. instead are taking the loss of revenue by leaving.

They could have just asked their contractors.

“OK guys, Texas requires fingerprints and a background check. It’s not our decision, it’s the law.

“Everyone OK with that form a line here. Everyone not OK with that, thank you for your past service.”

See, easy-peasy, and Uber and Lyft wouldn’t have had to take their marbles and left.

Ed (profile) says:

Just an example of why Uber/Lyft is needed in cities: recently a friend and I went to Las Vegas. At airport, my friend took a taxi to the hotel, cost was $65. I took Lyft to the same hotel, cost was $24. My driver was exceptional, very clean and nice car (a rather newish BMW 3 series). So, tell me who is “surge pricing”/cheating customers more?

I.T. Guy says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not uncommon. Take a cab from Canal st (University Heights) to Newark NJ Train station is a 25 min ride(no traffic)and will cost you $80. I thought it was the Concierge trying to line his taxi guys pockets but when asking about 20 other taxi cabs, they all were the same price. One of the taxi guys said well, you are going from zone blah blah to zone blah blah blah, 80 bucks. Now it was nice to see consistency but consistently being ripped off is not good. In NY it had something to do with REGULATIONS, zones and some other bullshit that I didn’t care to remember. I hate NY. I wonder if Vegas has a similar flat rate regulation.
NY Taxi rate calculator:

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s not unusual anywhere. I live in a relatively quiet tourist area on the south of Spain. They used to have a system where they got prices out of a book, but generally speaking if you talked to the driver in Spanish you’d get a discount, the book was tourist rates. Now, they all have meters installed which technically should keep them more honest, but some of them get caught trying to take people longer routes for more money. Locals call them out on it, but then they know who the locals are…

That’s OK in a sense, but don’t try to pretend to me that licensed taxis are honest and Ubers are not, cause half the time it’s the opposite.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Most of the cost difference between Uber/Lyft is due to the cities’ medallion fees. I don’t know the numbers for Las Vegas, but New York City taxi medallions peaked at $1.2 million a couple of years ago and are now around $800 thousand. They’re good for 500,000 miles before the vehicle loses its medallion, so in NYC the cabs are paying the city $1.60/mile. Passengers are only in the cab and paying for some fraction of that, so before figuring in operating costs and driver wages, the cab companies are already close to or over what Uber charges per mile.

For San Francisco the relevant numbers are: medallions peaked at $400,000, currently ~$350,000[1],good for 350K miles. Uber charges $1.15/miles.

Many of the problems people have with cabs are caused by the incentives from the archaic medallion system. Can’t get a cab to reliably come and pick you up? There’s a huge incentive to respond to a hail and not drive empty miles to pick you up. Dirty cab? The medallion fees are so high there are few owner/operators and contractors/employees have strong disincentives to spend time cleaning.

Right now we’re seeing a classic case of outdated laws picking the winner in business competition.

[1] If you can get the city to sell you one. I had a former cab/Uber driver in San Francisco tell me he’d saved the money to buy a medallion, but got the runaround trying to complete the deal.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a boon for the police. Now they have more things to do, more ways of pretending they are doing something useful, more reason to justify their existence and lobby for larger budgets, and more power to abuse.

Instead of going after real criminals the government can pass laws that creates criminals unnecessarily, diverts police forces towards going after the criminals that the government created due to laws that they passed, and say “see how much good the police does” while still avoiding the hard work of going after real criminals.

Not saying drinking and driving is acceptable. It’s not, but the government is the one that’s responsible for the increased drinking and driving and unsafe roads here hence diverging police forces from going after the more difficult crimes to stop while still claiming they are doing something useful. Now the police get to feel good about all the ‘good’ they do and they have more excuses to abuse their power.

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