MobilityATX Relaunches Online Transportation Forum

February 6, 2016 by Kate Harrington

MobilityATX, the online transportation forum that ran for three months in 2015, is re-launching its platform to open up dialogue about mobility in Austin. Those weighing in on the forum should have no shortage of topics to hash out – from transportation network companies (TNCs) to the conversation around transit, mobility continues to weigh heavily on the minds of Austinites.

That announcement came with a post from Mayor Steve Adler about his proposed TNC ordinance.

“I want to know what the community would think about adopting a new Austin Innovation TNC Ordinance different from both our December ordinance and the Uber/Lyft petition ordinance,” Adler wrote in the post. “The Austin Innovation TNC Ordinance would specifically prohibit mandatory fingerprinting and clearly allow incentive programs such as the Thumb’s Up! badge. In concrete terms, this would not take anything away from Uber and Lyft drivers who choose not to participate. This could allow Austin to reward our city’s rideshare drivers with hundreds of thousands of dollars (paid for by the fee that the Uber/Lyft petition ordinance deleted) simply for choosing to give their passengers a choice that makes them feel safer.”

The thumbs up badge is an idea Adler proposed, and Council approved, in January: a third-party “badge validator” based on safety measures like fingerprint-based background checks. Drivers for TNCs like Uber and Lyft could then display the badge as a way to display their safety credentials to passengers, and get prime passenger pickup spots at large events.

Adler says adopting that proposed ordinance would require an election in May, though, and would possibly pit his proposal against the idea of leaving the interim TNC ordinance in place, as requested by nearly 65,000 voters who recently signed a petition.

Meanwhile, the City’s Urban Transportation Commission has said City Council should develop a high-capacity transit plan within a year, but Capital Metro said “not so fast.” In a recent Austin City Council Mobility Committee meeting, a Capital Metro official said that Austin won’t see a plan for rail or other high-capacity transit for nearly three years.

That’s the amount of time that Capital Metro thinks it will take to complete its Central Corridor Study, which will propose multi-modal transit for Central Austin.

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.