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June 2nd, 2017

And here we finally are.

Last year, the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft left Austin after a contentious Prop 1 election. In the year that followed, about a half dozen companies emerged to fill that void, including RideAustinFastenWingzFare (no longer operating), GetMe, ScoopMe (no longer operating), InstaRyde (no longer operating), Yellow Cab’s zTrip and Tride.

But now that Uber and Lyft have resumed operations in the city of Austin, the landscape for ride hailing is poised to change dramatically. We reached out to the ride-hailing companies serving Austin and asked them the same set of questions to get an update on some of their features and what’s different a year later. We’re posting their answers verbatim with minimal editing. We tried to focus on features, scale, accessibility and what changes are being made in the new ride-hailing landscape.

A few notes: We did not include Chariot in this roundup, as the company is more of a fixed-route shuttle service than an app for on-demand rides. But as the company expands its routes, they’re worth a look as you try to get around town. Cap Metro is also testing out a mini-bus service called Pickup

We also did not include Tride; they were the only operating ride-hailing service that did not respond to a week of requests to information for this article. We will update the story to include Tride if they provide the requested info.

Uber

512tech: Is Uber bringing back its UberACCESS program to Austin; can you hail a ride that can accommodate wheelchair accessibility and does the app itself have options for blind/vision-impaired customers?  

We are excited to bring back UberACCESS to Austin. It is currently live. Here is a post we did in 2015 when we launched it. The current program is identical to how it was then. The Uber app is also fully accessible for riders who are blind or low vision and for drivers and riders who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. More information about that can be found here.

 

At its peak, what’s the highest number of active, registered drivers Uber had when it was operating in Austin? 

Before Prop 1 we had over 10,000 drivers driving on the platform.

Are there features Uber offers that are unique from other ride-hailing services?

  • UberACCESS allows those who need a wheelchair accessible vehicle to request a ride at the tap of a button – 24 hours a day at the same rates as uberX.
  • UberESPANOL riders can choose to ride uberX with a Spanish-speaking driver-partner
  • UberEATS delivers food from over 400 restaurants across Austin
  • We have our own in-app navigation for drivers whereas others rely solely on Google and Waze
  • Instant Pay: An easy-to-use option that makes cashing out Uber earnings for driver partners as simple as pushing a button—anytime, anywhere.
  • UberPOOL enables people going to the same place at the same time to share the journey. This means cheaper rides for passengers and less congestion over time.
Eric Gay / Associated PressIn this Friday, May 26, 2017 photo, workers set up in a tent to welcome drivers back to the Uber offices in Austin.

Any features Uber plans to add in the future that are not currently available?

Stay tuned...

Can you schedule a ride in advance with Uber?

Yes, you can. More information can be found here.

Any recent pricing changes /promotions we should know about as Uber returns to Austin? 

Here is a site to get a fare estimate for trips in Austin. Once you enter your pickup and destination and receive an estimate, you can click on the “?” to see the breakdown of the fare. We will be running various promotions over the coming months.

Will Uber be doing anything differently in Austin as it returns in regards to increased competition from more ride-hailing companies? What can customers/Austinites expect? 

We are sorry for leaving Austin the way we did. We know we let down drivers, riders and the broader Austin community. We’ve spent the last year listening carefully and learning from the mistakes we made and we will commit to getting it right this time around. We know we have a lot of work to do. We launched Project Jumpstart which is a new program where drivers can nominate causes that are important to them and every three months, we will award funding to the local initiatives that are winning the most support from the driver community. This is only the beginning of our commitment to the Austin community and we couldn’t be more excited for the road ahead.  

Lyft

Does Lyft have accessibility options; can you hail a ride that can accommodate wheelchair accessibility and does the app itself have options for blind/vision-impaired customers?

Lyft's mission is ensuring people who need rides most are able to get them. Many disabled individuals who were previously underserved by existing transportation options now actively use and count on Lyft as a reliable, safe, and affordable way to get around. Recently, we were proud to partner with the National Federation of the Blind and National Association of the Deaf on product improvements to better serve these populations. We look forward to continuing these partnerships.

At its peak, what’s the highest number of active, registered drivers Lyft had when it was operating in Austin?

We don’t share specific driver numbers, but we have seen a tremendous response from both new and previous drivers who are ready to get back on the platform giving us a positive outlook on our return.

