Buckle Up, Uber And Lyft: Ridesharing Just Went Non-Profit In Austin

There’s a new kid on the ridesharing block in Austin, even though the city council is still battling it out to find a solution to the mess left when Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin.

RideAustin, created by local engineers, operates under the principle that “Ridesharing should be for everyone.” Built as a non-profit, their model should contrast strongly with the dominant ridesharing services by focusing on driving down costs.  The end result, they hope, will “enable riders, drivers and the community to all win,” according to RideAustin’s website.

The launch team is led by longtime Austin tech entrepreneur Joe Liemandt, and the service comes in the form of an app that will work similarly to Uber and Lyft. iOS users can already download the app; meanwhile, an Android version is slated for July.

Riders will be able to start using the service in June, and they will pay rates that they’ve become familiar with through other TNCs. Riders are given the option to round up their fare, too. And that’s what sounds kind-of magical about this service: Rounding up fares will benefit local charities.

Their pitch gets better, too. According to the site, drivers with RideAustin will be paid a higher percentage of their fares than they were with Uber and Lyft thanks to the nonprofit model. They’re already recruiting drivers, and they’ll help everyone get through the city’s fingerprinting and background check.

Their controlled rollout will start with downtown and the airport, which shows that they’re learning from some of the issues that have popped up in the last two weeks for other services trying to fill the void. With Uber and Lyft gone, outrageous wait times for drivers and ridiculous prices for passengers have become the norm. Even so, it may take a little longer than we’d like for a full-on replacement. RideAustin seems to be playing it smart in building a long-term solution and not just a quick fix.

So far, it sounds like the appealing option that we’ve been hoping for. “We designed RideAustin from the beginning to be for the community by the community,” their website explains. “There are a lot of great charities in Austin that we feel should also benefit from ridesharing. By making it easy for people to ’round up’ their fares – we can provide local charities contributions on an ongoing basis.”

The nonprofit model also allows the organization to fundraise in a variety of ways in order to sustain it as an organization, including grant writing and donations. This allows for more of the fare cost to go to the driver, while operating costs like salaries, offices, etc. can be paid for through other means such as grant writing and fundraisers. It is important to note that RideAustin is not currently a registered nonprofit with the IRS, but they told Austin.com that they do have an application pending.