Lyft in downtown Austin

Lyft has arrived in Austin (photo courtesy of Instagram)

Last week, the popular ridesharing company Lyft arrived in Austin. Easily spotted with their hot pink mustaches proudly displayed in the front of their vehicle, drivers are providing Austinities with safe alternatives to drinking and driving.

Austin City Council has been made aware of the demand for additional transportation options throughout the city; however, little has been done to allow ride sharing companies to operate in Austin. There’s a large belief among locals that the taxi cab companies, who could potentially lose a large amount of business if Lyft is allowed to operate legally, are running a monopoly and delaying the approval process. More on that later.

Two weeks after the City Council approved a resolution for stakeholders to offer recommendations for how Transportation Network Companies (including Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar) could operate in Austin, Lyft decided to begin operating for free. Free ride shares began last Thursday night, and the company is offering up to 50 credits for rides up to $25 during the first two weeks of operation. Since last week, over 15,000 users in the area have downloaded their app.

Known as “your friend with a car,” the app is very user friendly once your initial account is setup. Simply open the app, tap the ‘Request Lyft’ button and wait for a driver to be located to come pick you up. We do suggest confirming that your location pin is in the correct spot- the pin can easily be moved around on the map. Once a driver has been located, you receive details about your lyft- the driver’s name and a photo of their car. Once your friend with a car arrives, you’ll receive a text message confirming again their name

But Is It Safe?

The biggest concerns of taxi companies in Austin, as well as the City Council, are safety and that the company and its drivers could be operating unlicensed.

Lyft notes that safety is a big concern for them, and as a result, background checks are conducted on all drivers, their vehicles are inspected, and the company has a zero-tolerance policy. All drives must also have auto insurance that covers the vehicle they’ll be Lyfting in.

The City Lays Down the Law

This past weekend, the city followed through with their warnings and impounded two vehicles after giving the drivers citations for operating without a valid chauffeur permit. Another drive was also given a citation. All three incidents were part of a sting operation.

It is unknown if Lyft will be around after the free rides end within the next two weeks. Their website entices drivers to become their own boss with the ability to create their own hours while making up to $35/hour. If you decide to become a driver, contact our office for all of your insurance needs before you get on the road. Happy Lyfting!