App-based taxi services launched in Houston

Uber and Lyft are now available in Houston, but the old standard cab services aren't happy about it

February 21, 2014 3:15:39 PM PST
There are new options for you if you need a ride around town. Two new app-based taxi services, Uber and Lyft, are now going into effect here in Houston. But the old standard cab services aren't happy about it.

Houston has always been a city of cars, but some Houstonians would like to see Uber and Lyft in the market.

"Houston should completely allow it. It's a great way to get around," Houston rider Ernest Guadiana said.

In the last 24 hours, both companies have launched in Houston.

"The Houston market is the fourth largest population in the country, and we thought it would be a good time to get in. Rodeo coming up, it will be a really busy time of people needing rides," said Curtis Rogers with Lyft.

Both Lyft and Uber work through your smart phone as an app. Available drivers pop up on a map, and you call, track, and pay for the service all through your phone. Currently both Houston services use amateur drivers and their personal cars. When we tried UberX, Anais, drove up in his car.

"I'm trying to help my kids with school and all that, so during my free time I can do this and get some extra money," he said.

Both companies have been negotiating with the city to change its current ordinance so the cars can charge and operate legally, but both decided to launch before City Council voted. Uber says it's hoping Houstonians will help speed up city hall.

"Not only will they get acquainted with the product, they'll encourage the mayor and city council to try to enact changes so that we can bring Uber to Houston on a more full-time basis," said Justin Kintz with Uber.

But until the laws change, neither company can charge for rides, which means everything should be free. Still, city officials say if you choose to ride either Uber or Lyft this weekend, just be aware, they aren't regulated.

"They won't be able to get into a car that's been checked by a city employee to be structurally sound or mechanically sound. And the backgraound of the drivers they're driving won't be checked through a fingerprint background checks," said Chris Newport with the City of Houston.

Yellow Cab shared the same sentiment as the city. It issued a statement saying:

"The City of Houston must get these illegal operators off the street for the public & drivers' safety! Uber and Lyft's choice to begin operating in the City of Houston is a flagrant disregard of the regulations currently in place."

City Council is expected to start debating the issue next week.

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