17 April 2024

Uber rideshare service quietly launches in Griffith, offering short and long-distance trips

| Oliver Jacques
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Uber app being held in hand

Ubers can now be ordered in Griffith, but many people are unaware of Uber’s presence in the town. Photo: Flickr/Stock Catalog.

International ridesharing service Uber has quietly launched in Griffith without advertising or promoting this fact.

An Uber is a taxi-like service that allows people to order a driver via a phone app to pick them up and take them to a destination for a price that changes according to supply and demand.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed to Region that Ubers could now be ordered in Griffith both instantly and up to 90 days in advance through the Uber Reserve service, which is available on the Uber app.

“Uber Reserve launched in Griffith on Thursday 14 December 2023, offering its innovative scheduled rides feature in the region,” the spokeswoman said.

“Uber Reserve enables locals to book a ride up to 90 days in advance, ensuring they get to those appointments, a cruise through Wagga Wagga, or to the airport for their holiday on time. What’s more, the book now, ride later feature provides an upfront locked in price, so riders can travel with certainty.”

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Uber started operating in Australia in 2012 but was largely confined to major cities for its first few years. In Sydney and Melbourne, an Uber ride can be ordered any time of day or night.

It’s unclear how extensive the Uber service is in Griffith, with the company declining to answer a question on how many drivers it had in the town. In theory, the service operates 24 hours a day but this depends on driver availability.

According to the Uber app, a trip from Griffith hospital to Griffith airport costs around $12 on a weekday afternoon. A trip from Griffith to Darlington Point costs around $67.

Sometimes the app says a driver will come within five minutes, though at other times a “longer wait” is advised with no arrival time specified before booking.

Griffith mayor Doug Curran was surprised by the news Ubers were now available in his town.

“We have had some discussion in the community with those who felt it would be good for Uber to come to town, but I hadn’t heard Uber was already here,” he said.

“Competition is always good; the public need a reliable service and I hope the taxis can remain reliable too.”

Row of taxis

Uber’s presence in Griffith has raised concerns about the local taxi industry. Photo: NSW Taxi Council.

Agronomist Warwick Date, whose father used to own and drive a taxi, was wary about the global juggernaut.

“People should realise that if we don’t support the local Griffith taxi service, we’ll lose them.

“I know there are problems sometimes with taxis, but they’ve operated here for a long time.

“Uber is an international brand and they’ve had problems too. They don’t cater to the disabled and they price gauge when demand is high, while taxi prices are fixed.”

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Griffith Taxis manager Sally Blair was asked about Uber commencing its service in Griffith and provided the following comment.

“Griffith Taxis have proudly served our community with transport solutions for over 70 years,” she said.

“As we look ahead we remain with a steadfast commitment to continue to service our community into the future. We value the principle of locals supporting locals which recognises the vital role in which the community plays in our future. Griffith Taxis will continue to supply affordable, consistent fares coupled with good old-fashioned service to all sectors of our community.”

In March, Uber agreed to pay Australian taxi drivers $272 million following a class action lawsuit. The taxi industry had argued that Uber caused them financial harm by operating in Australia in breach of the country’s laws.

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