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August 30, 2014

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How to curb taxi long-hauling? A flat rate to Strip might do trick

Image

Christopher DeVargas

Tunnel vision: If you get driven through this on your way from McCarran to the Strip, you are being duped.

Long Haul Checkpoint

Taxicab Authority Police Senior Investigator I. Williams stop taxi driver Tesfaye Beshah at a long haul checkpoint near the entrance to the airport tunnel exiting McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on Friday, June 8, 2012. Beshah got a ticket for long hauling. Launch slideshow »

The illegal long-hauling of taxi passengers could be a thing of the past under a new bill that would create a flat-rate fare system for all trips between McCarran International Airport and the Las Vegas Strip.

Assembly Bill 329 would give the Nevada Taxicab Authority the power to create zones in Las Vegas in which taxi rides between specific locations would cost the same amount, regardless of the distance traveled or amount of time it takes to get there.

Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, told the Assembly Committee on Transportation Tuesday that the bill he’s sponsoring would eliminate the “epidemic” of long-hauling, which he said is costing customers more than $10 million annually.

“Self-regulation, which I generally like, is not working,” Martin said. “(Long-hauling) is causing damage to our economy. It’s giving us a bad name and a bad reputation.”

The bill, which would also increase penalties for long-hauling and allow the revocation of a taxi cab license after three infractions within 12 months, will face stiff opposition from the taxi cab industry.

Representatives from Frias Transportation Group and Yellow-Checker-Star, two of the valley’s biggest cab companies, testified Tuesday that a flat-rate fare system would be unfair to drivers, taxi companies and customers.

Flat rate systems don’t take into account that hotels are different distances from the airport, said Mark James, CEO of Frias’ parent company. He added that traffic congestion can affect how long a ride takes and how much a driver should be compensated.

“Nevada would be doing an about-face … were they to consider to implement flat rates or zone rates because they do not work,” James said. “If you do have a zone system or a flat rate system, someone on some ride is paying more than they should pay and someone on another ride is paying less than they should pay.”

Members of the transportation committee had several questions about how the bill would impact drivers and whether enough effort had been made to include taxi companies in finding a solution to long-hauling.

“A flat fare doesn’t take into consideration the time of the driver. He or she could work an eight hour shift and depending on congestion have fewer fares,” said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas. “I think that’s an important component that they should be able to weigh in on. This will be their livelihoods that you’re affecting.”

Under the bill, the taxicab authority could create multiple zones along the Strip to account for the varying distances, Martin said.

For instance, a trip to southern Strip casinos like the Luxor or New York-New York might cost $12 to $17, while a ride to northern hotels like the Mirage or the Venetian might run between $16 and $21, according to a tentative fare breakdown included in the committee’s background material.

The taxicab authority could also add surcharges to the flat rates to compensate for higher traffic at different times of the day or for special events, Martin said.

“Long-hauling is rampant and it angers tourists,” he said. “One of the things this bill does not do is set the actual fare. What we’re trying to do is establish certainty. If people know when they leave the airport it’s going to be $22 to a certain hotel, they’ll feel better about the situation.”

James said taxi companies take the long-hauling problem seriously and are attempting to address it through better technology.

In January, the Taxicab Authority approved a pilot program for a cloud-based vehicle monitoring system that would use GPS technology to track and store the routes of taxis, making it easier to identify and punish long-haulers.

“Meters are the best way. We understand they’re subject to abuse and we take it very seriously,” James said. “We intend to do everything to stop (long-hauling) and we think the route to that is the implementation of technology.”

No action was taken on the bill Tuesday. It will be discussed again at a future transportation committee meeting.

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  1. Finally some common sense. This bill is about holding Taxi drivers and their owners accountable. This would eliminate the word games played when a person says get me from point A to point B as fast as possible and then the driver pulls a story on how traffic is backed up because of ______ and I took you this way because it is faster but lots more expensive if the customer complains the driver just says they told me to do this and the taxi driver employer just turns their head and collects more money. The $10 Million mentioned in the article is nothing to sneeze at. Does flat rates work YES! I came from a small city population 20,000 that had the same problem because it has a large college population and a big Canadian tourist population. Long hauling there was out of control so the city Government put in flat rates for the whole city using Zones.Complaints went away the crooked Taxi companies and the crooked drivers disappeared and the consumer smiled again. The worst thing being done to tourist coming to LV is having them get took by the first thing they see when visiting. The tourist just got done getting fleeced by the airlines (that is another letter on it's own) and now they get it again not a good first impression and worst of all it may be their last impression because they will not come back. They also need a flat fee for using a Taxi on the strip to go from one place to another fleecing is done there also. The number one challenge for LV in the future affordable transportation for tourist and the residents around the Strip and Downtown. Get rid of the meters!!!!

  2. Long hauling is a problem in this town but as long as the owners of the taxi companies dictate the day to day operations of the TA nothing is going to change.

    If the TA agents try to do their job they get called on the carpet by those at the top.

    It is time that the state take a good look at those running the TA.

  3. I am surprised it has taken so long to present this obvious practical solution. How long would it take taxi drivers to subvert the intent of this proposal if enacted?

  4. How can a taxi driver work 60 hours a week and be on food stamps? Something is wrong with the system. You need a dot physical to drive a cab? Please, give me a break! Another scam in Vegas, just one of many.

  5. James said. "If you do have a zone system or a flat rate system, someone on some ride is paying more than they should pay and someone on another ride is paying less than they should pay." [Sic]

    I have no problem with that because another tourist would reap the beneifit and not some corporate bottomline that would encourage long hauling.

    "Meters are the best way. We understand they're subject to abuse and we take it very seriously," James said. "We intend to do everything to stop (long-hauling) and we think the route to that is the implementation of technology."[Sic] However he fights flate rate zones until tomorrow's technology is available today. How about the flate rate zones until taxi companies can elimanate the long haul practice.

  6. You can rent a car for $25.00 a day.

  7. Good idea. Now how about reining in the hotels and their restaurants? One day, a room goes for $99. The next, it jumps to $400. Hotel restaurants boost buffet and meal prices everytime there's a convention or trade show in town. See any difference here? I don't, except it's the deep pockets of the hotels that are the tail wagging the dog. There's little sympathy expressed for the customers pocketbooks in these cases by the Carson City Clowns. Martin's bill to eliminate the "epidemic" of long-hauling would do nothing to address the larger problem of hotel/casinos "causing damage to our economy; giving us a bad name and a bad reputation" with their gouging!