Houstonians make drive to Austin for nonprofit ride-sharing work

HOUSTON – It’s about 160 miles from Houston to Austin -- that’s about three hours in the car. It may seem like a long way, but for some ride-share drivers, they said the trip is a good investment. 

“I love driving, especially when you see the money coming in," driver Yerica Garcia said. "It gets you motivated."

Garcia drives for Ride Austin, a non-profit ride-sharing app created after Uber and Lyft left Austin last May following a dispute over background checks.

“This job takes a lot of time, you know, being a single mother," said Garcia, who works to support her three girls.

Garcia said her mother helps take care of her daughters while she goes to Austin for work. She said she used to drive for Uber in Houston, but lower prices and changes in commissions in Houston made it hard. She said the Uber-X option used to pay about $30 for a trip from Bush Airport to downtown Houston, but that price dwindled to about half.

“When they decreased prices, that was bad for a lot of drivers, including myself,” Garcia said.

Each Thursday, she said she drives to Austin, works Thursday through Sunday and then drives back home to the Houston area.

"I can make like $1,200, and more than that. It just depends how long I work,” she said.

A spokesman for Ride Austin said drivers came from Houston and San Antonio to drive during busy weekends like Austin City Limits. They said some drivers stayed.

“We've been able to grow really fast, thanks to the drivers who have found Ride Austin through either advertisements, or word of mouth, and they've come to sign up and start making money from this nonprofit,” Joe Deshotel, with Ride Austin, said.

Garcia said she initially slept in her car parked in parking lots in Austin. Now, she shares an apartment with five other drivers from Houston. She said it is part of her drive to improve her life.

“I'm trying to go back to college," Garcia said. "I'm trying to be a registered nurse. I try not to drive my whole life."

Bills proposed in the Texas State House and Senate could mean Uber and Lyft will return to Austin. But for now, some drivers from Houston find driving in Austin pays for their lives in Houston.

In response to KPRC’s questions to Uber about its compensation rates and drivers’ claims that it is more profitable to drive from Houston to Austin to drive for ride-sharing apps, Uber forwarded this study.