OPINION: Uber and Lyft Need to Grow Up

Even companies that seem benevolent and helpful have their selfish and childish sides.

Most Austinites know that Uber and Lyft decided to leave the Austin area after Proposition 1 failed to pass, after sinking a record amount of money when trying to secure a victory. Any attempts to open up the Uber or Lyft apps here will simply result in a message in forming users that either service is not available in the Austin area.

It’s not known whether Uber or Lyft will return any time soon, if at all, but I know that my own patience and sympathy are just like the current status of these two ride-hailing giants – not available.

I am nothing less than disgusted by the decisions that these two companies have made — both the decision to dump such a huge amount of money – over eight million dollars – in an attempt to win over voters somehow, and the decision to leave, like a child who just threw a temper tantrum after they were told to eat their vegetables before their dessert.

When I first heard of the arrival of the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, I was quite excited to see a new means of getting around Austin. Traffic has been a major problem in this city for quite some time, and to hear that someone was actually doing something to handle the issue was quite relieving.

Uber and Lyft work similarly to taxi services, but with many more drivers — it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort for a driver to sign up, and the drivers can choose their own schedule, making working for Uber and Lyft much more appealing. This meant that when someone calls for an Uber or Lyft driver as opposed to a taxi service, the wait times for the ride-hailing services are a lot shorter, and the costs of the rides is predetermined so as to avoid the drivers extorting the customer, all of which made Uber and Lyft more popular for rides than taxis.

However, this meant that the taxi companies were suffering, some claiming the  ride-hailing companies had a few unfair advantages such as a lack of regulation. Ultimately, the ride-hailing services wound up butting heads with the City of Austin and the taxi services, leading up to the infamous Proposition 1, an ordinance that, among other things, would have removed the city’s ability to regulate ride-hailing services had it passed.

Uber and Lyft both gave their all into ensuring that Proposition 1 passed, launching huge marketing campaigns in an attempt to win votes and possibly. While I have to admire that determination to win, I can’t help but think that they were going about it in the wrong way, coming on a little too strongly. Not to mention spending over eight million over basic regulations such as fingerprinting sounds rather… extreme. Things like the spending of these two major players show one major value of today’s society that is slowly but surely becoming the norm, if it isn’t standard already: Enough money can solve almost anything. But even when this is true (which happens very rarely), enough money is always in the hands of those interested in solving their own problems rather than helping others out, which Uber and Lyft have demonstrated all too well with their self-imposed exoduses.

When the aforementioned value of money as a universal solution inevitably crumbles, the ones with the money are still able to do as they please in spite of their mistakes. Perhaps they might learn the lesson staring them in the face, but given human nature (stubbornness and stupidity in particular) it’s far more likely they’ll simply follow their own desires once more. Whether it be to try again, to punish those they feel are responsible for their failures, or, as Austin’s former ride-hailing services have done, simply up and leave, the ones with the money are able to essentially do as they please.

I first thought of Uber and Lyft as a pair of fairly benevolent, or at least not overly malicious, companies seeking to alleviate the traffic problems in Austin and turn a profit at the same time. Now that the companies have basically abandoned Austin for an indeterminate amount of time, I realize that they’re the same kind of company that’s all to prevalent – the companies who are, ultimately, out for themselves and their own interests rather than helping the people who are paying them. Of course, each company is a little different and has their own lines they are or aren’t willing to cross for the sake of themselves or their customers, but this is a particularly egregious example – Uber and Lyft were genuinely helping alleviate traffic and transportation problems in Austin right up until the drama surrounding Proposition 1, and now that the vote is over, they’ve simply left Austin back where it was before – except with many Austinites now left high and dry. I don’t know what the city of Austin will do now, but I doubt that Uber or Lyft will be returning anytime soon while the city retains its stance – and I doubt that I will forgive Uber or Lyft for their actions while they remain unavailable.