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Austin Ridesharing Wars Heat Up

Updated: Wednesday, July 30 2014, 06:16 PM CDT

Need a lift? Rideshare wars are raging in Austin. You've got companies like Lyft, Uber and Sidecar wanting to make a move in the city. But, Austin cab companies don't think there are enough fares to keep everyone in business.           

"Mo" Anwar is staking out a spot at 6th and Brazos. This downtown corner, in front of the Driskill Hotel, can be a real moneymaker. But, it's not today. 

"I made $15," said Anwar. 

It's one big reason why the long-time Austin cab driver says the city can't support ride sharing during the work week. 

"There are a lot of people who are going to have no business because we don't need anybody during the weekdays," said Anwar. 

But, weekends are a different story. Anwar can pinpoint the exact times when no cabs are flashing vacant signs. 

"Friday night, Saturday night after two o'clock, after they stop serving drinks at the bars," said Anwar. 

Events like SXSW also stretch cab companies to the limit. But some drivers say the solution is giving cabbies a bigger supply of operating permits to meet spikes in demand. 

Attorney Arif Panju sees what plays out on the busy downtown corner differently. 

"The current system that we have in Austin is broken," said Panju. 

The attorney for the Texas chapter of the Institute for Justice says it's time to break up Austin's cab company monopoly and let ride share companies compete for fares. 

"What if restaurants asked for competition to be pushed away? You wouldn't have 1300 food trucks and plenty of choices," said Panju. 

The city is currently considering how ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber can legally operate in Austin. Supporters say it's just good business. 

"The city recognizing that economic protectionism is not something you need to have in your city code and that the constitution itself does not protect competitors against other competitors," said Panju. 

The debate will heat up again on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at a meeting sponsored by the Institute for Justice, America's Future Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and Liberty on the Rocks. Lyft is offering free rides to attendees. It's being held at Chicago House at 607 Trinity Street in downtown Austin.

By Bettie Cross

Austin Ridesharing Wars Heat Up

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