Austin’s downtown area is generally pedestrian-friendly, but when you’re tired of walking, you can almost always find a pedicab. Basically a rickshaw pulled by a bicycle, the pedicab is very basic but reliable transportation. In true Austin style, some pedicabs are creatively decorated—the Game of Thrones pedicab is particularly popular. Technically, the drivers work for tips, but the “tip” is generally negotiated before the ride begins. Expect to pay around $10 for a few blocks.
The pedicab drivers are independent contractors who rent the pedicabs provided by a few different local companies. Some have started adding canopies to protect riders from the rain.
A new entrant into the downtown Austin travel marketplace, Ryde operates open-air electric vehicles that can carry up to five passengers. You can call and request to be picked up or simply hail a Ryde vehicle just like a cab. The cost is only $5 to go anywhere within the service area, which covers all of downtown and then some. To the north, the service goes to 28th Street; the southern boundary of the Ryde service area is Oltorf; Mopac is the western border; and the service extends to Airport Boulevard on the east side.
Unlike the ride-sharing services, the price doesn’t go up during busy times. The company keeps its costs low by plastering the entire vehicle with ads.
As of June 2016, Uber and Lyft have abandoned Austin altogether over a dispute with the Austin City Council regarding fingerprint background checks for drivers. Several new ride-sharing companies are rushing into the market; unfortunately, most of them are not yet ready for prime-time. Of the many newcomers, Get Me is the most well established, but it's only been in Austin for about a year. The service delivers both products and people, and the company is busily hiring new drivers to meet the increased demand for rides.
The three major cab companies in Austin are Yellow Cab, Austin Cab and Lone Star Cab. Yellow Cab operates the largest number of taxis and is generally the most reliable. The main advantage of choosing a cab is that the companies conduct more thorough background checks of their drivers than the ride-sharing services. However, the Austin City Council is planning to require fingerprint background checks of all cab and ride-sharing drivers soon. The policy will be gradually phased in and not fully implement until 2017.
What Happened to the Free ’Dillo Shuttle?
The free downtown shuttle service was shut down in 2009 due to low ridership and budget concerns. In the summer of 2015, RideScout operated a pilot project that was similar to the old ’Dillo service. The company offered free rides around downtown using constantly circulating open-air cabs and shuttle buses. Though the pilot project is over, the company plans to approach the City of Austin to share the lessons learned during the project and discuss potentially bringing the service to downtown Austin on a long-term or even permanent basis.