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Clark County taxi rates going up 8 percent

Local taxi rates are going up.

The Nevada Taxicab Authority on Monday approved an increase of just more than 8 percent, boosting Clark County to the second highest rate in the nation among cities with a tourism-based economy.

Although rates are higher, taxi rides in Clark County generally cost less than in most cities because the airport is so close to Strip resorts and convention centers.

It’s unclear when the new rates will take effect because the Taxicab Authority must get permission to use budget reserve funds to pay overtime to the vehicle inspectors and investigators to change the meters on the 3,000 cabs in the Las Vegas fleet. A meter changeover generally takes about five to six days, but it could take weeks to get the approvals necessary to budget funds for the associated costs.

The board unanimously authorized rates to climb from $3.30 for the initial drop to $3.45, 20 cents per one-thirteenth of a mile ($2.60 a mile) to 22 cents per one-thirteenth of a mile ($2.86 a mile) and wait-time charges of $30 an hour to $32.40 an hour. The $2 McCarran International Airport pickup fee will remain unchanged. The per-mile rates include a 20-cent-per-mile fuel surcharge.

It was the first taxi rate increase since November 2008 and comes at a time when the county’s 16 taxi companies could face competition from the ride-sharing technology company Uber.

Uber officials have not confirmed an entry into the market, but the company recently had a series of meetings with prospective drivers that drew more than 600 applicants according to people attending meetings.

There’s no indication what Uber’s rates would be if it attempted to enter the market.

Regulators for both the Taxicab Authority and the Nevada Transportation Authority, which oversees buses and limousines as well as taxis outside Clark County, plan to “strictly enforce” statutes and regulations related to unlicensed transportation providers.

In other states, Uber has defended itself by presenting the operation as a technology company that matches people with cars with people who need rides and not as a transportation provider. Transportation officials and legal experts disagree over which interpretation fits.

Enforcement officers can impound vehicles and cite drivers who transport passengers without a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by one of the two authorities.

Drivers are required to post a bond of $20,000 to retrieve an impounded car and cited owners can be assessed a fine of $5,000. The maximum fine that can be imposed for a single impoundment is $10,000.

In other cities, Uber has paid fines and impoundment fees for their drivers.

To convince the Taxicab Authority of the need for a rate increase, the Livery Operators Association of Las Vegas hired Las Vegas economist Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis to make its case. The association is comprised of executives of Bell Transportation, Frias Transportation Management, Yellow Checker Star and Desert Cab, representing about 76 percent of the cabs operating in Clark County.

Aguero told the board that while rates haven’t gone up in six years, operational costs have climbed 22 percent on major expenses in that time frame. He cited increases in vehicle repairs and maintenance, health insurance, driver payroll taxes, vehicle liability insurance, driver wages and non-driver wages.

Aguero presented three prospective rate increases including one that would have raised rates by 15.7 percent to $3.82 for the initial drop and $2.96 a mile.

Under the rates approved by the board, Las Vegas would trail only Atlantic City on cab rates in cities that thrive on tourism. The rates are higher than those of Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando and San Francisco.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Find him on Twitter: @RickVelotta

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