The Austin versus Silicon Valley debate has been fascinating.
I grew up in Houston, Texas (Go Longhorns), but my home is California. I had spent many great times in Austin and love the city’s open-minded and quirky energy. I am surprised at the negativity poured on Austin relating to the Uber/Lyft debate.
Uber and Lyft provide a valuable and important service, and I too doubt the efficacy of the finger-printing requirement. That being said, I find the attacks on Austin extreme and unfair.
- The city council and the mayor’s office determined (right or wrong) that the question of requiring fingerprinting of drivers should be punted to the Austin voters. The Austinites got to hear both sides of the story, and the vote was for to err on the side of safety.
- Austin did not ban Lyft or Uber from operating in the city. If these companies finger-print their drivers, they can continue to operate in the city.
The opposition make it sound like Austin’s city council and mayor had unfairly and arbitrarily ruled to bannish Uber and Lyft from serving the city. This is not the case.
Silicon Valley is the epicenter of tech innovation, but does that distinction give us the authority to shame other smaller tech centers for taking an alternative view point? We in the Bay Area pride ourselves on being open to alternative view points. We also are good at arguing with data-proven metrics. Why this issue has stimulated so many extreme, emotional rants from Silicon Valley heavyweights is surprising.
Can Uber and Lyft show data correlating the benefits these services have provided to Austin in the form of:
- reduced drunk driving fatalities,
- lower % of car ownership,
- higher tourist satisfaction,
- lower wait times for airport and hotel transporation, and
- improved mobility for handicapped and elderly drivers?
I would bet that Lyft and Uber could provide compelling statistics. Why not let the data prove out how a ride-share friendly regulatory framework is beneficial to the city and its citizens?
Austin and San Jose used to be BFFs
A popular route on Southwest Airlines is from Austin to San Jose. This route is known as the Nerd Bird. These regular flights serve to connect these two tech hubs. Are we to damage decades of collaboration over this issue? The outcry from the tech community will likely bring Uber and Lyft back to Austin sooner than later. The shaming seems over the top and is not likely to endear Silicon Valley to those who label view us as arrogant elitists. The opportunity to work out the issue in a peaceful and constructive manner has given way to name-calling and condemnation. Not the finest hour for either locale.