April Town Hall

Special Austin Forum Event
Ridesharing: An Austin Town Hall on the Future of Transportation Network Companies
(Uber, Lyft, and others)

Karl Popham, moderator
Manager of Austin Energy’s Electric Vehicles and Emerging Technologies program

Austin Energy

Jen Duthie
UT Center for Transportation Research

Ben Holland
Rocky Mountain Institute

Joseph Kopser

WEDNESDAY, April 13, 2016
Stateside Theater, 719 Congress Ave.
Downtown Austin
5:15 p.m. – Doors and Cash Bar Open
6:00 p.m. – Presentation, Q&A
7:00 p.m. – Reception
Free and open to the public

The explosive growth of Uber and Lyft has proven the demand for simple access to rides. Enabled and powered by technologies such as smartphones and GPS, these transportation networking companies (TNCs) have launched the ridesharing (or ridesourcing) industry rapidly and globally. In cities all over the world, people have access to a simpler, more predictable source of rides than the taxi industry has historically provided—and to a new source of income, for drivers. This has other ancillary benefits as well, such as potentially reducing the number of people driving while intoxicated. However, the rapid emergence of ridesharing has occurred largely without regulation, unlike other established transportation options. Without any civic regulation, there are safety concerns for reasons such as lack of external validation of drivers, and of negative economic impacts to other transportation industries and even to drivers. In Austin—a city now almost as infamous for the hassle of driving in traffic as is it famous for its many entertainment options (and the consumption that goes along with them)—there have been recent attempts at regulation. There is a general desire for the City to have TNCs as a transportation option, but unfortunately, a compromise on regulations agreeable to both sides—the City and the major TNCs—has not been reached. So, there will be a special (and expensive) election on May 7 for the voters to decide.

We invite you to attend this special town hall meeting at which transportation experts will objectively explain how TNCs work, the current laws and policies (in Austin, and in other cities), what the election means, and what is likely to happen next for either outcome. They will then answer as many questions from the audience as time allows. The goal is for the panel of speakers to not advocate one position, but to provide a “deeper dive” and informed debate about the issues.

We encourage everyone to vote, and this event will help you be an informed voter.

View April 13 Newsletter
Submit your request for the presenter(s) to address a particular topic or issue in their upcoming presentation.



Karl Popham has over 23 years experience in emerging technologies, leadership, and consulting. He currently leads Austin Energy’s Emerging Technologies and Electric Vehicle teams to include the award winning Plug-In EVerywhere™ program. Additionally, he is a Department of Energy Principal Investigator on 3 separate initiatives that involve renewables, energy storage, and mobility. He also serves on several research and policy boards relating to energy and innovation.
More on Karl

Jen Duthie, Ph.D., is Director of the Network Modeling Center and a Research Engineer at The Center for Transportation Research. She is interested in bridging transportation research and practice, primarily through the use of innovative network modeling tools.
Jen received a Ph.D. in transportation engineering from The University of Texas at Austin in 2008, an M.S. from UT in the same discipline in 2004, and a B.S. in civil engineering with a minor in operations research from Cornell University in 2003. Prior to joining CTR, she was a Research Fellow at UT’s Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation where she taught courses in simulation and statistics.
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Ben Holland is a Project Manager for Rocky Mountain Institute’s Mobility Transformation initiative, in Austin, TX. This multi-year partnership with the Austin community was launched to advance innovative solutions to the city’s most pressing transportation challenges. Through this initiative, Ben is managing public affairs, stakeholder relationships, and RMI’s Mobility Oriented Development project, which aims to improve walkability and accessibility of mobility options through better land use and development practices.
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Joseph Kopser is the CEO and Co-Founder of RideScout. Since the app launched in 2013, RideScout is in over 69 cities in the U.S. and Canada earning the 2014 U.S. DOT Data Innovation Award as well as Joseph’s recognition as a White House Champion of Change as a Veteran in Clean Energy in part for his work with RideScout.
Prior to RideScout, Joseph served in the Army for 20 years earning the Combat Action Badge, Army Ranger Tab and Bronze Star. Joseph is a graduate of West Point with a BS in Aerospace Engineering and also received a Masters from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2002. In his free time, he works closely with The Bunker Austin, an organization dedicated to supporting veteran entrepreneurs. In addition, he volunteers as Chairman of NSTXL working to improve U.S. Energy Security policy. In September of 2014, RideScout was acquired by subsidiary Daimler AG, the maker of Mercedes-Benz.
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