Many of you probably don’t know what “Uber” or “Lyft” are.
In short, they are “ride sharing” programs operated with your smart-phone. You sign up to be a customer – giving Uber and/or Lyft your credit card information – and then when you need/want a ride somewhere, instead of calling a taxi you request a ride from an independent Uber or Lyft driver via your smart-phone.
In other words, free market competition.
Not surprisingly, Nevada’s taxi and limo industries are using elected officials and the Nevada Taxicab Authority to keep Uber and Lyft out of Las Vegas. And former Las Vegan Steve Friess recently wrote a column for Las Vegas Weekly headlined, “Why Vegas Doesn’t Need Uber.”
But that headline totally misses the point. It’s not about “need.” It’s about consumer demand. Maybe Las Vegans don’t “need” independent ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft…I totally disagree, but let’s concede the point for argument’s sake…but do they “want” them?
Well, based on many of the comments posted in response to Mr. Friess’ column the answer to that question isn’t just a simple “yes,” but a Stone Cold Steve Austin-like “Hell, yeah!” A sampling…
“Since moving to Nevada, here is what everyone has told me: ‘Cabs are too expensive for locals.’ And I couldn’t agree more. I live 15 mins from the Strip and for me to travel there it cost me $60 not including tip! That’s crazy! In LA I would take an Uber or Lyft to the other side of town and it would cost me $15.”
“Was in San Francisco recently and my friend uses Lyft, 4 minute wait to be picked up, clean vehicle, unlike cabs, was friendly and it was $9 from home to center of San Fran. I live in Vegas and our leaders are knuckleheads. We want Uber or Lyft and we won’t get one cuz of the cab company owners are paying the politicians instead of their drivers well.”
“Uber would be a welcome addition to Vegas. A cab ride from Stoney’s to the JW Marriott in Summerlin was recently $70, with tip. That same distance in NYC would have been about $30. Way overpriced in Vegas. Bring on Uber!!!”
“Uber is the only way I go in NYC. Too bad Vegas can’t deal and just get over their addiction to the cab industry!”
“I live in Vegas and travel to DC and LA every week; I live off of Über in those cities. I come home and call a taxi from home and wait an hour, sometimes two. Unreal. How much propaganda and crap has to be paid? We get it the local taxi authority does not want it; boo for new commerce. This is why we stay stagnant.”
“It’s idiotic to refer to the calling method for rides rather than the so-broken Vegas taxi system that a percentage of cabs have to be restricted away from the most popular pickup areas because otherwise they would never pick up people at their homes. We need alternatives for normal people who live here, not just the visitors!”
“Taxis suck and they think we must put up with their ineffective policies and overinflated charging. Add that to the hold-up at most taxi lines created by the taxi stand attendant and you got steaming pile of doo-doo. Let the new technologies be introduced and get rid of the attendants and let the rides commence.”
“Vegas needs Uber, I get 2 hour waits at my shop when Western Cab is only 1 mile away.”
“I work for the only decent cab company in Vegas, A-Cab, but it’s not allowed to pick up on the Strip or the airport. What a travesty to drop off at the Encore Hotel and see 40 people standing in line in the hot sun waiting for a cab and watching you as if they could hear a pin drop and the disappointment when we refuse to haul them because the corrupt and defective TA (Taxicab Authority) will issue a fine if we do. It’s supposed to a city built on customer service. So where is it?”
“The rare times I need a taxi living in Vegas, no one is available for at least an hour.”
“As a group everyone must understand taxicab owners in Las Vegas are gods. Uber is not rich enough with only 1.5 billion dollars in their war chest to come to Las Vegas yet. One day Travis, the CEO of Uber, will fight these gods. It is only a matter of time.”
“When Uber and its ilk have attempted to prod city councils into forcing change onto the taxi industry, the industry has responded not with open minds and ‘Yeah, that’s actually a good idea’ comments, but rather veritable battalions of lobbyists and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to ensure the status quo remains precisely the same. There is no reason whatsoever to expect otherwise once Uber, Lyft, and other ‘TNCs’ – transportation network companies, as they’re increasingly being called – make it to Vegas.”
“Las Vegas is the LAST place I wish for anyone having to take a taxi, and since these other ride services have popped up I’ve used them exclusively in other cities I visit that offer said services. Saves me time, money, safer drivers and less awkward people.”
“Exactly! It sucks. I drank too much one night and took the responsible choice to take a cab home. He said no, I don’t drive to Henderson and told me to get out! Yeah I just love being told to get out of the taxi because he doesn’t drive to Henderson! Hate the cabs around here.”
“Uber would help out so much in North Las Vegas. Try getting a taxi in North Las Vegas, like Aliante casino. Hotel called one up for me and they never came said it was too far.”
“I was living in LA for a year and all I did was take Uber and Lyft EVERYWHERE! Also you are creating more jobs for residents. I would hop into someone’s Lyft or Uber and have great conversation and learn that they love driving people around to earn extra money and set their own hours. I also had a regular driver who lived in my area so every time she picked me up we would catch up. She was Lyfting to save extra money for her honeymoon!”
A few weeks ago I signed up to be a customer for both Uber and Lyft and have used both services in Los Angeles and Phoenix. I’m a fan.
The argument that Las Vegas doesn’t “need” Uber or Lyft is irrelevant. I “want” ‘em, and so do a lot of other Las Vegans. And other than protecting the established taxi and limo companies that pay out big dough to elected officials and control the Nevada Taxicab Authority, there isn’t one valid reason for keeping Transportation Network Companies out of Nevada.
As one commenter to Mr. Friess’ column put it, “Vegas doesn’t need Uber? How about letting the market decide?”
Hell, yeah! How about it?
(Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a grassroots advocacy organization fighting for limited government public policies)