SG expresses support for transportation networking companies

Eleanor Dearman

Ahead of the Austin City Council meeting Thursday, the Student Government assembly approved a resolution in favor of transportation networking companies at a meeting Tuesday.

“It’s basically just saying that we students support transportation companies like Uber and Lyft and having them legalized in Austin and that they hold safety to a very high standard and that we ask City Council to approve them,” said Jamie Nalley, chair of the Student Affairs Committee.

Olivia Arena and Robert Svoboda, co-directors of SG’s City Relations Agency, said they met with the city’s Urban Transportation Commission to express support for the proposal.

According to Arena, the agency’s survey of almost 200 students found the majority of respondents were in favor of the resolution supporting ride-sharing apps, such as Lyft and Uber.

“Students wanted new transportation options with regulations, background checks, with insurance.” Arena said. “It’s not like students just want to get in a car with anyone.” 

In the survey, Arena said they asked questions about student transportation, especially in regard to transportation after going out on weekends.

“One of the most important questions we asked was, ‘Have you ever been in a situation where you or a friend chose to drink and drive intoxicated because you did not feel comfortable with the transportation options?’” Arena said. “Over half of the students said they had [chosen] to drive intoxicated or gotten in a car with someone who was intoxicated.”

The City Council is scheduled to discuss a legalization plan for transportation networking companies at its meeting Thursday.

City Council member Kathie Tovo, who is also running for District 9 council seat under the city’s new 10-ONE structure, spoke at the meeting and said she plans to work to improve city

Tovo said in order to improve transportation in Austin as a whole, multiple areas must be addressed, including the urban rail, safe and fairly priced commercial transportation systems, flexible work schedules and the maintenance and increase of sidewalks and bike lanes.

“We need to continue to invest in our sidewalks and bike lanes throughout the city and really make sure we have connectivity in all of our communities around the city as much as possible because that is one reason why people sometimes get in their cars and drive,” Tovo said.

Also at the meeting, SG President Kori Rady introduced a new resolution in support of opening the Flawn Academic Center for 24 hours per day to provide a study space closer to West Campus.

“We wanted to make sure that there was somewhere on campus that was open 24/7 so students could have a safe area all throughout the week to utilize a collaborative area for whatever is necessary,” Rady said.

Melysa Barth, College of Education representative, said the FAC’s extended hours would help students.

“It gives students more space,” Barth said. “If you’ve been to the PCL during finals, you know that it’s really hard to even just get an outlet. It’s beneficial to have the option of having both open during that time.”

The consumption of alcohol at a proposed student tailgate was also discussed. Braydon Jones, SG speaker of the assembly, said alcohol sales should be allowed at the tailgate, but in a safe way requiring wristbands and IDs.

“Let’s just be honest with this,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, if we’re wanting to create a student tailgate on campus, we will not have a successful tailgate student initiative on campus without alcohol. We’ve tried that in the past.”