After SXSW, Largest Challenge for Austin's Ridesharing is Legislature

AUSTIN, Texas - The ride to the end of South by Southwest didn’t start smoothly, but for RideAustin driver Jimmy Boggs, it was a satisfying 10 days.

“It was my best week by far,” said Boggs.  

By the end of South By, local ride-booking mobile apps were sailing along, unlike the week before, when heavy demand drove RideAustin over the edge and into outages. However, the nonprofit says it pulled a quick turnaround by ultimately making more than 180,000 trips and $25,000 in donations for local charities.

“We learned a lot from South By. It was the biggest volume anyone will see all year long, so we’re prepared for anything,” said Joe Deshotel, director of community engagement at RideAustin.  

But are they prepared for the Texas Legislature?

Three state-wide proposals this session would override Austin’s current ride-hailing regulations, and that could mean the return of rideshare’s biggest names.

“It casts Austin in a bad light. You’re denying the city the services of companies that people have come to depend on,” said Andrew Nierengarten, who drives for multiple ridesharing companies.  

“It makes sense to have a fair regulatory framework to allow all competition to thrive and ultimately the consumers to get the best product," said Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair.

Austin's alternatives are staying confident and are saying they're prepared to share the roads.

“Our technology grows stronger everyday but so does the relationship that we have with the community and our drivers and the drivers really appreciate what we’ve done here,” said Deshotel.  

Boggs agrees. He’s not driving for his previous employers.

“The local community will still continue to use us no matter what because of what we stand for,” said Boggs.