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Southern Nevada taxi ridership slumps for third straight year

Updated January 18, 2018 - 11:13 pm

Ridership and revenue were down for a third consecutive year for Southern Nevada’s taxicab companies, largely due to the increasing popularity of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, taxi officials said Thursday.

More than 19.9 million taxi trips were logged in 2017, a 13.56 percent decline compared with the number of trips a year earlier, the Nevada Taxicab Authority reported.

Through the end of December, the region’s 16 certified taxicab companies reported a combined $322.9 million in revenue over the past year, down 13.7 percent from 2016.

In contrast, Southern Nevada taxis reported nearly 27.5 million riders and $425 million in revenue in 2015.

The local taxicab industry reported monthly declines in revenue and ridership ever since so-called transportation network companies were legally allowed to operate in Southern Nevada in September 2015, according to a review of figures posted on the Taxicab Authority’s website.

“It was obviously a tough year, but I think we’re working hard to turn things around,” said Brent Bell, president of Whittlesea-Bell Transportation and head of the Livery Operators Association, which represents some of the local taxi companies.

“We’re working hard to make taxi driving a better job and attract drivers back to the industry,” Bell said. “We believe a bunch of them went to the TNCs and found they weren’t making a whole lot of money, so we’re trying to prove to them that these are good, viable jobs.”

Stan Olsen, chairman of the agency that regulates Southern Nevada’s taxicab industry, maintained his longtime belief that “there is room for both” cabbies and ride-hailing drivers to co-exist.

For that to happen, Olsen said, the Nevada Transportation Authority needs to maintain better oversight of insurance and licensing regulations for Uber and Lyft drivers. At the time, Olsen said that taxicab companies have to “step up their game” by adjusting their business model to become more appealing to riders.

“If those two things happen, I truly believe there would be room for both,” Olsen said.

Nevada lawmakers approved a bill last year that requires ride-hailing drivers to prove they have a $200 business license within six months of being allowed to accept passengers. Drivers that don’t comply must be terminated under the law.

Taxi companies lobbied for a stricter bill that would have increased insurance requirements for the independent contractors who work for Uber and Lyft, but it died after the ride-hailing companies said the move would have run them out of Nevada.

At the same time, state lawmakers did not consider legislation last year that could have updated 40-year-old regulations with the taxi industry, including how to deal with cabbies who take longer routes than necessary in a practice known as long-hauling.

A Lyft spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.

Uber spokeswoman Stephanie Sedlak said ride-sharing drivers regularly serve residential areas away from the tourist-driven Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas neighborhoods, where taxi service tends to be limited.

“Residents and tourists across Southern Nevada rely on Uber every day to get from A to B,” Sedlak said. “We’re pleased to offer a safe, reliable and affordable transportation option for riders, and flexible earning opportunities for drivers.”

Contact Art Marroquin at amarroquin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @AMarroquin_LV on Twitter.

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