Are there features Lyft offers are at unique from other ride-hailing services?

Lyft recently introduced Amp, a connected two-way in-car communication device that more easily connects drivers and passengers. The Amp is located on the dash and signals to passengers when their ride has arrived by shining a colorful light that matches with the car icon in the app. The inward-facing screen communicates to drivers when a new ride has been requested, and it also welcomes passengers with a personalized greeting when they get in the car. Amp is a safety feature that helps provide a memorable and reliable experience.

Deborah Cannon / American-StatesmanMike Allen and Dennis Lasater were among those who showed up to the Lyft offices in Austin on May 18, 2017 to sign up as Lyft drivers. Also shown are Lyft community associates Marcus Simmons and Grace Kennelly. 

Any features Lyft plans to add in the future that are not currently available?

Our Lyft Line feature, which is live in Austin, is a hugely popular option for our passengers and helps us work towards solving pain points in commuting.

Can you schedule a ride in advance with Lyft?

Yes, scheduled rides give us an opportunity to offer more options to riders and drivers another opportunity to earn.

Any recent pricing changes /promotions we should know about as Lyft returns to Austin?

We are always committed to being the affordable choice for Austin passengers. You can find our pricing for the Austin market here: https://www.lyft.com/cities/austin-tx

Will Lyft be doing anything differently in Austin as it returns in regards to increased competition from more ride-hailing companies? What can customers/Austinites expect?

In our return to Austin, we are looking forward to bringing safe, reliable & affordable rides back to Austinites to help them get from one place to another easily. We are also hoping to continue working with great local partners and companies to stay integrated and active in the community.

New users can use the code ATXLYFT for 2 rides, $10 off each.

Show any Lyft ride receipt to the Austin favorites below to get delicious offers any time between June 5 and June 11:

Kerbey Lane: Free Short Stack with purchase of any meal.

Peached Tortilla: Free Kimchi Queso and Chips at lunch with purchase.

Chilantro: 15% discount on your purchase.

Churro Co: Buy one, get one free Specialty Churro (Valid June 8-11 only).

RideAustin

Does RideAustin have accessibility options; can you hail a ride that can accommodate wheelchair accessibility and does the app itself have options for blind/vision-impaired customers?

Our rider app is optimized for the blind/vision-impaired through our accessibility voice-over features. This has been tested by the community and receives high praise. On the wheelchair accessibility --- we currently partner with third parties to offer accessible rides. We are also working closely with CapMetro and others to potentially pilot a MetroAccess on demand model. 

At its peak, what’s the highest number of active, registered drivers RideAustin has had?

At peak, we've had 5,400 active, registered drivers. Nearly 10,000 have applied, but many do not meet our required criteria.

Laura Skelding / American-StatesmanTrilogy Systems founder Joe Liemandt at the launch announcement at The Highball for RideAustin, an Austin-only, nonprofit ride-hailing company.

Are there features RideAustin offers that are unique from other ride-hailing services? 

RideAustin is the only app built by Austin for Austin. We are the only nonprofit rideshare in the industry and the only ones that have a local charity “round-up” feature, contributing nearly $250,000 to the local Austin charities. RideAustin is also the only rideshare with a “female-only” mode enabling female passengers to order female drivers. RideAustin is the only rideshare that gives all drivers on standard rides 100 percent of the ride fare. RideAustin will also continue to follow the Austin voters’ wishes by continuing to fingerprint our drivers. Lastly,m RideAustin is the only rideshare that has an “open data policy,” openly sharing all of our data with the public, researchers, the city and any others interested in the future of mobility services.

Any features RideAustin plans to add in the future that are not currently available?

We will soon offer rides to low income patients as part of a $50K Transit Empowerment Fund grant we won with Community Care Collaborative. We are also working closely with several car manufacturers to advance autonomous car research through our open data policy. 

We will soon be kicking off a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a pilot program of W2 employee drivers. This pool of W2 drivers will have consistent processes and protocols, additional training for assisting passengers with disabilities, and branded uniforms and vehicles. As employees, they will receive a competitive salary with 2 weeks paid vacation and overtime pay, along with a generous benefits package including medical, dental and vision healthcare coverage, workers compensation, and short-term and long-term disability.

Can you schedule a ride in advance with RideAustin?

RideAustin pickups average three minutes or less throughout the city. We do not pre-schedule rides. 

Any recent pricing changes / promotions we should know about?

