The downtown Austin area is generally pedestrian-friendly, but when you’re tired of walking, you can almost always find a pedicab. Basically a rickshaw pulled by a bicycle, the pedicab is a very basic but reliable transportation. In true Austin style, some pedicabs are creatively decorated – the Game of Thrones pedicab is particularly popular. Technically, drivers work for tips, but the “tip” is usually negotiated before the trip begins. Expect to pay around $ 10 for a few blocks.
Pedicab drivers are independent contractors who rent pedicabs provided by a few different local companies. Some have started adding awnings to protect passengers from the rain.
Transportation Service Drama
In the spring of 2016, Uber and Lyft left Austin entirely over a dispute with the Austin City Council regarding fingerprint background checks for drivers. However, the state legislature struck down the city law, and now Uber and Lyft are back in town. Ride Austin is a local nonprofit transportation service that was started while Uber and Lyft were out. Ride Austin struggled for several months after major competitors returned, but the service is still alive and well as of June 2018. Drivers who have worked for both Ride Austin and Uber say very few outsiders are aware of Ride Austin.
In a sense, Ride has become the service for locals, while Uber and Lyft take care of tourists. Locals often prefer Ride because the company offers a rounding option; Your fee is rounded up to the next dollar and the change is donated to a local non-profit organization like Austin Pets Alive. The app also allows you to tip the driver, and you can easily get a real-time fare estimate before booking a ride. Also, Ride tends to be a bit cheaper than Uber and Lyft. Safety remains a concern with the top three transportation services.
In an attempt to allay those concerns, Uber recently added a feature that allows you to contact 911 from within the app, allowing the dispatcher to know your exact location.
A new entrant to the downtown Austin travel market, Ryde operates outdoor electric vehicles that can carry up to five passengers. You can call and request a pick-up or just call a Ryde vehicle like a taxi. The cost is only $ 5 to go anywhere within the service area, which covers the entire center and more. To the north, the service goes to 28th Street; the southern boundary of the Ryde service area is Oltorf; Mopac is the western border; and service extends to Airport Boulevard on the east side.
Unlike ridesharing services, the price does not go up during peak hours. The company keeps its costs low by plastering the entire vehicle with advertisements.
The top three taxi companies in Austin are Yellow Cab, Austin Cab, and Lone Star Cab. Yellow Cab operates the most taxis and is generally the most reliable. The main advantage of choosing a taxi is that companies perform more extensive background checks on their drivers than transport services. All taxi companies are struggling in the face of brutal competition from transport companies. The Austin City Council is in the process of trying to level the playing field, which may mean allowing taxi companies to adjust their prices periodically.
However, even after the deregulation plan takes effect, taxi companies won’t be able to change their fares on the fly like Uber and Lyft do. Any changes in rates must be communicated to the city, and the new rates must be posted prominently on company websites and inside cars. In other words, transportation services will continue to have a significant competitive advantage.
What happened to the free ‘Dillo Shuttle?
The free shuttle service to the center was closed in 2009 due to low passenger numbers and budget concerns. In the summer of 2015, RideScout operated a pilot project that was similar to the old ‘Dillo service. The company offered free rides around the city center using open-air taxis and shuttle buses that run constantly. Although the pilot project has ended, the company plans to approach the city of Austin to share the lessons learned during the project and discuss the possibility of bringing service to downtown Austin long-term or even permanently.