By Mitch Guy

FOR many years transport has been an issue in South Gippsland, from inadequate bus services to a shortage of taxis.
But the growing popularity of Uber, a mobile phone-based ride service, could solve some of these issues locally.
The concept is pretty simple; download the app on your smartphone, create an account and order an Uber ride from your location.
The ridesharing service has taken off in Melbourne, and is now an incredibly popular means of transport.
It is efficient and cashless, with all payments taken care of by the app via credit card.
Fares are generally cheaper than taxis and in Melbourne, wait times are down to 10 to 15 minutes.
The service has its critics, namely the taxi industry, but you can’t deny the popularity of the app.
As Uber continues to grow in metropolitan areas, it is slowly being introduced and utilised in South Gippsland.
Phillip Island Simon Kirton (23) is believed to be the first Uber driver on Phillip Island.
He is a strong advocate for the service.
He joined Uber as a driver in November and said it’s the perfect job for extra cash on the side.
“When I’ve done it, it’s worked well; I’ve had a hen’s party I drove for and a few people after golf when they’ve had a few drinks,” he said.
“I haven’t done it as much as I thought I would have over summer because I’ve been busy.
“That’s the beauty of Uber – it’s up to the driver when they want to drive.
“I’m only doing it for a little extra bit of cash, I’m not doing it to make big money.”
Simon said Uber is a great system for drivers and passengers.
“It’s all cashless so it’s safe for the driver and for the passenger,” he said.
“The application to be a driver was an easy process but you still needed to fulfil the requirements.
“They do a check on your car so I had to take the car up to Dandenong for a check.
“There’s a police check with 100 points of ID and you need a drivers history extract.
“It’s standard stuff for anyone that wants to get a new job anyway, it wasn’t hard.”
Although Simon hasn’t fully utilised the side job as yet, he has no doubt the service could potentially solve transport issues locally.
But he suggested one problem drivers may encounter.
“There is a lot of older people around here that don’t use smartphones, which is the only way to use Uber through the app, meaning it may be harder to find passengers,” he said.
“But for young people over the peak time, they expect it to be here because they’re from Melbourne.
“I would say don’t expect it to be your only source of income, but for a bit of money on the side it’s quite good.”

Taxis still a  vital service

South Coast Taxis Director Michael Wright said the local transport provider would concentrate on itself if Uber was to take off locally.
“We’re more concentrated on promoting ourselves and worry about our own service,” he said.
“We consider ourselves a whole transport solution; we’re a bus and taxi company.
“For example, on New Year’s Eve we had all taxis on the road and had bus services on the road to help move as many people as we possibly could.
“The only comment we have about that type of arrangement (Uber), is it really needs to be a level playing field.
“At the moment the government recently put through the taxi reforms with a lot of costs that any other sort of arrangement wouldn’t have.
“In Melbourne, taxi companies would have licensees.
“Even just to put a car on the road, there’s about $3,000 additional costs with stickers, meters, safety camera, GPS tracking etc.
“All this stuff is legislated so you have to have it, so I suppose a level playing field would be all we ask for.”

How to become an Uber driver

Uber drivers use their own car to transport passengers via the app, which is classed as ridesharing.
To become an Uber driver, you must be:
• at least 21 years old.
• have a full Victorian drivers licence
• have held a Victorian drivers licence for at least 12 months
• have no more than three minor traffic offences in the last three years
• have no major offences or suspensions in the last three years
• have no drug or alcohol infractions at any time
• have no prior police record
Your car must meet these requirements:
• have four doors or more
• be less than nine years old
• be registered in Victoria
• have no decals or commercial branding
• have no vehicles that were previously taxi’s