Uber started operating in South Africa a few years ago and this lift-hailing service has changed the way that South Africans move around in cities like Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. Gone are the days of phoning your “reliable” meter taxi service to pick you up when you’re going out drinking with your friends at your favourite watering hole, you just get an Uber.
Uber has been embraced with open arms in South Africa, so here are 3 reasons why South Africans like using it:
1. It’s works out cheaper than using a metered taxi service:
I was one of those people who only got their driver’s license when they’re in their thirties and I still remember spending a considerable amount of time in the 20’s and 30’s in metered taxi’s. It was very cheap to catch a metered taxi in the late 1990‘s, but prices kept rising throughout the first decade of the 21st century up to a point where it just got ridiculous.
A metered taxi driver wanted to charge my dad R500 for a trip from OR Tambo International Airport to the bus depot in Midrand (he did manage to talk him down to R300, but even that’s ridiculous). Another driver actually charged me R250 for a trip that would normally cost me R120 because he found it easy to manipulate a drunk oke trying to get home.
Nowadays it will set you back about R11 per km when you’re using a metered taxi service. Uber charges around R7.50 per km. A trip from Aandklas in Hatfield to Wapadrand / Shere will cost me +/- R250 if I use a metered taxi, but it will cost only +/- R140 when I’m using Uber.
There could be surge pricing involved if demand is high for Uber Drivers, but if you wait a little while, the pricing will actually drop to what it should be. The most I’ve paid for an Uber was R320 (from Melville to Midrand – which is probably more than 45km). So why use a taxi service that over charges me right off the bat?
2. It doesn’t take 1-2 hours to get an Uber:
The longest I’ve ever waited for a meter taxi was an hour and a half. I had a job interview a few years ago and the driver was supposed to fetch me in Hatfield, but arrived fashionably late causing me to arrive late for my job interview in Waterkloof. There was another instance where I had to wait for a cab for 45 minutes outside Schivas at 3 o’clock in the morning, not cool at all.
The longest I’ve ever waited for an Uber driver to arrive was 15 minutes only because there was a shortage of cars around Arcade Empire in Pretoria at the time. It normally takes me anything from 5-7 minutes to get an Uber, anywhere in Pretoria in Johannesburg. Life is too short to spend 1 hour and 30 minutes and smoking up half a pack of smokes, just because you’re waiting for a metered taxi.
3. South Africans feel safer getting into a Uber car than a metered taxi:
Thanks to Uber I will never be getting into a metered taxi that looks like it had its last service during the Mandela Administration again. Uber driver’s cars are roadworthy, clean and 90% of them are fitted with airbags. Uber drivers’ backgrounds are also checked. Uber will not employ someone who has a criminal record.
I’ve been in metered taxis with drivers who clearly found their car and their driver’s license in a lucky packet. I’ve also been in taxis where the driver appeared to be drunker than me. I actually got mugged outside a metered taxi (who dropped me off in Arcadia in 2003/4) – the driver was half asleep and did nothing to stop the oke from stealing my Nokia 2100.
I can’t blame the taxi driver for getting mugged, but he was the one who let the oke get into the cab – he could’ve told him to get out of the car – he saw that I was uncomfortable. The mugger kept on asking me for “his money” when he got into the car. An Uber driver would have most likely told the oke to get out.
The fact is, Uber drivers appear to care more about their passengers than they do about getting their over-charged fare from you.
Well, there you have it, 3 reasons why South Africans like using Uber. Over the last few months, Uber has been making the headlines in South Africa thanks to metered taxi drivers who have been attacking Uber drivers at popular pick-up points like the Gautrain stations and Mall of Africa.
An Uber driver’s car actually got burned out during another attack in Sunnyside, Pretoria and the driver eventually died from his injuries a few weeks later. All these incidents are signs that tensions between the groups are rising.
The South African government has actually stepped in to try and resolve the situation by working on changing the law to accommodate lift-hailing services like Uber, but it will take time to find a solution that satisfies all parties involved. For the time begin, I’ll be staying out of areas where there might be conflict between metered taxi operators and Uber drivers to be safe.
Metered Taxi drivers need to stop saying that “it’s impossible to compete with Uber”. Times change and people use a service that’s reliable – plain and simple. Stop overcharging people, service your cars and employ reliable staff, then people might start using your services again.
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