Before he got into McCarran International Airport’s taxi line Friday, Kevin King stopped to read a new cab-top sign. He wanted to find out what a fare to Treasure Island should run.
“It’s helpful to have an idea of what I should pay,” said King, an Augusta, Ga., resident who hasn’t been to Las Vegas in several years.
In his case, the fare ranged from $20 to $25.25, depending on three sample routes posted by the Nevada Taxicab Authority.
The taxi fare signs are a new prong in an effort to curb longhauling by cabdrivers. For years, unsuspecting tourists have started their vacations with a circuitous trip from the airport to the hotel that padded the fare by as much as $12 per trip, based on authority calculations. Several million dollars are at stake.
“Our primary goal is to protect passengers and ensure they are not overcharged,” authority Administrator Charles Harvey said. “Better-informed consumers are less susceptible to fraudulent behavior.”
In many instances, he said, visitors don’t know they have been longhauled until going home, when a driver takes the short route to McCarran at a much lower fare.
Estimates of longhauling’s pervasiveness vary widely because of sheer cab ride volume. In 2013, 3.6 million cab trips originated at McCarran, or an average 9,700 per day.
Officials don’t know how well signs on the north and south sides of the Terminal 1 baggage claim will work in relaying fare information to fliers.
“This is very much a work in progress,” Harvey said. “We will assess this as we go to see if we need more signs.”
The signs, measuring 46 inches by 132 inches, have been hung on the side walls of two exit vestibules. Under the heading of “Taxicab Rider Information Program,” the signs list 24 destinations and their fares. For example, going to the Riviera on Paradise Road covers 6.4 miles in 16 minutes at $18.05, going on the Strip covers 5 miles in 18 minutes at $22.40; going by highway covers 9.3 miles in 21 minutes at $30.45.
The signs may be helpful, but getting people to notice them may be hard; competition for attention is intense.
Flanking the baggage claim’s inside doors are banners for Celine Dion and the Rio. A rotating triangular sign is just a few feet away and there are dozens of other ads.
When asked what caught his attention, King tapped an index finger on the authority’s emblem, a law-enforcement style badge.
But several other passers-by didn’t seem to notice. During one 15 minute stretch on Friday morning, 85 people walked out the north exit pulling luggage behind them. Fourteen at least turned their head toward the fare sign, but only six stopped to read it.
The middle exit in baggage claim, handiest for people from Concourses A and B with only carry-on bags, doesn’t have a fare sign. By contrast, the signs at Terminal 3 will stand outside and in front of the taxi line.
Harvey made fare education a priority when he took the administrator’s job in May 2011. But it took more than two years to get the signs up, he said, because the agency faced other priorities and had to haggle with the taxi industry on what the signs should say.
“All things take time in government,” he said.
The signs were built for budget, if not necessarily long-term durability. An outside sign made of material more permanent than a printed sheet mounted on foam board would have stretched the budget, he said.
Posting the fares on the video panel overhanging Terminal 1’s taxi line also would have been pricey. That airtime is sold to commercial advertisers at market rates.
The authority will periodically ask dispatchers who monitor the cab line to gauge how well the signs are working. These people hear fliers’ comments and complaints daily, Harvey said.
Freddie Kirtley, McCarran’s assistant director for landside operations, said, “This is just step No. 1. We need to wait and see how this works and give it a chance.”
Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at email@example.com or at 702-387-5290.