Driving for Uber on the Queensland Sunshine Coast is way different from driving for Uber in any of the capital cities. I live in the shire of Noosa, which is at the northern end of the Sunny Coast, around 140 km from Brisbane and just under 40 km from the Sunshine Coast airport at Marcoola. The Sunny Coast itself stretches for about 50 kms from Caloundra in the South to Noosa in the North.
As a holiday destination, Noosa’s population varies widely, depending on both days of the week and time of the year. Noosa has a permanent population of around 50,000 people, but this can quadruple on weekends, mainly from Brisbane, with more visitors from the Southern states during school holidays.
Noosa’s population also swells considerably during major events, particularly the long board surf carnival and the Noosa triathlon.
These observations also apply to other Sunshine Coast shires, such as Maroochydore, Coolum and Peregian Beach, but Noosa remains the number one holiday destination.
Noosa is also a very popular retirement destination for retirees from both Queensland and other states. In fact, about 27% of the permanent residents are aged over 60.
The road system in and around Noosa is excellent. All roads are maintained to a high standard, all roads have clearly marked bike lanes and there are no traffic lights! Well, almost none. There’s one on the way to Coolum via the coast road, but all other intersections are roundabouts and most of them are two lanes.
There’s virtually no peak hours. Traffic flows freely most of the time, with the major holdup being getting into the main beach side road (Hastings Street) on weekends and holidays.
There are two main routes to the beaches further South and to the airport. You can go West and pick up the 100 km/hr M70 motorway or you can follow the picturesque 70 km/hr David Low Way along the coastline.
The Noosa Shire occupies around 900 square kilometres and consists of a relatively small number of fairly large suburbs, such as Noosa Heads, Noosaville, Tewantin and Sunshine Beach, as well as hinterland areas such as Eumundi, Doonan and Cooroy which resemble small villages.
What Does This Mean for an Uber Driver?
At the moment, the balance between the number of people seeking rides and the number of drivers servicing them in the Noosa area seems pretty good.
I always check the Uber rider app before going out. During the day, I’ll typically have 6 -8 other Uber drivers around me, with fewer early in the morning and a few more later on in the evening.
I’ll rarely have more than a few minutes’ wait for my first ping and, once I’ve started, rarely have more than a couple of minutes between rides.
But it does vary.
Sometimes I’ll swipe the Uber Partner App on before leaving the apartment and then have to rush down to the garage because a ping has come in before I’m even in the car. Other times, I might have to wait 10 minutes. If I think I’m waiting too long, I’ll use the Uber Rider App to see where the competition is and move to a better position where I’m covering more territory.
Once I’ve started, the next ping will often come in before the current trip has been completed. I always accept them. The pickup is usually (but not always) near the current trip’s destination and it reduces what is to me the most profit-sucking aspect of Uber driving, the delay and distance between ending one trip and starting the next.
Many of the riders I pick up are here on holidays. They are happy and relaxed. They appreciate local knowledge about restaurants, cafes, beaches and water sports. They sometimes ask if they can book me for the ride back to the airport.
With a high proportion of permanent residents being retirees with reasonable disposable income, sufficiently responsible not to take their cars when dining and drinking and surprisingly capable when using their smartphones, they will often be my passengers. They are unfailingly polite and appreciative.
The Roundabout Effect
I just love the roundabouts. The traffic up here is light enough so that you are rarely held up the way you would be at a traffic light. You just slot in and keep going. My riders are happy, because they get to their destination quickly. I’m happy because I get from the end of one trip to the start of another as quickly as I can.
The Distance Problem
One of the issues I have up here is that I often get a ping from some distance away. This is because of the setup of a small number of large suburbs and maybe not so many drivers. So I’ll often get a request from a suburb or village with the Uber Partner app showing 12 minutes, which equates to around 15 kms.
Unless I’ve been really busy with local trips (2 or 3 minutes) I’ll always accept them. This is because
It will almost always be a long trip, from the remote suburb back to mainstream Nossa and
Because my car has a diesel engine, the distance to get there is pretty cheap
The exception here is if there’s a surge in the local area. Then I’ll ignore the distant request and wait for the more lucrative local one.
The Airport Scenario
I just love the local Sunshine Coast airport. For all sorts of reasons.
It’s a small (though the fastest growing in Australia) friendly, laid back airport, with an absence of the self-important officials always trying to move you on that you find in capital city airports.
There’s no issues with Uber drivers setting down or picking up riders.
As soon as you’re in the airport zone, you are automatically placed into a virtual queue, so that you receive pings according to how long you’ve been there, rather than who’s closest to the pickup point.
It’s a fast, hassle-free run to the airport along either the motorway or the coast road. It takes less than half an hour and pays around $36. As often as not, I’ll get a ride back from the airport to Noosa, returning over $70 for less than an hour’s driving.
After I’ve dropped my passenger, I always check the incoming flights. If there’s one due within half an hour, I’ll wait for it. Otherwise, just drive back along the coast road and pick up rides on the way back.
All in all, the Sunshine Coast is a pretty good place to be an Uber driver at the moment. As more people become aware of the service and start to use it, more drivers will come on board. It remains to be seen if the balance between drivers and riders will continue to work in favour of both parties.