Sunday, October 26, 2014

Uber Comes To Las Vegas, Nevada

From the LVRJ:
Uber drivers defied a court order and continued transporting customers throughout Las Vegas on Saturday.
Donald Campbell, the company’s attorney, said he is challenging a court order barring the drivers from providing their ride-sharing service in the state until Nov. 7.
At least one Uber driver was issued a citation for violating state law Saturday, said Teri Williams, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Business and Industry.
A total of 10 — eight in Las Vegas and two in Reno — were cited for providing an “unlicensed for-hire transportation service” on Friday, the day Uber was launched in the state. Their vehicles were impounded as well.
The citations carry fines of up to $10,000, Williams said.
According to Campbell, around 8 a.m. Friday, state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s office was given notice that Las Vegas-based Campbell & Williams was representing Uber. Shortly afterward, Uber representatives participated in a 45-minute telephone conversation with Cortez Masto.
“She never said she was going to court,” Campbell said.
After that call, the attorney general filed a temporary restraining order in Carson City on behalf of the Nevada State Transportation Authority, he said. The authority regulates the taxi industry in the state....
Since its inception in 2009, Uber, which connects riders with drivers through an app via a mobile device, is now operational in 45 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide.
Behrend said on Friday that the company is not banned from operating in Nevada.
“Uber continues to operate and looks forward to meeting the tremendous demand that we have already seen throughout the state,” she said.
In Las Vegas, it is almost impossible to get a taxi if you live more than a mile away from the strip and downtown.  Most taxis can be found working on the strip, downtown and the airport and locals, many times, have to wait a significant time to get a cab.  I know, because I have experienced this, at times.
Further, the State and local governments do everything and then some to protect the current taxi companies.  While there are many taxi names, there is only a handful of owners.  To start a new taxi company in Las Vegas is next to impossible because the taxi owners do not want more competition, cabbies don't want to put more cabs on the street because it cuts down on their number of trips a shift and the local and state governments do the companies bidding.
So, Uber comes in and the people who know about it, use their cell phones and the Uber app and Uber will hook the driver and passenger.  The customer pays Uber with a credit/debit card and Uber takes 20% off the top and the driver gets the rest.  The driver provides his own car and insurance and the driver has to pass a background check and I imagine there are also standards for the car.
So, the taxi companies are angry Uber came into their territory and have unleashed the courts and cops on them.
So, how will this play out.
I hope Uber is allowed to operate in Nevada.  If taxi companies provided good to excellent to locals in Vegas, we wouldn't even be talking about this issue, but taxi companies pretty much ignore the locals.  So, Uber can help improve service to locals.  They can also provide competition at the airport where some but not all driver will long haul- take the long way to the strip hotels by going on the freeway instead of the taking the city streets, which is shorter but takes a longer time usually to get to the thotels.  Uber also charges before the ride, so the rider will know what the cost of the ride will be before the trip, unlike taxi companies.
But Uber also has to have standards for both cars and drivers.  They need to do background checks and the cars have to be safe.  They also cannot pick and choose who they can pick up and unless their car is marked, they should not be allowed to pick up passengers off the streets. 
Finally, Uber should have some government oversight to ensure safety.  however, the taxi cab authority cops cannot act like thugs when dealing with Uber drivers.
So, welcome to Nevada, Uber, don't blow it.

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