Austin sets up hotline to help out-of-work Uber, Lyft drivers find jobs

The ride-hailing companies pulled their services from the Texas city after being dealt a legislative blow. But Austin wants to help.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
2 min read

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If you're one of the thousands of out-of-work drivers in Austin, the Texas city wants to help.

The City of Austin on Thursday said it has partnered with the United Way of Greater Austin's Navigation Center to make a driver hotline for people hurt by Uber and Lyft's departure from the city. The hotline (512-687-7441) can connect drivers with other driving opportunities -- like jobs at limo services, cab companies and other ride-sharing companies like airport pickup service Wingz -- as well as referrals to other agencies for help with financial difficulties.

"Providing a hotline directing the [drivers] to other local ride-hailing companies is just one of the ways the City is assisting Austinites who rely on these services for employment or transportation," Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said Thursday in a press release.

In the first 3.5 hours the hotline was running, the United Way took more than 100 calls, Heather Lueke, vice president of donor experience for the United Way of Greater Austin, told CNET. Because the call volume is so high, United Way decided to operate the call center 24 hours today, instead of operating from only 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., she said. The group will re-evaluate its hours each day based on the number of callers. Currently, there are six people dedicated to helping out-of-work car service drivers.

"We will make a judgment call every day," Lueke said. "When something like this happens, the call volume is high and then precipitously drops off."

Uber and Lyft earlier this week shut down their services in Austin after losing a vote over required fingerprint background checks for drivers. Voters in the Texas capital rejected Proposition 1, a measure that would have exempted drivers from required fingerprinting as part of checks into their backgrounds. The decision to pull their services left about 10,000 drivers out of work.

Austin City Council member Ann Kitchen said the city is "seeing tremendous interest" from other transportation network companies. "I have no doubt there will be more opportunities for drivers soon," she added in a press release.

The Austin American-Statesman earlier reported the news.

Update, 1:20 p.m. PT: Adds comment from United Way.