Ridesharing advocates gathered more than three times the 20,000 petition signatures necessary to demand the Austin City Council jettison its new driver fingerprinting regulation or put it to a citizen vote.
Ridesharing Works representatives are expected to deliver to the city clerk Tuesday morning 23,000 of the 65,103 signatures they said they collected to begin a validation process to allow a May 7 citywide vote should the council refuse to rescind the fingerprinting ordinance.
On Dec. 18, the council voted 9-2 to begin putting in place the fingerprinting regulations Feb. 1. Representatives for Uber and Lyft, the two biggest ridesharing companies operating in Austin, have threatened to pull out of the city if the council fails to roll back the new regulations.
Caroline Joiner, a spokeswoman for Ridesharing Works, said the response to the group’s petition sends a message the City Council erred in insisting on fingerprinting.
“Both the drivers and the riders were passionate about wanting to keep Uber and Lyft in town, and the result was a huge volume of petition signatures gathered in a very short amount of time,” Joiner said.
“We received an enthusiastic response in every neighborhood we visited,” Joiner said. “It’s clear that many disagree strongly with the recent Council action.”
Once the clerk validates the signatures, Mayor Steve Adler and the City Council will have 10 days to either adopt the Ridesharing Works ordinance or place the ordinance on the May 7 ballot.
Ridesharing Works called on the clerk and council to frame the ballot question this way:
“Shall the City Code be amended to repeal Ordinance No. 20151217-075 regulating Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) and codify TNC rules contained in Ordinance No. 20141016-038, with the addition of an annual fee equal to 1% of the TNC’s gross revenue, an application process, and a process for notification and resolution of violations.”
The City Council and Ann Kitchen, the council’s Mobility Committee chairwoman, who drafted the new regulations, have shown no inclination to change their decision.
A call to Kitchen for comment Tuesday morning was not returned. She told the Austin American Statesman she would not withdraw her ordinance.
“At that point, I would want to go for an election. I would want to hear what the people think,” she told the Statesman.
The council has for months heard from people who do not want to lose the option to call for a rideshare. The day before the council passed the ordinance, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton advised the council not to take an action that would drive ridesharing out of the area.
Acevedo and Hamilton offered statistics correlating ridesharing operations during after-bar hours with a drop in drunk driving arrests and collisions.
After the vote, TechNet, Austin Music People and ATX Safer Streets formed Ridesharing Works to circulate the petition. The Old Austin Neighborhood Association, Engage ATX and NetChoice have since joined the coalition.
Volunteers gathered their signatures in three weeks. According to the group, the petition drew the largest number of supporters for any in recent Austin history. Nearly twice as many people signed the petition as the petition for the city’s notorious Save Our Springs ordinance in 1992 and the petition in 2012 to divide the city into 10 city council districts, according to the group.