The #Texas House is moving rapidly to establish statewide regulations for #Ride Sharing services such as #uber and Lyft. The push is in response to draconian rules passed by Austin that drove both companies from the Texas capital and significantly constrained transportation options for its citizens. Uber and Lyft have clashed with other Texas cities, primarily over demands to have drivers fingerprinted. Houston reached a temporary agreement with Uber to see it through the Super Bowl which, as of this writing, is still in effect.

Ride sharing involves individuals using their private cars to take riders from place to place.

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The way the service works is that a rider enters a starting point and a destination into a smartphone app. The car shows up within minutes, and the fare is automatically deducted from the customer’s credit card.

The new regulations would create an annual background check for drivers on a local, state, and federal level. However, the debate turned toward the antidiscrimination provision of the bill, which did not include gender identity or sexual orientation. Amendments that would have added these two characteristics were voted down. However, as both Uber and Lyft already does not discriminate by gender identity and sexual orientation, the matter was moot in any case.

Airports and cruise ship ports will be allowed to create regulations governing ride sharing to and from their locations so long as they do not conflict with provisions of the bill.

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Local governments will be able to make agreements with ride sharing companies for data collection and for transportation coordination during major events.

Currently, Texas has a patchwork of regulations depending on the whims of local governments, resulting in spotty availability of ride sharing services. Austin, as mentioned already, has no effective ride sharing services. Dallas, with its lighter regulatory hand, has both Uber and Lyft operating freely. Uber is available in Houston but is presence is tenuous due to conflicts with the city government.

By establishing a state-wide regulatory regime, Texas hopes to encourage ride sharing throughout the Lone Star State. Thus an industry that creates income for drivers is built. More transportation options are made available for Texans, some of whom are unable to drive due to age or disability.

The rise of ridesharing services has created headaches for traditional taxi companies. Customers for such services have judged the service by companies such as Uber and Lyft to be superior to taxis. The fares tend to be cheaper as well. Taxi companies have been at the forefront of efforts to bar ridesharing. Some have bowed to the inevitable and have tried to modernize their operations, adding a smartphone app for example to summon taxis, for example.