Last night, upon news that Uber had been given a specific zone at Melbourne airport for the pick-up and drop-off of passengers, taxi drivers staged an impromptu protest.
Creating a blockade from about 9.30pm, drivers parked their cars in the most inconvenient of locations, blocking passengers from getting close to the airport when dropped off.
Rumours circulated that it wouldn’t be the only protest – and the only blockade – taxi drivers would be engaging in as the new Uber zone goes live.
Taxi drivers aren’t happy. That we know, and they are making it clear.
There’s no doubt – the struggle for their drivers to carve out space for themselves in a market that’s become saturated has been difficult. There’s no doubt their struggle for a consistent and a solid wage has exponentially become harder as Uber drivers take to, and monopolise, the road. There’s no doubt that the fact the average price of taxi licences in Sydney has halved since the launch of Uber – worth about $406,000 in 2012 to $200,000 in 2017 – has monumental knock-on effects for drivers, their families and their livelihoods.
And there’s no doubt a fear of the future, a fear for their industry, is a legitimate and stressful kind of foresight.
But here’s the thing: We don’t book an Uber out of spite, nor do many of us book an Uber because they’re the shiny, new kid in town and we’re interested in giving them a whirl.
We book Ubers because they are, well… better.
We book Ubers because of all the times we struggled in taxis.
The time a driver had on weird, slow RNB rap music. And the lyrics sounded liked this: “I’m gonna f**k to so slowly, yeah.” The song was on repeat.
The time the driver missed the street, with plenty of warning. The time he went for a nice scenic route around a suburb before finally turning back and arriving at the destination. It would mean the passenger would rack up a good extra $15 on an already inflated trip.
The time a driver was rude and aggressive, charging $80 for a 20 minute trip.
The time that, when the taxi company was contacted as a means of complaining, they were unhelpful and argued it was a standard fare.
The time that a taxi driver came off the wrong exit on the freeway, so proceeded to reverse back onto the freeway to continue along.
These times are real, and they’re certainly not anomalies. These times were times because there was little accountability on behalf of the drivers, and little power for the passengers to to do anything about it.
Uber gave us power, so we took it, ran with it and aren’t interested in giving it back.
That is, of course, until taxis bottle their anger, their energy and their desire for a better, stronger industry into making our experience better.
Because when that happens? We’ll start coming back.
But until then, we will be whinging not just about the service, but about the fact you made us miss our flight, too.