Austin Unable to Enforce Fingerprint Rules for Ride-Hailing Companies

AUSTIN, Texas -- Some critics say an incomplete ordinance by the Austin City Council is giving a pass to ride-hailing companies that are eager to pick up Uber and Lyft's orphaned clientele. Rules that prompted both companies to leave Austin Monday are not being enforced by the city.

TWC News confirmed several Wingz drivers have not undergone fingerprint-based background checks. Some said they have given multiple rides before receiving emails to ask they complete their name-based background check, similar to what Uber and Lyft prefer to use.

-- No Proof of Compliance --

As of May 1, all ride-hailing apps operating in the City of Austin were required to prove 25 percent of drivers had cleared fingerprint checks. Staff within the Austin Transportation Department said the December ordinance does not have any mechanics to enforce compliance with the phased-in benchmarks.

"I wish I could say I was shocked, but this has been a pattern with the 10-1 Council," Austin resident Jeff Kirk said.

Kirk served on a task force in 2014 that helped craft the city’s original regulations for ride-hailing apps. Input included representatives from all modes of ground transportation. Kirk served as a neutral party with no ties to any service.

"Our goal right now is as quickly as possible to help drivers make that transition from Uber and Lyft to the many other companies that are coming to Austin to offer these services," District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen said.

Kitchen led efforts to write the current regulations. She said enforcement and penalties are not the focus of the city currently.

-- Get Me: 'Not implemented fingerprinting yet' --

Get Me began recruiting drivers last fall, saying it would comply with any of the city's regulations. Get Me said it would also adhere to all regulations regarding fingerprint-based background checks.

"We have not implemented fingerprinting yet," the company said through its Twitter account.

The ride-hailing app ramped up service Monday after Uber and Lyft left.

However, several drivers and passengers told Time Warner Cable News that the Get Me app went offline for several hours Wednesday, starting around 6:30 p.m.

"Now with Uber and Lyft out of our community--at least temporarily--we have to be addressing mobility in as many different ways as we can," Mayor Steve Adler said.

City staff said it plans to introduce rules that would close the enforcement loophole next month. Half of all drivers must be cleared through fingerprints by Aug. 1; 75 percent of drivers need to successfully complete the same background checks by November 1. The City of Austin wants 99-percent compliance by Feb. 1, 2017.

Adler would not say Wednesday if he has reached out to Uber or Lyft privately. Uber said it has heard nothing from the mayor's office since the election.

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