The ACT government looks set to join jurisdictions giving approval to the arrival of ride sharing application Uber, while forecasting strict safety regulations for operation of the booming business on Canberra's roads.
On Saturday, Chief Minister Andrew Barr will call for community views on how transport regulation and taxis services in Canberra should be updated to provide choice, convenience and safety.
Releasing a new discussion paper and six-week consultation period with Transport Reform Minister Shane Rattenbury, Mr Barr said new technologies such as smartphone applications and ride sharing services would help drive Canberra's development and consumer choice.
Uber, already established in other Australian capitals, said in January it will consider plans to launch in Canberra in concert with the ACT government review.
The company claims to already have thousands of partner-drivers and total trips numbering in the millions in Australia. It has already begun advertising for Canberra drivers on social media.
An independent review in January found that there is about $1 spent on Uber in Australia for every $12 spent on taxis.
The controversial UberX service, which can see any driver provide transport services without government or industry accreditation, is currently illegal in states including New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
France, Spain and the Netherlands have moved to ban ride sharing, but cities including Washington DC have legalised the practice in recent years.
Uber and other providers offer smartphone payment, fare estimates, dynamic pricing, real time information about the driver's location and time of arrival, as well as review ratings and some choice of provider.
The ACT government said it will seek "a level playing field for competition" in an attempt to respond to Uber and other smartphone-based transport systems begin to operate services in the ACT.
Conceding ride sharing and other on-demand services had rapidly changed customer expectations, the discussion paper says passenger safety, adequate licensing, consumer protection and market supply must be considered.
It says new transport applications could improve competition, increase efficiency in the transport network and increase full use of private cars and individual employment.
An industry panel contributing to the review includes representatives of Canberra's taxi networks, from which some drivers already complain about high registration, insurance and licensing costs and the so-called disruption from online services.
There were more than 300 taxis active on Canberra's roads in March and the Go Catch application already provides service to more than one quarter of all taxis.
The review will also consider efficient transport supply in the Canberra marketplace, transport options for those with special needs or disability and taxi fares and surcharges.
The government could follow Victoria and New South Wales in legislating a cap on taxi surcharges, perhaps at 5 per cent of total fare price.
Members of the public are asked to offer views on how ride sharing and taxi services could interact at Canberra Airport and with the planned light rail line to Gungahlin.
"We need to consider how the industry may change, while allowing new operators a level playing field with existing taxis and hire cars," Mr Rattenbury said.
"Taxis, car -sharing and other demand-responsive transport options are also important for social equity, and are often relied on by those with special transport needs."
Last week, the Victorian government said it was considering UberX driver accreditation. The driver service, which is illegal, launched there in May last year.
The ACT government's six week public consultation ends on June 29. The government will give consideration to changes in the system in August and September.
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