The recent legalisation of UberX in Australia was welcome news just before the New Year shenanigans, even if it came with a $1 temporary levy and a public $250 million handout to taxi drivers. And while it's come at an opportune time, that's not forgetting the fact that being legalised won't stop Uber's famous surge pricing from hitting over New Year's.
Understandably, the taxi association is rather proud of this fact and would like to crow about it.
A few days ago, Uber's Australian boss David Rohrsheim came out and advised people to book a Uber ride before 11:59 PM tomorrow if they wanted to avoid the surge pricing. That in and of itself isn't much of a surprise. Uber's surge pricing can crop up automatically, sometimes to the company's detriment.
But with over a million people expected to roam Sydney's streets alone this New Year's, it's expected that prices are set to rise. "Getting drivers out there is our priority, higher fares mean more people will get home. We want part-timers to help out over the new year period through our UberX service," Rohrsheim told the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday.
The taxi lobby, obviously, is a touch chuffed. "Taxis have regulated fares, meaning no bill shock or exploitation for customers, unlike Uber, which has been telling its riders to expect surcharging on New Year’s Eve," Blair Davies, chief executive of the Australian Taxi Industry Association, told Gizmodo Australia over email.
"Cutting through the jargon, surcharging simply multiplies the normal uberX fares so that consumers end up paying 200%, 300% or more, for the same trip. That may not seem much of a problem for rich people desperate enough to pay a lot more to jump the queue, but for average Australians, this type of price gouging just looks plain greedy," he added.
Earlier this year, CHOICE carried out 56 trips across Sydney between Uber rides and taxis. The consumer group found that, on average, Uber was 40% cheaper and its safety measures were roughly on par with your standard taxi service.
Uber's surge pricing is usually 2x to 3.5x the standard rate, meaning that a trip that would ordinarily cost, say, $15 could cost over $52.50. It's wise to expect the surcharge to be on the higher end of the scale, considering the number of revellers expected. With that in mind, the general saving you make with Uber probably won't come close to what you could get with a taxi -- although Uber's surge pricing is variable, and could end up being lower than expected depending on when you decide to bail.
Personally, if I'm in the city for New Year's I find it's easier to either catch public transport before festivities truly kick off or to not be in the city at all. Maybe that's just a byproduct of getting older and spending too much time in cramped spaces with drunk people. Alternatively, you could just keep partying until well after 6:00 AM, at which point Uber's surge pricing will have come to an end and the additional surcharges on taxis will have ceased too.