In the wake of several high-profile deaths in which pedestrians were hit by suspected drunken drivers this year, an Austin council member is seeking to expand the city’s transportation options during hours when the most people need rides.I couldn't agree more. Grits has long held that such structural barriers to getting drinkers home from the bar districts play a big role in preventing more substantial reductions in DWIs. Austin has failed to invest in public transportation on anything remotely like the scale required to accommodate its recent, fantastic growth rates. And our antiquated taxi regulations are more about protecting a local oligopoly than maximizing benefit to the public. Again from the article:
Council Member Chris Riley wants the city to create a pilot program for so-called transportation networking companies, such as Uber and Lyft, and for the city to work with the three taxi companies that operate in Austin to figure out how to meet peak taxi demand.
Many residents have recently expressed concerns about transit options, Riley said, largely because of problems with drunken driving.
“They don’t feel there are adequate alternatives to driving home after a night of drinking,” he said. “If we had better cab service, if we had options like transportation networking companies, and if we had a well-known and convenient public transportation service, then that would go a long way toward providing more alternatives to drunk driving.”
Sara LeVine, founder of ATX Safer Streets, a group aimed at reducing impaired driving through late-night transportation options, said she’d like to see the city issue more taxi permits and legalize transportation networking companies while protecting existing cab services.I don't know about you, I'm far less afraid of a sober, "unvetted driver" than a drunk one. And the idea that rideshare services like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar "endanger residents" more than traditional cab companies is dramatically overblown.
But Ron Means, general manager of Austin Cab, said both ideas have the potential to decimate the taxi industry in Austin and endanger residents who might get in a car with a unvetted driver working for a transportation networking company.
The website for ATX Safer Streets, a group begun after the horrific crash at this year's SXSW event, has a good number of interesting research and proposals for expanding transportation options to reduce DWI. IMO they're very much onto something: There's a limit to how much an enforcement-only approach to DWI can affect the problem when structural design, regulatory and zoning issues encourage the problem police are trying to solve through arrests and jail threats.
See prior, related Grits posts: