How the sharing economy changed the way we travel

One of the major areas of our lives that the sharing economy has changed is the way that we travel. The rise of companies like Uber has impacted travel in cities in an extreme way, causing local taxi drivers to protest and governments to introduce new regulations and restrictions. We spoke to two Londoners on opposite sides of the great Uber debate...

Chris, an Uber driver and passenger for over a year, living in Richmond

A huge benefit of being an Uber driver is the freedom to work when and where (within reason) you want. You don't have to work set hours, you can choose your own hours to work around your commitments. Whether it’s your own private work, or your work for other companies, you may be studying either The Knowledge, or doing a degree, or you may be a house wife/husband, etc.

You can choose to work in central London where you could potentially earn more, or if you prefer work in your own familiar neighbourhood, though if it’s too rural earnings probably won’t be as much. You can even choose to focus on airport pick ups with longer wait times but higher fares. There is also nobody from an office calling you at all hours telling you to come in to work as its busy, Uber may just send you a text advising that it's going to be abnormally busy. 

But there are negatives, such as little human contact with office staff. There isn't a phone number you can ring for an immediate answer to a problem or query. Email works up to a point, and your problem may get passed around several staff. 

There's not really any social interaction with other drivers, unlike a traditional office environment, but this may suit some people better. There are also the usual drawbacks of self employment: no holiday, sick pay or pension and there's limited union recognition too.

UberX is very cheap compared to black taxis, even if it surges to two times it's still a little cheaper. The typical UberX passenger wouldn't have been a black cab user anyway. I certainly wasn't. I'm a regular Uber passenger as well as a driver, I didn't take black taxis very often before Uber. There may be competition with UberExec passengers, those whose rides are paid for on a company account.

Read: How the sharing economy changed the way we live

Personally I think the pricing is fine. Other drivers may not think so. The idea of Uber is to utilise drivers working for existing firms who are not busy, and offering them an extra source of income. However many drivers are working solely for Uber, which is not the general idea, in my opinion, though it is feasible and you can earn good money but you need to work hard, have experience and luck on your side.

This worked well, when Uber initially launched as a luxury service, where existing chauffeurs were used, and they used Uber when they only had half a days work with their own client, or they had a six hour break or so, and would drive for Uber jobs to fill in their gaps.

In my opinion, if the rates cover the driver’s variable costs (mainly fuel), and the idea that the drivers core work with their own clients cover their fixed costs, then any money earned with Uber is extra income.

Jamie Owens, aka SuperCabby, a London taxi driver for 24 years

Personally I have not seen any real "sharing economy" in London and the companies that purport to be part of this so called initiative and, who also state that they are creating jobs, are doing none of the above. In fact, they are merely displacing existing jobs with their form of sharing.

Where people are being displaced, they are being displaced by a sub standard alternative, where no training is required and the laws and regulations are flouted and ignored on a regular basis.

The taxi trade in London is suffering at the hands of these so called companies within the sharing economy, as they have basically started a race to the bottom where they are reducing prices so low that it is impossible to compete. 

Read: How the sharing economy changed the way we eat

The London Taxi trade cannot compete with companies who flout regulations and laws, using cheap labour to gain market share with their aggressive marketing campaigns and false advertising claims.

In the short term this is good for the customer as they are obviously getting a cheaper ride, but long term the effects of this race to the bottom will be that professional taxi drivers will exit the market place and these aggressive sharing companies will hold market share, and eventually they will raise prices to above what a London taxi currently charges, as they will have no competition.

The end result for the customer will be that they will end up paying more for a sub standard service with a transient driver population who do not know where they are going.

The end result for the customer will be that they will end up paying more for a sub standard service with a transient driver population who do not know where they are going.

The drivers who work for these companies will not benefit either as we are already seeing the likes of Uber raising their commission prices to the driver.

The end result will be everyone loses.

TFL need to enforce the regulations that they themselves formulated and apply them to the likes of Uber instead of allowing them to continue with the policy of blatant disregard for law or regulations.

We are seeing Uber drivers regularly driving down one way streets the wrong way, continually having accidents, touting outside night time venues.

Everyone ends up being a loser where companies like Uber are concerned, the only winners being the VCs who have invested in the company.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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