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Uber, Lyft Drivers Still Cited And Impounded In Austin

Updated: Thursday, August 21 2014, 03:53 AM CDT

The Austin Transportation Department steps up enforcement on Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Uber and Lyft. So far in August, more drivers have been cited for operating without the proper permits than any other month since the companies officially launched. Of the 47 total citations since May, 29 of those have been this month.

"Debbie, they're impounding my car!" Becky Haugen shares her frustrations with other Uber and Lyft drivers over a CB radio app. "They're pulling me over saying I don't have a chauffeur's license, so they're impounding my car."

Austin police officers pulled her over Friday night near Joe's Crab Shack on Riverside after she dropped off two riders "They actually followed me from where I picked those guys up all the way until I dropped them off," said Haugen.

Numbers from the Ground Transportation Enforcement Division show Haugen is one of eight drivers cited for operating without operating authority and operating without a chauffeur's permit, and whose vehicle was impounded last weekend.

"Yeah, it was surprising," said Anthony Nguyen who drives for both Uber and Lyft. He says he was under the impression they were operating within their rights. "They had originally said that as long as you don't take cash that you're ok."

The city insists these TNCs are not permitted. Samantha Alexander, a spokesperson for the Austin Transportation Department, released this statement, "Our primary concern and responsibility is safety, which is why if someone is driving our residents and visitors around town without a permit they risk receiving a citation."

"Have they told you that they are technically operating illegally in the city of Austin?" asked KEYE TV's Deeda Payton. "They have not said that," said Nguyen.

Haugen says the citation for operating without operating authority cost $179. The ticket for operating without a chauffeur's permit cost $139. Alexander says it could have cost more. Both citations can cost up to $500.

Haugen says she also had to pay $141 to get her personal car out of impound, but Uber is expected to reimburse her.  "They said we'll get everything taken care of even if it means getting your car re-detailed," said Haugen.

She's not in a hurry, though, to hit the road again. "I've been a little hesitant," said Haugen.

KEYE TV reached out to Uber and Lyft for a comment regarding the citations and impounds. Lyft responded with a statement: "Lyft does not believe its operations violate any current city code, and we stand behind our drivers 100 percent, covering relevant costs and fighting any citations as we make policy progress. We are committed to continuing to work with the City of Austin to craft new rules for this industry and to meet the overwhelming demand for more ride-share options in Austin."

Alexander confirms the Austin Transportation Department is currently working on a possible TNC pilot program. She says they plan to bring it to council in a few months, but wants Uber and Lyft drivers to know right now they're at risk.

By Deeda Payton

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Uber, Lyft Drivers Still Cited And Impounded In Austin

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