It’s a surprising ballot proposition in a state that boasts it’s the bastion of freedom. Austin voters will head to the polls this Saturday, May 7, to decide whether or not ridesharing companies like Uber will stay or go. A ‘Yes’ vote on Prop 1 will welcome Uber to stay. A ‘No’ vote will give them the boot.
The liberals that dominate the Austin city council have been downright hostile to ridesharing companies (http://watchdog.org/264126/uber-narrative-austin/?roi=echo3-34480920922-35176422-d9fef31ce478ba3a73915172f7d0b917). So hostile it’s required a ballot initiative to decide whether this growing Texas city actually supports free market capitalism or government intrusion in the free market world of transportation.
Let’s face it, Texas’ governing bodies have been increasingly hostile to transportation freedom for over a decade. Former Governor Rick Perry implemented the wholesale restriction of Texans’ freedom to travel through a massive network of toll lanes, some under the control of government-sanctioned private monopolies.
In a sweeping move that allowed government bureaucrats to pick the winners and losers of who gets a fast ride and who doesn’t, Perry’s transportation legacy (https://www.texastribune.org/2014/07/04/perry-exits-texas-gop-shifting-away-toll-roads/) marked the dawn of transportation tyranny in Texas. As soon as government gets its foot in the door to restrict travel, transportation liberty takes a back seat to power brokers.
Now elected officials can mess with your travel liberty and nowhere more starkly than the city of Austin. Austin embraced and implemented sustainable development policies faster than any other Texas city. Advocates of putting Austinites on a road diet to advance an anti-car agenda, officials have systematically put up barriers to auto travel and elevated politically correct modes of travel like mass transit, walking and biking. They’ve removed 1,000 parking spaces from downtown Austin to make way for wider sidewalks, and they’ve converted lanes open to all cars into restricted bike and bus lanes. Now Austin is known for its aggressive cyclists, wasteful and scandal-ridden Metro system (http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2009-04-24/770444/), and congestion rather than an economic powerhouse and freedom-loving Texas city.
Prop 1 stakes out the battle between liberty and government control — whether or not two parties can agree to share a ride and whether or not companies can operate free of government interference. Austin Mayor Steve Adler wants the government intrusion to invade Texas’ critical corridor for the movement of people and goods — Interstate 35.
He’s decided the only solution to accommodate the people moving to Austin and choosing to drive their cars into downtown warrants the imposition of a managed HOV-bus-toll lane on I-35. His stated goal is to allow congestion to fester on the unrestricted lanes of I-35 in order to manipulate drivers out of their cars and into a bus or carpool in order to gain mobility. If they choose to stay in their cars, he plans to impose dynamic tolls to punish single occupancy cars by making them pay a premium toll to get access to downtown in peak hours – the seat of Texas government and home to the Capitol complex, the very embodiment of the people’s building.
So the Austin council’s hostility to cars and freedom of mobility didn’t just arrive when Uber came to town, it’s been an open wound for quite awhile. But at least Austin voters will get the chance to weigh-in before more of their travel freedom gets eroded by overzealous, big government progressives. Let’s hope they take a stand for liberty and remind officials what ‘Don’t mess with Texas’ has come to symbolize.
In the meantime, I’m pretty sure we can hear Stephen F. Austin groaning from his grave.