The national media was looking for stories on how South by Southwest attendees were suffering this week without Uber and Lyft available in Austin, says RideAustin CEO said Andy Tryba.
Unfortunately, Tryba concedes, RideAustin helped provide fodder on Saturday night when its app went down.
“I had to do a bunch of articles with Forbes, CNN, and basically everyone likes to see Austin can’t handle life without Uber,” Tryba said during a Wednesday SXSW session. “There’s pent-up energies for certain stories that people wanted to tell, and people wanted to tell ‘Hey, see how jacked up things are in Austin.”
Tryba acknowledged that the outage -- caused when RideAustin’s data base locked up -- was disappointing. (Ride hailing app Fasten also had problems Saturday night.)
“We left 5,000 rides on the table. That sucks,” Tryba said.
But RideAustin bounced back, he said, and volume hit an all-time record of 70,000 completed rides last week. Austin ride-hailing companies will do 25 percent to 40 percent more volume during this year’s SXSW than when Uber and Lyft were here last year, Tryba said.
RideAustin alone is averaging more than 15,000 rides a day, and is expected to grow to 25,000 rides a day as weekend two of SXSW approaches.
“RideAustin volume is two times what Lyft was doing when they were here,” Tryba said.
Tryba also addressed the question of whether the Texas Legislature will override local ride-hailing ordinances and instead take statewide the regulation of transportation network companies.
“I’m a bit torn because if I’m Uber and I’m in 400 cities, I’d want some consistency,” he said. “Really, Austin, San Antonio and Houston are going to have a different set of rules. I agree with them there.”
But, “in another sense, this is a case where the Austin public actually voted. Does it make sense to have someone at the state level overrule on what you voted?”
Tryba said he thinks the Texas Legislature is thinking about the issue in the wrong way. “They’re looking at it like Austin put in these rules that drove out capitalism, and as a result, Uber and Lyft were kicked out. That is just wrong. They chose to leave. It wasn’t like anyone got kicked out.”
However, Tryba said he thinks the bill will probably pass and that Uber and Lyft will return to Austin. He said RideAustin is prepared to compete if and when that happens.
RideAustin has an advantage in that it was founded as a nonprofit, Tryba said, and lets riders round up their fares to contribute to local charities and organizations. So far, $100,000 has been contributed to dozens of local groups, he said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that they are going to come in and try to leverage their cash position and eliminate the other ride-shares,” Tryba said. “I believe the way we survive is playing to our original mission statement. We were built by Austin for Austin and give back to the community.”
About 90 percent of RideAustin’s business is providing rides to local people. “So in that world, being hyper local, being the one that helps out the community, that’s the competitive advantage. We’ll have to play to that, because we obviously can’t do a pricing war.”
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