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City Fights Service It Needs

Updated: Thursday, June 5 2014, 10:39 AM CDT
No one wants drunk drivers on the road.  So we wanted to know -- why is the city of Austin ticketing drivers that help prevent just that problem?  Uber is a transportation network or "ride share company."  it launched in Austin Wednesday connecting passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire.

It launched without the city's approval.

In late April Police Chief Art Acevedo acknowledged Austin's DWI problem in a fiery press conference.  "Enough is enough" he charged.  He called for a plan saying "for the last 7 years I've been saying there are not enough taxis in this city."

City officials agree.

The city of Austin badly needs these types of companies" Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said.  She's referring to companies like Lyft and Uber which both began operating in the last week.   However the city was quick to respond ticketing drivers and impounding vehicles.  So what's the problem?

"We want to make sure people are safe" Cole explained.  The city passed an ordinance to study the services with a pilot program.  It would look at background checks of drivers and proof of proper insurance to name a couple.  Before that pilot study was done however, Uber and Lyft launched anyway.

Cole's concerns are echoed by other councilmembers. Chris riley told us in a statement "it's important to get an appropriate set of regulations in place before we introduce TNC's into our transportation network."

Councilmember Kathie Tovo was disappointed in the early launch.  She told us over the phone had she known they were going to this, she wouldn't have supported the pilot program resolution.

Still mayor pro tem Cole is optimistic the services will get the city's approval.  "I don't think it will be in short order but I don't think it will be a long time" she said.

Until then those drivers may collect more than a fare, they may get a fine.  Chief Acevedo was unavailable to talk to us on camera but he also said while we do need other options we need legal ones.  Uber and Lyft have no plans to stop their services.

By Melanie Lofton
City Fights Service It Needs

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