RideAustin has lowered our SUV rates by 15 percent and have also lowered our driver commission on SUV rides by 50 percent.  

Any changes planned as Uber and Lyft return to Austin? 

As we do today, we will continue to follow the rules voted on by the Austin community -- including fingerprint background checks. We believe that rules are best set locally by the local citizens. We will also continue our local nonprofit model that keeps the money right here in Austin, for our drivers, and the local charities who benefit from our round-up.

Fasten 

Does Fasten have accessibility options; can you hail a ride that can accommodate wheelchair accessibility and does the app itself have options for blind/vision-impaired customers? 

Yes. We are fully accessible for the blind and have an option to hail wheelchair accessible rides from within the Fasten app.

At its peak, what’s the highest number of active, registered drivers Fasten has had in Austin area? 

Currently we have more than 7,000 active fingerprinted drivers in Austin.

 

ContributedFasten is one of the ride-hailing companies to begin operating in Austin after Uber and Lyft departed last year.

Are there features Fasten offers that are unique from other ride-hailing services? 

Fasten is the only ride-hailing service in Austin that offers riders a real-time fare meter, along with a 100 percent fingerprinted driver base. 

However, perhaps Fasten’s most unique feature is our philosophy toward both drivers and riders. For those that drive with Fasten, we charge them only 99 cents (or less or nothing) for each ride we refer to them. The rest of the fare goes to the driver, even during high-demand times. Other ride-hailing companies will take 25 percent or more from a driver’s fare. 

Apples-to-apples, Fasten drivers will always earn more, while riders will always pay a fare that’s competitive with any other company. Paying drivers more also translates into lower wait times for riders. 

Fasten also takes Austin’s unique culture seriously. We are a big supporter of local venues, and through vouch.fasten.com we can leverage the data we have from millions of rides to recommend great places for you to have lunch, dinner or catch a great show.

Any features Fasten plans to add in the future that are not currently available? 

Yes, we have a few surprises in the works. Fasten users should buckle up; we’ll be rolling them out in the coming months.

Can you schedule a ride in advance with Fasten? 

Fasten does not include this feature because we aim to be ready when you are; no advance planning required. Our average wait time is three minutes in the Greater Austin area, and less than two minutes downtown. Plus, since our drivers can keep a larger portion of any fare offered by competing companies, they are more likely pick up a Fasten rider first.

Any recent pricing changes / promotions we should know about? 

Yes, we are constantly looking for ways to offer riders and drivers a better deal. To reward people who use Fasten on a regular basis, we recently offered a package of 100 rides, discounted by $2 each. 

Keep an eye open for some more summertime promotions aimed at both Fasten drivers and riders.

Any changes planned as Uber and Lyft return to Austin? 

No, we have invested heavily in developing the market in the past year, and have earned our riders’ and our drivers’ trust; we intend to keep it. We have shown Austin that it’s possible to operate a business with transparency, ethics and fairness all while getting riders to their destinations conveniently and safely. It’s now up to Uber and Lyft to step up their game to meet the new expectations of riders in the city.  

Fare

UPDATE: As of June 6, this ride-hailing company is no longer operating in Austin. Read more about that here. 

Does Fare have accessibility options; can you hail a ride that can accommodate wheelchair accessibility and does the app itself have options for blind/vision-impaired customers? 

Yes.

At its peak, what’s the highest number of active, registered drivers Fare has had in Austin area?

7,000

ContributedFare, a ride-hailing app, began operating in Austin after Uber and Lyft left town.

Are there features Fare offers that are unique from other ride-hailing services?

Yes, riders can save drivers they like in the app and request them again in the future. When people refer friends to Fare, they receive 10 percent of their referrals' app spending every time they ride. Drivers receive cash and riders receive ride credits.

Any features Fare plans to add in the future that are not currently available?

Yes. 

Can you schedule a ride in advance with Fare?

Yes.

Any recent pricing changes / promotions we should know about?

First time users get 10 percent off their first ride.

Any changes planned since Uber as Lyft return to Austin?

No.  

GetMe

Does GetMe have accessibility options; can you hail a ride that can accommodate wheelchair accessibility and does the app itself have options for blind/vision-impaired customers?

Yes, GetMe has accessibility options on the app.

At its peak, what’s the highest number of active, registered drivers GetMe has had in Austin area?

