Public Notice: Lyft Up; Uber Under
Plus: National Recognition for Austin's Wildlife and Music Education
(Ed. note: Late Friday evening, the City Aviation Dept. announced that they had come to an agreement to allow Uber to operate at the airport "on a temporary basis." See update below.)
The City of Austin Aviation Department announced Tuesday that it had reached an agreement for Lyft to "become the first and only Transportation Network Company permitted to operate ... at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport." Under a one-year pilot program, effective immediately, Lyft will pay the airport a concession fee of 10% of the gross revenue it collects from operating at the airport. "Lyft joins a variety of other ground transportation operators permitted at the airport such as taxis, limos, shuttles, and buses," the city press release notes.
Notably not on the permitted list is rival TNC Uber, which has not agreed to the same terms, and apparently intends to keep operating at the airport illegally, even though airport authorities are stepping up enforcement, including reportedly blocking Uber's signal on airport grounds, having security officers watch for Uber drivers, and issuing warnings (and at least one citation) to Uber drivers. In a KVUE news story Tuesday, Uber and Lyft driver Anthony Nguyen said drivers "are still doing it at their own risk, but Uber says they have our back."
Update: On Friday evening, March 13, the City of Austin Aviation Department sent out a press release announcing that: "Transportation Network Companies Lyft and Uber are permitted to provide on-demand transportation services at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on a temporary basis. The ridesharing companies have reached an agreement with the City of Austin, Department of Aviation to operate at the airport for a temporary period, not to exceed 45 days, until a long-term agreement can be reached between parties." That was the entirety of the release; no word on how this new arrangement changes might change the previously-announced one-year agreement with Lyft.
Another Uber driver laughingly related on camera that he'd had an airport security guard "jump out in front of my car" to try and stop him. He got away, but if this escalates much further, I'm betting the balance of power swings back to airport security. After all, we know they've got some badass armaments hidden away somewhere out there, as backup for their minimum-wage security guards; one quick drone strike could probably end the whole dispute. Ordnance, not Ordinance.
We get press releases pretty much weekly that Austin has placed on one list or another (We're the 13th-best college town in the U.S. – just ahead of Mankato, Minn.!), but this one is actually pretty cool. The National Wildlife Federation has named Austin as the top city for wildlife in the U.S., as part of the NWF celebration of National Wildlife Week 2015. The NWF ranked America's largest cities based on three criteria – the percentage of parkland in each city, citizen action to create wildlife habitat, and school adoption of outdoor learning in wildlife gardens. And they called Austin "a clear-cut choice as America's best city for wildlife, boasting the most Certified Wildlife Habitats (2,154), most Certified Habitats per capita, and most Schoolyard Habitats (67). Famous for its Congress Avenue Bridge that's home to 1.5 million bats, the city of Austin is certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat. Its residents not only want to Keep Austin Weird – they're the best in America at keeping their city wild." Congrats to both AISD, and the city Parks and Recreation Department's Wildlife Austin program.
And maybe even cooler: McCallum High School has been named the 2015 National GRAMMY Signature School. The program "recognizes the top U.S. public high schools that make an outstanding commitment to music education during an academic school year." And this year, they chose McCallum and its Fine Arts Academy as the top such school in the nation. More congrats, and see more info at www.grammyintheschools.com.
The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center kicks off its annual Tribute to Cesar Chavez Documentary Film series with LaDonna Harris: Indian 101, about the Comanche activist, today, March 12 at 7pm. Director Julianna Brannum will lead a post-screening discussion with Dr. Mario Garza from Indigenous Cultures Institute, and Dustin Tahmahkera, a Comanche who teaches a course at Southwestern University on Native Americans and the media. On Friday, March 13, the Center will screen The Fight in the Fields: Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers' Struggle at 7pm, and Antonia Pantoja: ¡Presente! at 9pm. 600 River St., in the Rainey neighborhood.
The Austin Humane Society's 11th annual AHS Car Raffle gives you a chance to win a brand new 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club, donated by Roger Beasley Mazda of Austin. For just $20, you can buy a raffle ticket, and provide a night of safe shelter to an animal in need. Or buy three tickets for just $50; all proceeds go to AHS. Enter by March 28; see more info at www.austinhumanesociety.org.
Okay, this sounds like just a terrible idea to me, but what do I know? Professional Horseback Archers will compete in the inaugural Cabela's invitational horseback archery tournament this Saturday, March 14, 10am-3pm, shooting at 3-D turkey targets as part of a kickoff to turkey hunting season. So, stay alert on Saturday if you're in the vicinity of 15570 S. I-35 in Buda.
Saturday is Pi Day! And not just any Pi Day! To celebrate this most popular of all irrational numbers (3.14159...), Austin Public Libraries is hosting a pi celebration at Yarborough Library, 2200 Hancock Dr. On 3/14/15, at 1:59pm, they screen the movie Waitress, about a woman who bakes phenomenal pies. Show up an hour early for servings of actual pie (plus beverages).
Last week's brouhaha over the massive expansion of South MoPac seemed to catch everyone by surprise. Don't let it happen again. The CAMPO Transportation Policy Board (TPB) is taking public comment on the draft 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, amendments to the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, and the 2015-2018 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). More info at www.campotexas.org.