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Uber Rider Challenge

December 5, 2017
Contributor - Akshay Raj K.

Akshay is a passionate, progressive and proud young man of Indian heritage from the Western Suburbs of Sydney, Australia. Akshay has a background and qualifications in the fields of Law, Economics and Public Policy (UTS) and currently works in Consulting providing strategic advice to StartUps and the NFP sector.

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“I love to drive in Sydney,  traffic flows well, there’s no toll charges and parking is a breeze in the city with free spots for all”, said No one ever.

Poor design, a lack of foresight in planning and overpriced services can make driving and travel in a Sydney a nightmare. Taking into account the costs associated with insurance, fuel prices , registration  and general expenses with owning a car , you’ll soon find that using you fours wheels for the daily commute to and from work (especially in the CBD) is a pretty unsustainable exercise. On the other hand the Uber Challenge provides an alternative to this by using its own platform in combination with public transport to provide a cost effective and more economic approach for consumers.

Despite recent criticisms of with regard to rider safety, insurance , surge-pricing  as well as the anger of  Taxi License holders the Uber seems to only be growing in strength and popularity especially amongst the younger generations. Many use Uber for its efficiency and direct approach which pairs drivers with riders who require a lift which saves time and avoid the endless waiting and frantic waving that you’d probably see at average Taxi Ranks.

For a period of 7 days the Uber Challenge asked individuals to use the Uber in conjunction with Public Transport as an experiment. As a humble guinea pig I’d have to say it actually worked out pretty well overall, however its also easy to see that this might not be feasible for everyone. As a young person in their 20’s kicking off their career and needing to commute to the CBD for work, I’d say driving to work is a nightmare especially on the M5, M4 or M7 or when you need to make an appearance for afterwork drinks. Living the independent bachelor life with house mates who have crazy schedules doesn’t exactly make car sharing practical either but hey I live just down the road ( 4min drive or 20min walk) from a train station and I’ve got a direct line to CBD so I guess I can’t exactly complain.

Weekday morning commute would require me to get the CBD. This would be same for the return journey but for Thursday (Shopping) and Friday (Drinks). Saturday is all about chill, a bit of relaxation and bunch or dinner with friends. Sunday is typically chilled followed by  the all important visit to the parents.

From my experience the public transport would require a 5min walk to the bus stop and an 8min bus ride. Similarly the weekends would require the walk to bus stop and a 20 – 25 min bus ride to the destinations. Added to that is also the waiting for public transport and adjusting my schedule to timetables , which really takes away a lot of the flexibility I enjoy.

On the other hand the entirely personal transport approach returns my flexibility but time and cost makes it entirely impractical. The typical drive to work would take 1hr 30 mins each way using the M5 (+ Tolls). Parking the in CBD would take another 5-10 mins ( + Parking cost).  For weekends parking takes around 10mins or so ( + Meter cost). Using a 2.0L costs around $89.00  and plus refuelling (another 5mins). The cost of maintain a vehicle isn’t exactly cheap either with other expenses such as registration, insurance, maintenance etc, however with the price tag comes the flexibility as well. For Sydney drivers every experience triggers tad bit of road rage and the frustration of being stuck in traffic jams. The commutes on the road usually means longer travels. I mean sure it might not take as long as public transport but atlas I don’t have to stand, being pressed against fellow commuters, schools children, whilst trying to balance myself and bracing for impact every time the driver starts and stops ( another road rage trigger).

Comparatively the Uber Challenge was actually quite enjoyable, most drivers were fun, talkative and engaging. The mix of Uber and public transport actually saved me a lot of time in parking and the costs associated with driving (No Tolls, Yay!). This also meant time was I was able take calls and chip away at work reports on the journey, well actually probably more likely I was posting on Instagram and stalking friends on Facebook (Lol). Although at times I had to wait for an Uber driver, they were never more than 5-8mins away, although I did have to wait 13 mins once. A few times the Uber drivers were only a block or few streets away. Furthermore, you  are always notified on approach and can even track the drivers journey as well as be tracked by friends or family that are waiting for you, because lets face it I’ve got Desi timing. The cars where always clean well kept and reliable, a far stretch from my dear Basanti ( Car) that often smells like a kebab shop and has more receipts, water bottles and clothes lying around it than my bin. The Uber challenge involved $150 Uber credits and a $50 Opal card to use and its pretty interest how the challenge actually stacked up when you compare it to the other options. Lets have a look at some of the figures.

Personal Transport ( Inc. Ownership & Running)

Public Transport

Uber Challenge

Note: All Uber times include the waiting time as we’ll as the travel time.

Its clear to see that each option has its own pros and cons. Sure Public Transport is the most cost effective but this also requires the limits on timings, service restrictions as well as an adherence to a time table, these factors are difficult to quantify as are factors such as reliability and comfort (standing).

On the other hand using the Personal Transport options may be perfect for weekends however it does have a number of fixed and unavoidable costs.Again its pretty hard to quantify the amount of time stuck in traffic, the frustration of road rage and the opportunity cost.

From my experience the Uber Challenge was great mix and was actually one of the more efficient options. Sure there was usually a short wait for the driver however in the mean time (whilst I tracked them) I was able to continue with my schedule. This was actually the more time saving options, meaning that I could also leave home later and arrive earlier than expected. Whilst being driven if I  wasn’t engaged with the a great a conversation I would be able to continue with work or relax for a few minutes.  Comparatively comfort and multitasking in the other options where novelties, I mean have you ever seriously tried typing an email whilst standing on a rickety vessel , holding your balance with packs of school children…yeah not my cup of tea.

In summary, it appears that for some trips and if one can afford it the Uber challenge provides an extremely flexible, reliable and efficient option for time poor individuals like myself. For us Gen-Y’s who probably will never be able to own a house of our own in Sydney and would rather enjoy the time we have between smashed avo brunches, rather than saving up for a deposit, it is perfect. Also for those ambitious souls amongst us that understand that time is money and money is time the Uber challenge is perfect for this mix. I mean for  a Gen-Y kid who will never have a chauffeur and doesn’t really have time to waste  being frustrated behind the wheel or waiting at bus stops, I think the Uber Challenge is one I’d definitely take again.