In less than five years, one company has spread throughout the world,operating in 45 countries and more than 100 major cities – but not in Las Vegas.
Uber, the ridesharing smartphone application that connects users seeking a ride to individual drivers and thereby skirts traditional taxi-hailing models, threatens to disrupt the status quo with its innovation and simplicity. That’s why the almighty cab industry – providing 26 million rides and raking in $390 million in 2013 alone – has made it clear: Uber is not welcome in Nevada.
Uber supporters like myself are left wondering why, in a state that so desperately needs more transportation options, this alternative has been shut out. The prevailing argument seems to be that taxis already litter Las Vegas streets. Why bring in Uber, when we could simplyimprove the existing cab industry?
Because ridesharing services like Uber provide a faster, cheaper and more reliable service than the industry is willing to offer, especially for locals. Cab drivers in Las Vegas have very little incentive to travel to the local hangout spots when they’ve got endless lines of tourists waiting at every Strip casino and at McCarran Airport. Locals can’t walk out of their favorite bar and expect to find a taxi ready to ferry them safely home.
Try calling a cab company on any weekend night and you’ll find yourself spending the better part of the next half hour holding to speak to an operator. Then, wait at least another half hour for your taxi to arrive – that’s if it doesn’t give up halfway through because you’re “too far.”
Even if you’re lucky enough to hail a cab on the street, many taxi drivers will refuse to drive out to the suburbs, especially if it’s to a residence and not a hotel – they can’t pick up another passenger at your apartment. Good luck catching a taxi home if you dwell in North Las Vegas, Summerlin or Henderson.
But with a few taps of your fingers, you can hail a ride on Uber. Even before you officially make the request, the app will quote your fare, estimate your waiting time and show you nearby available drivers. Once you approve the fare and select your meeting spot, the app will track your driver’s progress to you and alert you as soon as the driver has arrived. It will continue to follow your path as you make your way to your destination and automatically charge your credit card upon arrival – forget about cash. The process is quick, smooth and efficient. In the dozen or more times I’ve used Uber, I never waited more than 15 minutes for my ride to arrive.
Uber also eliminates base fees and other typical taxi charging structures, opting instead to charge cheaply per minute and per mile. Its app allows you to split the fare among several individuals. A ride will typically cost you about a dollar per minute. Best of all, drivers are paid well enough that Uber does not allow tips.
These reasons alone make Uber preferable to cabs for Las Vegas locals. But safety concerns present even better reasons to bring Uber to our party-centric city. By offering inexpensive, easy alternatives to driving your own car home, ridesharing services like Uber could help deter drunken driving, decrease DUIs and suspend the spiking number roadway fatalities year after year. So far in 2014, 194 people have been killed in traffic accidents. More than a quarter of traffic fatalities in Nevada were alcohol-related in 2011. If the ratio holds, that’s at least 50 lives that could have been saved this year had Uber or one of its equals existed in Nevada.
But the taxi industry is not opposed to all e-hailing apps. The Nevada Taxicab Authority happily allowed RideGenie to begin roaming our streets earlier this year, since the app only coordinates rides with licensed SUVs, town cars and limos.
Ultimately, the Nevada Taxicab Authority targets its services to the city’s tourists, and that’s fine; they finance our economy. But if Las Vegas truly prides itself on providing world-class customer service, why can’t it do so for its own residents as well? The 2 million people who call Southern Nevada home need an alternative that caters to our needs. Why shouldn’t it be Uber?