JOHANNESBURG – The business of meter taxis is transforming, especially with the advances in technology which have seen the entrance of more players in the transportation space.
Uber, the most recent arrival in the meter taxi service market is set to offer a premium private driver experience at a price point which is competitive to metered taxi operators.
The meter taxi service company claims to connect riders to drivers through an app, where anyone can book a ride, select a driver and make a cashless payment from the pick-up point to the destination by using a smart phone.
Uber was first launched in August last year in Johannesburg, the first African city to host the service. This was followed by Cape Town in October and Durban in November, according to Alon Lits, general manager for Uber Johannesburg.
“We don’t see our service as a meter taxi but as offering a private driver experience to customers and enabling people to book a ride using the Uber application,” Lits told Moneyweb.
It’s where technology meets an age old transit service, as payment is billed on a client’s debit or credit card.
But the technology has been denounced by some meter taxi operators in Europe who fear that the competitive pricing Uber purports might challenge them out of business. While Uber’s routes are in South Africa, Lits says they have not only been welcomed by customers but also mainstream meter taxi drivers.
“Existing operators do not see us as a threat but an ally. We are always looking for opportunities to partner with local meter taxi drivers and changing the way people get around their cities. We are making the pie bigger for everyone,” he says.
Lits adds: “In South Africa there are alternative transport options, but customers can get a ride when they need it with Uber. Uber is convenient, transparent and safe, as you get to track your driver on the application. It was not that easy to get around South Africa in under 10 minutes, but now all of a sudden it is easier to get around with Uber.”
Moneyweb compared pricing options of another three meter taxi services and benchmarked prices with that of Uber’s service.
Using a route from Soweto-Dobsonville to Sandton CBD, in total the four meter taxi service companies were compared on a 37.3 km route, which takes 48 minutes (not factoring traffic disruptions, as this time might be more.)
Source: Route from Dobsonville- Soweto to Sandton CBD by Google Maps.
Uber on its website lists the method to calculate the price of a taxi ride for its UberBlack offering as a R15 base fee plus R1.10 a minute of the journey also adding R11/km from the point of pick up to destination. There is also UberX, an affordable offering with a base fee of R5, distant charges of R7/km and time charges of 70 cents a minute, which only operates in Cape Town.
According to Uber’s calculations the cost for a meter taxi to Sandton from Soweto would be R478.10. Also on its website there is an automatic quote which pegs the cost of the route in question between R450 to R596.
The price range among another three meter taxi services falls between R400 to R500 (See table below).
|Taxi service company||Cost of fare|
|Zebra Cabs||(plus/minus) R400|
|Orange Cab||R400- R500|
Moneyweb called three meter taxi services, namely Delta Cab, Zebra Cabs and Orange Cabs, asking for a quote for the route in question. The method of calculating the cost of a meter taxi ride was not supplied by the companies.
From a pick up point (Dobsonville) to the drop off point (Sandton), Delta Cab’s quote came in at R490. On the other hand commuters would fork out “plus/minus R400” for a Zebra Cabs service, while Orange Cabs which also describes its transit services as “affordable” pegs its quote at nearly R500.
These are not definite costs for the route assessed in this article as individual routes may vary in kilometres as may time spent on the road from Soweto to Sandton.