Keep Austin Weird, Keep Nashville Free


May 12, 2016 10:55AM

The capital cities of Tennessee and Texas are often compared for their similarities: southern charm, eclectic live music, good food and drink, and nearby outdoor activities among them. For those who have visited both, the resemblance between Nashville and Austin is easy to see.

Even bad public policy has permeated both cities. Austin places stringent regulations on the use of Airbnb, a short-term rental alternative to hotels. These rules include a hard cap on the number of people who can rent their homes short-term. Only 3% of homeowners in a given area can rent their home if they don’t live in it full time. Last year, Nashville followed Austin’s lead, passing a very similar ordinance. Soon thereafter, Beacon filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of a young Nashville couple who uses Airbnb, arguing that the new law is unconstitutional.

Let’s hope that Nashville’s proclivity to follow Austin’s lead ends there, because the Texas capital just drove Uber and Lyft out of town. Austin residents voted against a recent proposition that would have restored some free enterprise in the local ridesharing arena, and in doing so made it nearly impossible for the companies to offer services in the city. As a result of the regulations, both Uber and Lyft have decided to vote with their feet and have halted service to the city’s residents.

On the flipside, Nashville has handled ridesharing more elegantly. Shunning protests from the taxi cartels, Nashville has stuck with reasonable safety regulations on ridesharing. The state legislature followed suit, limiting local governments’ ability to regulate ridesharing in the name of protectionism. This even prompted Lyft to move its customer support operations to Music City.

Austin’s slogan is “Keep Austin Weird.” It’s certainly weird for a hip, growing city to effectively ban something as popular as ridesharing. Unlike it did with Airbnb regulations, Nashville should depart from its sister city and adopt the motto “Keep Nashville Free.”