Over the weekend, the Austin American-Statesman revealed that Capital Metro will soon roll out a new app-based ride hailing service called Pickup that will be provided to some Austinites free of charge, at least for the first 12 months.
The service will allow people living within a 12-square mile section of Northwest Austin to hail a mini-bus and go direct to a destination on Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. To start, Cap Metro expects to employ at least two buses and five drivers.
One could be forgiven for asking why the city feels the need to launch this app-based service in the first place. A thriving and competitive ride-hailing market already exists in Austin, especially now that a low and predictable regulatory environment has been established. Between the return of Uber and Lyft last week and the continuance of Ride Austin, Chariot and Fasten, multiple taxi companies and the taxi co-op, and other ride-hailing options like pedicabs and electric cabs there are a plethora of selections for the discerning consumer to choose from as they move from Point A to Point B around Austin.
Pickup is a great example of government expanding into an area where it’s not needed. While it’s only a pilot program now, any expansion of Pickup threatens to crowd out private ride-hailing companies, needlessly putting Central Texas jobs at risk.