More ride-hailing companies enter the Austin market

There are five ride-hailing companies approved by the city operating in Austin.

Austin's ride-hailing landscape continues to rebuild with a new set of players vying to fill in the gaps left behind by the departure of Uber and Lyft.

This week Boston-based Fasten joined the fray, with a promise of cheaper fares while giving drivers more pay.

Fasten's arrival brings to five the total number of Austin area ride-hailing companies now operating under city-approved Transportation Network Company agreements. And a new player, ScoopMe, is now seeking approval to operate here, a city official said.

"It was a great launch day one, nothing but love," Fasten co-founder Vlad Christoff said of the company's Austin launch. "It has been incredible."

Since Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin last month after area voters rejected Proposition 1 — which laid out new driver fingerprinting requirements — it left a gap for the region's ride-hailing users and drivers alike.

However, in recent weeks the Austin area has seen ride-hailing options evolve as more and more players jump into the region's app-based transportation market to take over the business left behind by Uber and Lyft.

For example, a group of area tech and community leaders have said they would launch Austin nonprofit ride-hailing service RideAustin by mid-June.

GetMe, Wingz, zTrip, Fasten and Fare all have city approval to operate in Austin, while ScoopMe was slated to file final paperwork soon to gain clearance, said Marissa Monroy, a spokeswoman for the city’s transportation department.

Of those approved companies, GetMe, Wingz, zTrip and Fare have approval to operate at the airport, or pick up rides there, said Austin-Bergstrom International Airport spokesman Jim Halbrook.

Fasten, which says it's seeking approval to operate at the airport, says it can drop off riders there, but can't pick up passengers for now.

Austin-based startup GetMe, which was already operating in the Austin area by the time of the Prop 1 failure, said it's seen a strong response in Austin, while Arizona-based company Fare said it already has a network of at least 700 local drivers.

Although Fasten has declined to release specific figures on their driver network or activity here, Christoff said by their second day of operating in Austin the company had doubled their business here.

Fasten operates in a large swath of the Central Texas region that also includes Georgetown, Leander, Cedar Park, parts of Lago Vista, Lockhart, Kyle and San Marcos, Christoff said.

"It's huge here compared to Boston," he said.

In October, Fasten quietly launched in Boston with the hopes of taking on Uber and Lyft by offering better deals for riders and drivers alike.

The company says it does not have “surge” pricing — or price hikes during peak service seen with companies such as Uber — and requires a 99-cent flat fee from drivers for rides.

The company eventually wanted to launch in Austin, but sped up its plans after getting word of the Uber and Lyft departures.

About two weeks ago, the company began spreading the word it was coming to Austin, and last week held a two-day driver recruiting event at a southeast Austin hotel. Austin marks Fasten's second market.

"The drivers love the system, they love how it works and on the rider side, we are always the cheapest alternative," Christoff said.

Christoff also lauded the city's application process to operate here as a ride-hailing company, saying it took only 48 hours to gain approval.

"It's been great working with the Austin government," he said. "The city has been very responsive. We can't tell you enough good things about them."