Behind the Uber and taxi tussle

Why are taxi drivers unhappy?

Taxi drivers have complained about the gradual loss of customers, due to the Gong Shuttle and an increase in courtesy buses operated by clubs, free shuttles from the University of Wollongong and now ride sharing.

Another source of frustration is that taxi operators have expenses that ride share services don’t. For instance, a taxi green slip can cost as much as $7000 more than for some ride share vehicles, which doesn’t make for a level playing field. The government has said it is looking to change this.

The legalisation of ride sharing has seen the value of a taxi licence fall by more than $100,000.

Also taxis are required by law to install security cameras in cars while it appears ride share drivers aren’t.

Can Uber drivers use taxi ranks?

No, NSW government legislation states the ranks are for the use of taxis only. Nor can ride share drivers park on the street and look for a fare. They cannot tout for fares either. Ride share drivers can only accept pre-booked fares. Failure to adhere to these rules can result in fines of up to $5000.

Do they just let anyone drive for Uber?

All ride share drivers have to jump through several hoops. They need to hold a private hire vehicle driver authority from the government. They also need to get a medical assessment, criminal check and register their car for business use.

Are Uber’s fares cheaper?

Yes. As an example, both taxis and Uber charge flag fall (though Uber calls it a “base rate”). It’s a charge that comes before the trip starts. The taxi flag fall is $3.60, while the Uber base rate is just $2. Distance fares are also cheaper ($1.10 per kilometre compared to $2.19 during the day). Critics say Uber charges are lower because drivers make less money than taxi drivers.

Why do taxis set their rates so high?

They don’t. Taxi fares are set by the government on advice from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). They set the maximum amount drivers can charge. At present, ride share providers set their own fares, but proposed legislation would see IPART take control of that.

Extra expenses such as CTP costs play a factor in taxis’ higher prices. Also, for the drivers of taxis, it is their main source of income, whereas drivers for Uber tend to do it as a second job to earn extra money on the side.

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