The Road to Prop 1
March: With the anticipated advent of app-based ride-hailing companies beginning operations in Austin, City Manager Marc Ott releases a memorandum addressing possible TNC regulations.
May: City Council directs city manager to convene a stakeholder working group to develop a potential pilot program to allow TNCs to operate legally in Austin.
June: Lyft and then Uber begin operating illegally in Austin, ignoring city rules covering taxi-service regulations. The city begins enforcement actions against drivers lacking proper permits.
September: Council adopts a temporary, one-year, ordinance – largely drafted by Uber and Lyft – for a "pilot" program to enable ride-hailing companies to operate legally.
October: Legal "ridesharing" begins, under a temporary ordinance finally adopted by Council with the express direction that it will be subject to revision as the service develops and working groups make additional recommendations.
November/December: New City Council elected under a districting system, comprising 10 council members from designated districts and mayor elected citywide.
January: New 10-1 City Council members inaugurated.
May: Texas House bill to move TNC regulation to Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and invalidate local regulations fails to reach floor for a vote.
June: Council votes to allow a fourth taxi franchise (potentially a driver co-op) and to increase the number of available taxi permits.
October: Council Mobility Committee, chaired by Council Member Ann Kitchen, proposes new TNC ordinance, featuring fingerprint requirements for drivers, trade dress for vehicles, and other changes derived from experience in pilot program. Council directs city manager to draft a TNC ordinance, including new public safety requirements, and an administrative fee for TNC operations.
November: Uber launches advertising campaign attacking Kitchen (complete with "horse-and-buggy" Downtown ride service), accusing her of personally developing unfair regulations. Coincides with online advertising campaign: "Please don't take Uber away."
November: Council Mobility Committee forwards revised TNC recommendations to full City Council.
December: Ride-hailing company Get Me begins Austin operations, says it will abide by new city regulations, including fingerprinting and other safety measures.
Dec. 17: Council adopts ordinance (effective Feb. 1) tightening regulations on TNC operations, including phased-in fingerprint requirement for drivers, trade dress on vehicles, other operating regulations, and fees to cover city's administrative costs. The vote is 9-2, with CMs Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair voting no.
Dec. 28: Ridesharing Works for Austin, a political action committee funded exclusively by Uber and Lyft, begins a petition drive to repeal new TNC regulations just adopted by Council, replacing them with an amended version of the previous regs.
Jan. 19: Mayor Steve Adler proposes a compromise "Thumbs Up" initiative that would incentivize drivers to get fingerprinted, including "geo-fencing" of certain events and other incentives. On the same day, RWA submits 26,000 petition signatures requesting the overturning of the ordinance adopted in December.
January: A new political action committee, Austin4All, begins a petition drive to recall CM Kitchen.
January: Council enacts a version of the "Thumbs Up" initiative and postpones effective date of December ordinance to Feb. 28, in order to review status of petitions.
Feb. 2: City clerk validates petition signatures requesting December ordinance be overturned and replaced with petition ordinance.
Feb. 17: Council approves ballot language for May 7 vote.
Feb. 19: Austin4All submits more than 5,000 signatures demanding the recall of Kitchen. On March 4, City Clerk rejects the petitions because they do not include the required notarization on each page.
March 10: A Texas Supreme Court challenge is filed to the May 7 ballot language; on March 14, the Court rejects the challenge.
April 7: To "level the playing field" for all taxi services, Council nationalizes background checks for drivers of taxis and other rides-for-hire.
April 7: Initial RWA campaign finance filing reflects Uber and Lyft have provided $2.2 million to the petition drive and May 7 election campaign. At this point, 30 days before the election, Prop 1 opponents have raised about $15,000.
April 25: Mayor Adler announces opposition to Prop 1, saying, "A significant part of this election is about how we make decisions in Austin."
April 29: RWA's "8-day-out" campaign finance filing reflects $7.1 million already spent on the pro-Prop 1 campaign, with another $1 million anticipated, bringing to at least $8.1 million what Uber and Lyft are spending on the campaign. Filings also reflect that two opposition PACs (Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice; and Austin Unites) together have raised about $103,000.
May 1-6: RWA spends an obscene fortune on TV, radio, and online ads misrepresenting the May 7 election; mailboxes collapse all over town from the weight of propaganda fliers.
May 7: Prop 1 is voted down 56-44%.
May 9: Uber and Lyft shut down operations within the city of Austin.