Updated April 6, 2021 - 7:07 am
As relaxed COVID-19 restrictions allow more people to hit the town, a drop in the number of ride-hailing drivers in Las Vegas has frustrated visitors and residents trying to get a ride via Uber or Lyft.
Many have taken to social media to complain about long waits for rides or cancellations because of the drop in drivers available.
“@Uber and @lyft what happened to y’all bros?” Twitter user CurtiMart posted March 26. “I’m having to call a cab because you guys are basically non existent in Las Vegas now? Sad day.”
State data shows the number of active ride-hailing drivers across Nevada is less than half of what it was a year ago. As of March 30, there were 13,723 active ride-hailing drivers across the state, compared with the 36,482 reported by the state on March 13, 2020.
February’s number shows little changed month to month, as there were 13,759 active transportation network drivers reported by the state, with 7,751 Uber drivers and 6,068 Lyft operators. That is a 62 percent decline compared with February 2020’s active-driver total of 36,608.
The only comparable drop occurred in July 2018, when the number of active drivers in the state fell from over 80,000 to just under 40,000 after Uber amended its policy to require annual background checks on drivers.
“It’s common across the country right now that drivers are not actively participating that were (pre-pandemic),” said David Newton, Nevada Transportation Authority commissioner.
There is no concrete evidence available, but Newton suspects the drop could be tied to some drivers opting to receive unemployment benefits.
“The unemployment benefits may actually outstrip what they could earn as a driver right now with tourism numbers where they are,” Newton said.
“I don’t know for certain, but that definitely seems logical.”
Lyft said a big factor is that drivers can’t charge surge pricing even as demand increases because the state disallows the practice in times of emergency.
A company representative said “dynamic pricing” helps incentivize drivers to go to areas with increased demand. But since Nevada is under a state of emergency because of the pandemic, that isn’t an option.
“We’re seeing big increases in demand for rides, as vaccines roll out and people get ready to start moving again,” a Lyft spokesperson said in a statement. “We are working hard to meet demand; however due to Nevada’s State of Emergency and regulation preventing transportation networking companies from incentivizing drivers, there’s an impact on rider experience and driver earnings.”
Senate Bill 279, which was introduced March 18 in the Legislature, would take away the Transportation Authority’s ability to set a maximum fare that ride-hailing companies can charge in an emergency, with the heightened fees set to go directly to the drivers, if passed.
Representatives from Uber did not respond to request for comment on the driver shortage.
In downtown Las Vegas, the city opened a parking garage to cater to Uber drivers picking up and dropping off passengers. But city spokeswoman Natasha Shahani said that only about 250 drivers have signed up to use the garage since it opened ahead of St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
Circa Resort’s Garage Mahal reported seeing an uptick in customers complaining about wait times and cancellations for Uber and Lyft pickups. That frustration sometimes turns to blaming Circa’s staff.
“Lately in Garage Mahal, especially on peak days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, upon checkout time there’s higher wait times due to shortage of cabs and Ubers,” said Danny Suy, valet lead for Circa. “We try to accommodate the guests by going into the streets to find cabs, calling the cab companies. When using Uber, the wait times are longer (than usual), and the guests get frustrated at our team, where we have no control over cabs or the Ubers and the wait times.”