SOMETIMES it’s a case of be careful what you wish for.
Monday’s announcement that ride-sharing service Uber would be coming to Bathurst was naturally met with great excitement in some circles, but trepidation in others.
There’s no doubt all of us would have welcomed an Uber at some time in the past.
We all would have been left stranded and waiting for a taxi after a big night out at one time or another, but it’s not a regular occurrence in Bathurst.
Outside of the Bathurst 1000 weekend and maybe Christmas party season, Bathurst’s fleet of 22 taxis is generally more than enough to meet local needs.
So do we really need Uber, and what price will we pay for its arrival?
Supporters will point to the great flexibility that Uber offers – for both drivers and passengers – as its great strength.
But opponents will rightly highlight the potential impact on existing taxi services that have paid big money for their plates and have invested years into the community.
Bathurst Regional Access Committee interim chairman Bob Triming was particularly outspoken, highlighting the great relationship the local taxi industry had fostered with local people with a disability, including specialist training on meeting their transport needs and supplying two dedicated wheelchair cabs.
Mr Triming says the local taxi co-op has gone beyond its legislated obligations to provide an outstanding service but fears the arrival of Uber, which would not have to meet the same regulations, could put taxis out of business and ultimately leave less mobile members of the community worse off, not better.
It's a reasonable concern and one that is particularly worrying in a regional centre where transport options are already limited.
As with everything, it will be the market that decides if Uber is a success in Bathurst or otherwise, and whether there is room for Uber and local taxis.
On those occasional busy nights there is no doubt Uber will be welcomed, but it’s what happens during those slower periods that will be interesting to watch.
All things being equal, booking an Uber should be no easier than hailing a cab and so it is likely that price will be the deciding factor for many passengers.
In embracing the future, though, it might be worth considering just what we – and others in our community – could be losing.