Two weeks have passed since Uber and Lyft stopped operating in Austin following an election that approved city mandated fingerprint-based background checks. Needless to say, a gaping void in safe and convenient transportation was left, triggering riders to the black market via initiatives such as Arcade City.
However, that void may very well be filled by a new ridesharing app called RideAustin, which was unveiled Monday night by its creators at Alamo Drafthouse’s Highball. Though the app reportedly operates similarly to Uber and Lyft, RideAustin differs in the fact that that it’s a nonprofit.
“RideAustin is a community-driven, nonprofit ride-sharing solution,” said its creator Joe Liemandt who also founded Trilogy, an Austin-based company that provides technology services to businesses in the automotive, insurance, and telecommunications industry.
Trilogy donated $20,000 (the largest contribution) to Austin4All’s campaign to recall Councilwoman Ann Kitchen, who spearheaded the effort to regulate ridesharing companies similarly to the taxi industry, according to the Austin Monitor.
RideAustin says it will comply with the city’s required fingerprint checks for drivers.
Because it’s a nonprofit, RideAustin can pay its drivers more while charging riders less, said Liemandt. The service will charge $1.50 per mile, plus 25 cents per minute – a fee higher than Uber’s but less than what it would cost to catch a cab.
Similar to Uber and Lyft, drivers will reportedly receive 80 percent of the trip fee. The new app will also explore “optional surge pricing,” giving riders the opportunity to receive service during peak hours but for a higher price.
Supporters of RideAustin say the service will be easier to fund because contributions are tax-deductible, meaning investors aren’t focused entirely on financial return.
The nonprofit model also differs in terms of data sharing. “We don’t have to protect the data like it’s our huge asset,” said Liemandt. “It is a huge asset, but it’s the community’s.”
RideAustin is available for download on iphones today; however, the service will not begin operating until June, which is when the app’s Android version will become available. The ride-hailing service is set to initially operate in and around downtown Austin, as well the airport.
A component of the app will allow riders to donate all or part of their trip costs to the charity of their choice.