Uber and Lyft Shut Down in Texas Following Vote

Tim Maytom

lyft car highwayTaxi-hailing apps Uber and Lyft have both suspended operations in Austin, Texas following a local election that saw voters backing a measure to require fingerprint background checks for all drivers hired by the services.

The two companies both campaigned to repeal the city ordinance, with their combined spending reaching over $8m (£5.5m), outspending their opponents by 80-to-one in what turned into the most expensive race ever run in the Texas capital's history.

However, voters chose to keep the fingerprint checks by a margin of 56 to 44 per cent, and the tech firms ended up spending what amounted to $200 per vote in their favour, and losing anyway.

Uber and Lyft both insisted that their background checks were rigourous enough to ensure passenger safety, without the need to add expensive fingerprint tests to the process. The new ordinance that the firms backed would mean that ride-hailing services did not have to submit drivers to such tests.

"Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin," said Chris Nakutis, general manager for Uber Austin.

"Unfortunately, the rules passed by City Council don't allow true ridesharing to operating," said a Lyft spokesperson in response to the vote. Both companies will be suspending operations in Austin this week.

The vote could serve as a precedent for other cities looking to put more stringent safety laws for taxi-hailing services in place, proving that despite the financial power that firms like Uber and Lyft can bring to an election, there is public desire for safety that outweighs it.