Buckle-up, ladies! The first female only ride-sharing service has just launched in Melbourne

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Photo credit: Caitlyn Putt

Traveling to and from the city at night can be an anxiety-filled experience, particularly if you’re out late on a busy Saturday night.

As the hours tick closer to midnight public transport becomes less frequent.  

Train stations and tram stops in the outer suburbs become isolated locations. Some streets are even poorly lit, making the walk home more nerve-wrecking, particularly for women.  

Taxis and Ubers are an option but many women have expressed their concern about these services particularly when most drivers are male. So here is the solution – Shebah, a new female-only ride-sharing service, the first of its kind to be launched in Australia.

On Wednesday March 8, ideally coinciding with International Women’s Day, Shebah began operating in Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The ride-sharing service will eventually cover other major capital cities within Australia, including Sydney.  

Within 24-hours of its release, Shebah was Australia’s number one app downloaded from the App Store.

The concept of a female-only ride-sharing service had been discussed for some time, and in May 2016, mother of four George McEncroe started up a GoFundMe for a women’s only taxi service. The response that followed was phenomenal, and the media has since heard stories from many young women across Australia who have had negative experiences with Uber.

Shebah is strictly a female-only service, however, young boys twelve and under can travel as an unaccompanied passenger, or a woman may travel with her son, if he is eighteen or under. The service is also transgender friendly, and transports women with small children and the elderly. Victorian Shebah drivers have also received valid working with children cards.

Planning on spending Saturday night in the city with my friend, I decided to test out the new service for myself.

Personally, I have never been someone that found the idea of ride-sharing appealing. Hearing some of the experiences my friends have had in Ubers has left me sceptical.  

I decided to book my first ride-share.

One of the great things about Shebah is that you can book fares in advance. Saturday night in the city was destined to be busy, especially with Adele performing close by.

 

Screenshot: Navigating the Shebah app

Once I was approved to join the private Facebook page for Shebah, I decided to make a booking 24 hours in advance. I posted a message to Melbourne Shebah drivers, noting where I was going to be in the city on Saturday night and at what time. I also included the destination I was wanting to travel to, just in case it was considered unreasonable.  

Almost instantly, I received a message back from one of Shebah’s drivers, Lisa. She was more than happy to collect me from Flinders Street Station and drive me to Burwood. She explained how the process worked-  ensuring that I had downloaded the Shebah app to my phone. This was looking promising!

On Saturday night, my friend and I began walking towards Flinders Street to meet my driver. The night was just beginning in the city and there were people everywhere- taxis and Ubers were starting to pile up around Federation Square.

As we were waiting for my driver to approach, my friend and I were discussing this exciting new service. A regular Uber passenger, she was telling me of some of the problems she has encountered with the service, particularly the surcharge. Unaware of Shebah’s launch, she too was keen to give the service a try.

At 9:30PM, my driver Lisa arrived at Federation Square to collect me for my journey home. Like Uber, I had to input my pick-up location before I entered the vehicle so that the fare could start calculating.

One of the features of Shebah that most appealed to me was just how safe the technology is. The app was designed with passenger safety as the number one priority. A Shebah passenger will always know exactly where their car is and who the person is behind the wheel. Those using the service will be able to identify the car by its colour and registration number, and a photo is supplied of the driver with contact details also.  

Before Lisa picked me up from my location, she had phoned me twice to let me know she was running a bit behind schedule. As Shebah was only in its second week, there were still some small glitches with the app and more drivers are still needed. Lisa also wanted to ensure that I wasn’t waiting in the city by myself, and that my friend was still with me.

Driving in a Shebah was just like driving with my mum or a friend – it was enjoyable! The fare was reasonable and significantly cheaper than a taxi ride or an Uber. Lisa and I chatted away for the entire journey and as she dropped me home, she wished me well with my studies.

The total cost of the ride? $42.50.

The cost of a peak fare (including GST) is only slightly more expensive than Uber’s. A Shebah ride is priced at $1.33 per kilometre compared to $1.00 for a standard Uber trip.

The difference is not outrageous, and is still cheaper than a taxi ride. The estimated taxi fare for the same trip on a Saturday night varies between $37.60 and $52.70.

For a full-time University student trying to save on travel expenses, Shebah’s fare rates are respectable and affordable.

More details about Shebah’s peak and off-peak rates can be found on their webpage. 

Shebah is a great initiative for women, by women and the perfect alternative for those that don’t like other ride-sharing services. I would highly recommend it to women everywhere.

Bookings can be made in advanced through Facebook or by phoning Shebah on 03 9998 9718.

The Shebah app is now available for free download via the App Store and Google Play.

 

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