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Uber and Lyft are pausing operations in Austin after losing a citywide vote

Voters rejected a ballot measure that would have let Uber and Lyft set their own rules.

Lyft At Its San Francisco Headquarters Showcasing Lyft Cars, The Glowstache, The Lyft App, Lyft Passengers And Drivers Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Lyft

Ride-sharing services planned to suspend operations in Austin after voters rejected a ballot proposal that would have allowed companies like Lyft and Uber to regulate their own drivers.

The defeat follows a costly and closely watched battle between Lyft, Uber and officials in the liberal Texas capital city over an ordinance that would require more stringent fingerprint background checks of drivers.

The ride-hailing services argued that mandating such checks was both burdensome and unnecessary, making it harder for part-time drivers to get on the road and for the companies to keep up with rising consumer demand.

"Because of this, we have to take a stand for a long-term path forward that lets ride-sharing continue to grow across the country, and will pause operations in Austin on Monday," Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Wilson said in a statement.

Uber also issued a statement, saying it will cease operations in Austin at 8 a.m. local time Monday.

“Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin," said Chris Nakutis, general manager of Uber Austin, who called on the city council to reconsider the ordinance "so we can work together to make the streets of Austin a safer place for everyone.”

On Saturday, 56 percent of voters in the Texas capitol rejected the proposal. Uber and Lyft had devoted significant resources to this two-year fight over how best to regulate ride-hailing services — spending some $8 million on a relentless campaign that included knocking on doors, calling homes and holding rallies. The battle is similar to disputes playing out in other cities, including Los Angeles, Houston and Miami.

In Austin, the initial legislation was prompted by concerns over rider safety, specifically sexual assault. According to a document provided to Recode, Austin police received 27 reports last year of unwanted sexual contact in taxicabs and ride-hailing services. Two took place in an “Independent Ride Share,” according to the documents; five happened in taxis; and the remaining 20 occurred during Uber and Lyft rides.

These numbers — up from eight reports (exclusively in cabs) in 2014 — prompted the police department and assault survivor advocacy organizations to recommend more stringent background checks for drivers.

"The people have spoken tonight loud and clear. Uber and Lyft are welcome to stay in Austin, and I invite them to the table regardless," Austin mayor Steve Adler said in a statement. "Austin is an innovative and creative city, and we’ll need to be at our most creative and innovative now.”

Lyft seemed to at least suggest that it was open to continuing a dialogue.

"We're not giving up," Wilson said. "We will continue fighting for people in Austin to have modern options like Lyft."

This article originally appeared on

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