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Taxicab charges in Las Vegas area will remain unchanged for now

Taxicab fares, rates and surcharges will remain unchanged for the Las Vegas area into the foreseeable future.

The Nevada Taxicab Authority on Thursday unanimously agreed to take a wait-and-see approach as the state Legislature convenes next month to consider measures that could affect taxi rates and potential rules on ride-sharing companies.

The Taxicab Authority had considered whether to eliminate a $3 surcharge and adjust several other fees as a way to be more competitive with Uber and Lyft, which have cut into the taxi industry’s bottom line.

“We might address it in the future,” said Stan Olsen, chairman of the five-member board regulating Southern Nevada’s taxicab industry.

“The Legislature opens in less than a month, and we don’t know what they’re going to do,” Olsen said. “For us to put into place certain things now, and then be told to change it again by the Legislature, doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Ruthie Jones of the Industrial, Technical and Professional Employees Union, the group representing local taxi drivers, said that passengers often leave lower tips when they are required to pay the $3 credit card surcharge for rides in Las Vegas.

But representatives from several taxicab companies said that internal studies showed that most riders who pay with credit cards generally leave a larger tip than passengers who pay with cash.

The Taxicab Authority also will examine how cab companies profit from the credit card surcharge. And the board will consider whether to adjust fuel surcharges and also develop a plan to deal with complaints about drivers who take a longer route than necessary in a practice known as long-hauling.

The issues were outlined in an audit released in January 2016 by the Executive Branch Audit Committee, which determined that Southern Nevada taxi riders were overcharged $47 million annually in fees.

The board’s move comes amid plummeting revenue and ridership for Southern Nevada’s taxicab companies.

Officials said year-end figures would be made available Thursday, but the final numbers were not released. About 21.6 million taxi trips were reported during the first 11 months of 2016, an overall loss of more than 4.2 million riders amounting to a 16.2 percent decrease compared with the same period last year.

Through November, the region’s 16 certified taxicab companies reported a combined $347.2 million in revenue, down 13 percent from the same period in 2015. Much of that decline was blamed on increased competition from Uber and Lyft.

After the board meeting Thursday, Olsen repeated his concern that Uber and Lyft should abide by the same rules, permits and tax obligations as traditional taxicab companies. The authority neither oversees operations nor sets rules for ride-sharing companies, but Olsen suggested the Legislature should discuss those changes when it convenes next month.

During the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Olsen said he heard accounts of drivers from ride-sharing companies coming in from outside of Nevada to accommodate convention attendees.

“That’s illegal, that’s a gypsy cab in my eyes, but there aren’t any regulations,” Olsen said. “Are there problems with the taxi industry? Of course there are, and we’re trying to fix them. But we have to level the playing field.”

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

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