AUSTIN (KXAN) — This year, Uber and its competitor Lyft are the new, legal acts in town. Both companies are also rolling out carpooling services in Austin during South by Southwest.
“Our algorythm recognizes where your pickup is, where your destination is, and where similar trips are happening. And so you actually hop into the car, someone else’s car and then someone else hops in there as well. And then you go to your destination, they go to theirs,” said Chris Nakutis, Uber’s general manager of Texas, referring to the new uberPOOL service.
The cost for Uber and Lyft spike based on demand, and SXSW typically brings a high demand for transportation. Nakutis said Uber does not cap its rate increases. Lyft Spokesperson Katie Dally says the company’s “Prime Time” is capped at 200 percent.
Numbers from the City of Austin suggest ridesharing companies or “Transportation Network Companies” are becoming a bigger competitors in Austin’s transportation market. Uber reported roughly 137,000 rides in December, a couple thousand more than Yellow Cab, according to the city. Yellow Cab Austin’s president raises doubts about the numbers. The city also found most of Uber’s rides had a downtown tie.
Aside from these new companies, the city’s longstanding transportation options and others are also preparing for the SXSW crowds.
For the first time, Capital Metro is offering special transportation fare passes just for SXSW. It’s also expanding train and bus service.
Yellow Cab’s president says the company will encourage drivers to share their car with other cab drivers to get more vehicles on the road.
“I think getting around during South by Southwest is going to be a much smoother experience for visitors to Austin, essentially doubling the capacity of the cab fleets,” said Edward Kargbo, president of Yellow Cab Austin.