As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Proposition 1 was the result of an ordinance drafted by the Austin City Council requiring ride hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, to implement a fingerprint background check on all drivers. Uber and Lyft threatened to leave the city as a result.
When it came down to a vote, Uber and Lyft both poured $8.1 million into a campaign for Prop 1. Unfortunately, their campaign rubbed Austinites the wrong way and instead of advocating for designated driving services, the companies came off more as corporate bullies that refused to follow laws. Moreover, the companies harassed Austin residents with annoying text messages and calls, essentially alienating the voters they were counting on for support. Austin voted against Prop 1 and the two major ride hailing companies left the city in May. In all the chaos Uber and Lyft left when they departed, a particularly questionable ride hailing service emerged.
How Does Arcade City Work?
Other ride hailing apps, such as GetMe, Fare and Fasten, have complied with the City of Austin’s ordinance and require fingerprinting for all drivers. Arcade City, on the other hand, went rogue. There is no Arcade City app. Instead, there is a Facebook group called “Arcade City Austin/Request a Ride.”
The group is members only, though it’s not hard to gain access as there does not seem to be a strict screening process in place. Once accepted, members can request rides via public group posts. However, these posts often include pickup locations, phone numbers and by default, the user’s first name, last name and picture. That’s a lot of information to throw out to a group with more than 38,000 members.
As for drivers, all they need to do is display a screenshot of their “brochures,” which show they passed Uber or Lyft’s background check. However, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Photoshop can recreate these screenshots without difficulty. That said, passengers have no real guarantee that drivers have arrests on their records, are properly insured or even have a valid driver’s license.
Austin Has Started Cracking Down on Arcade City
The CEO of Arcade City has insisted for months that an app will be released that will allow drivers and riders to safely maintain a level of anonymity that the Facebook group does not provide. However, the company has yet to deliver on that promise.
The City of Austin has had its eye on Arcade City and has called on its CEO to comply with the new laws requiring fingerprinted background checks and obtain a city license to operate as a ride-hailing service. The Arcade City CEO insists neither the group nor the eventual app is a ride hailing service. Rather, it is a peer-to-peer platform and the passenger makes a donation to the driver. Essentially, it’s more like a Craigslist transaction and less like paying a taxi fee. The city responded by sending police officers to ticket the CEO at the downtown office. However, no one was there. Additionally, the city began issuing fines and towing away the cars of Arcade City drivers.
Understandably, it took some time for ride hailing companies to scramble to meet the demand Uber and Lyft left in their wake. However, this does not mean Austinites should be subjected to an unsafe method of transportation that puts us at risk for being driven by unlicensed drivers, uninsured drivers, or worse.