Austin City Council discusses pedicabs, taxi cabs and F1 track


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on October 11, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 11 at 5:24 PM

AUSTIN -- Austin City Council members made some big decisions on downtown transportation Thursday.

The council passed an ordinance that will allow two companies to add a total of 30 cabs. Those companies are Lone Star Cab, which will add 20 vehicles to its fleet, and Austin Cab, which will add 10.

Several individual cab drivers were at the meeting to protest the ordinance. They said expanding franchise cab companies will put the "little guy" out of business. David Kelly was one of those drivers. He has operated a cab for 14 years and said adding 30 cabs will decrease individual cab drivers' profits by 12 percent, making it hard for them to earn enough money to live.

Council Member Chris Riley agrees. He and Council Member Kathie Tovo voted against the ordinance.

"There's no doubt that we need, we have an issue at peak periods, but putting permits, additional permits out on the street doesn't necessarily make you provide better service at those peak periods at all," said Riley. 

Riley also pointed out that the council hired a consultant to make recommendations on how to improve taxi service within the city, but that the council isn't following any of the suggestions. Still, he remains hopeful that the council will come up with a better solution.

While Austinites will see more traditional cabs on the street, they won't see any new pedicabs. The council voted to extend a moratorium on new pedicab permits until April 23, 2014. That vote passed unanimously.

According to Council Member Riley, there are more than 500 pedicabs on the street. Pedicab drivers are worried about there being too many. Plus, the city wants to create better safety requirements.

The big talker at City Hall Thursday was the annexation of the Circuit of the Americas F1 track. The council hosted a public hearing regarding its decision to annex more than 1,500 acres in Travis County. Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole said the City has always planned to annex this land, and this is the first step in that process.

"There's a concept called the ETJ which means your extra territorial jurisdiction. And so this is in the City of Austin's ETJ so that means we are entitled to, as the first city, to annex it, and we didn't give up that right. So we're gonna go get 'em," she said. 

Once annexed, the COTA track is expected to add $200 million to the City of Austin tax base. That will bring about $16 million in tax dollars to the City over a 25 year period.