Tame on Uber

Jack Tame writes in the Herald:

I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and I needed a cab. I was downtown, it was a Tuesday evening and that chilly breeze was holding off from blowing across the bay. In short, it wasn’t tough to find a taxi rank with a few drivers twiddling their thumbs. …

But Andre explained that he won’t be shelling out for an overnight direct on Air New Zealand anytime soon.

“Buying the medallion to own this cab cost me all of my life savings,” he explained.

“Two hundred and fifty grand that I’ll probably never get back.”

You have to feel sorry for the drivers. Their industries make you pay an obscene amount of money to drive a taxi.

The next few days I was in LA where the cabs weren’t quite so ubiquitous. With Andre’s words still in my ears, I whipped out my phone and let do Andre’s work. Six separate times.

It was easy. It was cheap. And I can see why those cabbies in France and the UK are so worried that Uber will steal their jobs. In Christchurch alone, more than 1,300 people applied to become Uber drivers this week.

If history teaches us anything about commerce, it’s that consumer convenience and cheap prices will always win out. It’s why your running shoes were made in Vietnam and your T-shirt in Bangladesh.

No one wants anyone to lose their jobs, but economies are always forced to evolve. Just ask the Luddites – the machines always win.

In California, a 15-minute cab with Andre cost me $114. Covering more than twice that distance with six separate Uber trips cost me $82.

So it is a no brainer.

The difference is Uber drivers don’t need to pay $250,000 to be an Uber driver. They try to make the cost of entry as low as possible. The NZ Government should be doing the same – how do we make it easier for people to earn a living being a driver, while still having safety assurance.

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