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City of Austin discusses 'ridesharing' at public forum

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Wednesday night the City of Austin held a public forum to discuss "ridesharing."

What is ridesharing? Let's say you need to hitch a ride to can log onto an app like "Ridejoy" or "SideCar" and see who else is headed that way.

You hitch a ride with them, pay them for gas along with a tip and the app company gets a cut of that as well.

Well when you're dealing with city ordinances and permits and all of that stuff, it's not that easy.

Actually there was an app started right here in Austin called "Heyride," but it was bought by SideCar.

Soon after the buyout, the city put the kibosh on it here in Austin because since the cars are essentially "vehicles for hire," they need to be inspected by the city and the drivers need background checks.

The cease and desist prompted a lawsuit from SideCar so the city decided they needed to define what ridesharing really means.

Austin Assistant Director of Transportation Gordon Derr says the way city ordinances are now, if you take money from someone to drive them, you're technically a chauffeur so you need a permit.

"We're looking at what the current regulatory authority is and we're trying to see how things fit together. So potentially there might be some methods out there where they could operate the way they'd like to," Derr said.

City workers, rideshare proponents and even taxi cab workers were present to put in their two cents.

When asked what their hopes were, a representative from SideCar chimed in.

"Yeah I mean the main thing is being able to operate under our normal business plan so being able to have critical mass and have proper incentives so that people can participate...proper incentives so that drivers are willing and able to give rides," said Justin Schmidt with SideCar.

After Wednesday night's input, the city says the next step is to take a report back to the Urban Transportation Commission on the 13th and the issue will go to City Council on the 22nd.

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