The Austin City Council legalized transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft in 2014, requiring the companies to maintain at least $1 million in commercial automobile liability insurance and to conduct extensive criminal background checks on the drivers.
Needless to say, local taxi companies opposed the measure and haven't stopped squawking about it since.
They lobbied successfully for a city ordinance, passed last December, that established further requirements, including fingerprinting of drivers and emblems for participating vehicles. Uber and Lyft opposed the measure, as did many of their customers, who launched a petition drive to overturn the new regulations.
Had it passed, Proposition 1 would have repealed all of the added restrictions. On Saturday, however, the majority of voters rejected it, the restrictions were upheld, and Uber and Lyft have announced that they will suspend their operations in Austin.
Uber's social media effort to secure passage of Proposition 1 included a text messaging campaign, which was pounced upon by the meddlesome Texas Public Interest Research Group as an alleged violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits auto-dialing without the express consent of call recipients.
TexPIRG Director Melissa Cubria got plenty of negative publicity about the company prior to the vote by filing suit against Uber in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
“We have taken great precaution to comply with applicable laws and believe the claims in this lawsuit are meritless,” company representatives said in response to the suit. “The announcement of this action at an anti-Prop. 1 press conference also reveals how it was designed to unduly influence the election.”
Uber's customers sign a user agreement allowing the company to send “informational text (SMS) messages as part of the normal business operation of your use of the services.”
Clearly, certain vested interests don't want Uber and Lyft operating in Austin. Make sure to thank them for depriving the rest of us of a useful service.