We currently have about 4,000 drivers on the platform in and around the Austin Area.

Lori Hawkins / AMERICAN-STATESMANRuth O., a driver for ride-hailing service GetMe, drives 512tech.com reporter Lori Hawkins on Tuesday July 12, 2016.

Are there features GetMe offers that are unique from other ride-hailing services?

GetMe has no surge charges or dynamic pricing and instead we have flat day rates and night rates. We have constant promo codes available that customers can use and not just one referral code.

Any features GetMe plans to add in the future that are not currently available?

Yes, there are numerous changes on our road map.

Can you schedule a ride in advance with GetMe?

Not at this moment.

Any recent pricing changes /promotions we should know about?

No.

Any changes planned as Uber and Lyft return to Austin?

We were here before they left, we were here after they left and we don't plan on leaving now that they're back. 

Wingz 

Does Wingz have accessibility options; can you hail a ride that can accommodate wheelchair accessibility and does the app itself have options for blind/vision-impaired customers?

You can request a WAV (wheelchair-accessible) vehicle through the Wingz platform. We do not have options for blind/vision-impaired but we are working on adding these features when we release our native apps during Q3.

At its peak, what’s the highest number of active, registered drivers Wingz has had in Austin area?

We do not communicate on numbers of drivers or riders.

 

Gary Dinges / AMERICAN-STATESMANBJ, a driver for Wingz, gives a ride to the American-Statesman’s Gary Dinges for a 512tech ride-hailing test on Feb. 28, 2017.

Are there features Wingz offers that are unique from other ride-hailing services?

On Wingz, every rider can build a list of favorite drivers. Their future requests will go to these drivers first. Wingz is all about predictability: riders know the price before they book. There is no surge pricing. Riders receive information about their driver and the vehicle before the ride

Any features Wingz plans to add in the future that are not currently available?

We will add a ride tracking page riders can use themselves and also share with friends and family. The biggest change for us will be the release of our iOS and Android native apps for riders.

Can you schedule a ride in advance with Wingz?

Yes, you can. All Wingz rides are pre-scheduled and must be booked at least two hours in advance, but can be booked months in advance.

Any recent pricing changes /promotions we should know about?

Not at this point.

Any changes planned once Uber and Lyft return to Austin?

The people of Austin voted for the fingerprinting of drivers in the first place, so we will survey our riders and drivers to determine if they want Wingz to maintain this requirement. We firmly believe that their opinion should matter.   

zTrip (Yellow Cab’s ride-hailing app)

Does zTrip have accessibility options; can you hail a ride that can accommodate wheelchair accessibility and does the app itself have options for blind/vision-impaired customers?

Yes, both Yellow Cab Austin and the zTrip app accommodate wheelchair and handicapped riders. Additionally, we provide both wheel chair accessible vehicles for either taxi or black car service, and 24 hour live customer support. 

Nolan Hicks / AMERICAN-STATESMANPio, a driver for Yellow Cab, participates in a 512tech ride-hailing test on Feb. 28, 2017.

At its peak, what’s the highest number of active, registered drivers zTrip has had in Austin area?We do not release this information.

Are there features zTrip offers are at unique from other ride hailing services?

  • zTrip sets itself apart by offering: no surge pricing. Yellow Cab offers the same low price every time, regardless of the day of the week or whether it’s 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.
  • Choice between traditional taxicab service or luxury vehicle.
  • Professional, licensed, full-time drivers. Yellow Cab ICDs are fully insured to meet all legal requirements 24/7 and have undergone thorough FBI and fingerprint background checks so riders don’t have to worry about who is driving them home.
  • 24/7 live customer service via phone, email or social media.
  • Hail on the street, by phone or with the zTrip app: You don’t have to wait on the curb for a car to arrive. 
  • Pay by cash or credit card through the app: no other service provides this flexibility.

Any features zTrip plans to add in the future that are not currently available?

Several. Choose your favorite driver, upfront pricing and discounted airport rides. 

Can you schedule a ride in advance with zTrip?

Yes


Any recent pricing changes / promotions we should know about?

zTrip often sends out push notifications, emails or in app messaging offering credit codes. Soon we will release an airport discount program.

Any changes planned as Uber and Lyft return to Austin?

zTrip continues to offer Austin residents safe, reliable transportation they can count on, with no surge pricing.  

Cover image:  Jessalyn Tamez / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

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