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Authority rejects union-requested cab fare hike

For the second time in two months, drivers’ unions came out on the short end Tuesday as the Nevada Taxi Cab Authority decided not to raise rates.

Representatives of the United Steel Workers and the Industrial Technical Professional Employees Union, which claim about 6,000 of the city’s 10,000 drivers, had pushed for a 20 cent increase in the $3.30 drop charge. Due to the revenue-sharing formulas used by the cab companies, some of that would have filtered down to the paychecks.

However, the companies called for holding the line, even though passenger counts and revenues have been rebounding this year. A Cab, which has a large customer base among locals because it doesn’t serve the Strip, was the lone company to support the higher drop charge while maintaining a $2.60 per mile rate.

The four-member authority board, with one seat vacant, split evenly on the issue and maintained the status quo. Some members raised the possibility of looking at rates again early next year, although the law governing the authority mentions only an annual review.

In August, the unions opposed creating any new taxi medallions but all four board members supported a cab company push for more cab permits.

“The sad part is that (Tuesday’s vote) excludes the drivers, who transport the people who come here, from getting something extra,” Industrial Technical Professional Employees Union representative T. Ruthie Jones said. “You’ve got to give them a little bit to keep them happy.”

By her calculation, the extra revenue generated over a typical 12-hour shift would add less than a dime an hour in gross pay. But even with the 7.1 percent rise in the number of passenger-carrying trips this year compared with 2010, cab company owners felt that their market position is still too fragile to raise prices. In particular, they worried that more people would shift to limousines.

“We are trying to survive in this industry and keep our market share,” said Jamie Pino, of Nellis Cab. “If we keep doing rate increases, pretty soon the taxi will cost pretty much the same as a limo. The timing is just not right.”

Also, Mark James, the CEO of Frias Transportation Manager, which owns five cab brands, said technological changes coming to the industry in the next 18 months could change cost and revenue patterns in unanticipated ways. Therefore, he asked to revisit the rate issue in another six months.

For example, he said, the state recently allowed trip records to be kept electronically instead of on handwritten sheets. He also expects the rollout of new meters capable of tracking more than just the new total fare every tenth of a mile.

Board member Dennis Nolan opted for waiting on any rate changes. Board member Josh Miller noted that revenues are rising so that driver pay was going up, too. During the eight months through August, each medallion generated a monthly average $17,301 in fares, up 11.8 percent from last year.

Commission statistics show Las Vegas has the third highest cab rates in the country, partly because many of the trips go just a few minutes between McCarran International Airport and the Strip. Nevertheless, Drobkin supported “giving the drivers a little something in gratitude for their work.”

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at
toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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