After a controversial few months of back and forth between the Queensland government and the administrative bodies that govern the rules of taxis and limousines, it's finally been announced that Uber and other ride sharing services will be legalised throughout the state. The decision was announced by MP Annastacia Palaszczuk via her Facebook page, stating that "from September 5 this year, my government is levelling the playing field so ride-booking companies will be able to operate in Queensland, in concert with the taxi industry".
Elaborating on the announcement, Palaszczuk described Queensland as the "innovation state", and highlighted the importance of allowing consumers as much choice as possible, in order to create an atmosphere of friendly competition that provides lower prices and a more diverse range of transport options.
Of course, the competition hasn't always been so friendly in recent years, with the existing taxi companies holding mass strikes and protests. With this announcement, there is hope all of that will be put to bed, allowing the state to get on with improving the security and quality of driving services.
The proposed package is a bit more complex than simply allowing Uber to have free reign over the roads, though. Let's take a look at the potential commercial impacts of this decision, as well as what it might mean for the property market in Surfers Paradise and the surrounding region.
As part of the deal that has legalised Uber, the Queensland government will also be putting a few additional elements into the law. Chief amongst these is the requirement for all drivers to be qualified with all relevant licenses and permits. This is imperative to ensuring customer safety, and isn't particularly unexpected. A more welcome aspect of the ruling is that taxis will have singular access to ranks and specific areas where high volumes of passengers congregate. As part of this, traditional services will retain the exclusive right to be hailed by customers, limiting ride sharing to pre-determined pickups through the app.
The government will also be dedicating $5.6million to wheelchair-accessible vehicles, along with $4.6million in waived fees for traditional services that have been historically regulated. The aim of these changes is to allow taxis to have a specific advantage over services like Uber, preventing them from the huge disruption seen elsewhere in the world, which is especially important in the early part of a new financial year.
The legalisation of Uber is especially relevant to the Gold Coast ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. With scores of tourists set to descend on the area, a wide and diverse range of transport options will be required, in order to keep things moving properly and efficiently. Ride sharing is also expected to have an impact on the places that people travel to, with it becoming easier to leave the central hubs that have previously been serviced by buses and trains.
With Uber, it will be cheaper and easier to visit areas that are further afield, potentially creating new areas of commercial value and balancing out the growing property and land prices in the CBD. For those who own or lease commercial property that has added value by virtue of being close to a taxi rank, that will remain in place. In fact, this value could possibly grow, as taxis lower their fares in order to compete with Uber.
Ultimately, it seems that the impact on commercial property and local businesses on the Gold Coast will be a net positive – unless you happen to be in the taxi industry, in which case you might want to think about ways to improve your service. For the rest of us though, Uber and other, similar services seem set to contribute toward a more connected Gold Coast.