Riley discusses ride-sharing legalization plan at SG meeting

Eleanor Dearman

Chris Riley, a member of the Austin City Council, advocated for more transportation options at Tuesday’s Student Government meeting.

Riley announced his plan Monday to legalize the ride sharing services Uber and Lyft in Austin. Currently, both are legal as underground operating services, but this push would advertise them to the public as an alternative to public transportation and traditional taxicabs.

“It is a real paradigm shift,” Riley said. “We have a very elaborate set of regulations in place to govern the cab industry. We control the fares they charge, the number of cabs on the street, and for a good reason. The problem is the world has changed now, and there are opportunities to have more effective and more efficient modes of transportation in place.”

Riley, a District 9 council seat candidate, said he hopes to legalize these services to minimize traffic.

“What I want to do is figure out a way we can actually legalize services like Uber and Lyft, so you guys can know you’re getting into those options, getting into those services and use them safely,” Riley said.

According to Riley, the City Council is scheduled to discuss an item on Sept. 25 that will encourage operating agreements for transportation services such as Uber and Lyft. Riley said some of these operating agreements include providing adequate insurance coverage, driver background checks, vehicle safety checks, a zero-tolerance alcohol policy, ADA accommodations and price of ride disclosure.

“As long as a company is able to meet all of our expectations on all those things, we shouldn’t have to keep wasting our resources trying to shut these services down,” Riley said. “We ought to be out there embracing it.”

Jamie Nalley, chair of the Student Affairs Committee, said SG is in favor of alternative transportation options, such as Uber and Lyft, and plans to propose legislation in their favor for a vote next Tuesday, before the City Council votes Thursday.

“Transportation in Austin is really terrible right now,” Nalley said. “I think improving options in as many ways possible will benefit students and Austinites in general.”

Riley also discussed the need for more housing options and construction in the city.

“We’ve got to provide different options,” Riley said. “Not everybody wants to live in a single family home in the suburbs. A lot of people want to live smaller, live closer and drive less.”

At the meeting, SG President Kori Rady also announced that the proposal for extended hours at the Flawn Academic Center will be revisited next week and that Safe Ride had increased usage last weekend.