To build a 21st-century economy, Nevada needs 21st-century companies. But a District Court judge’s embrace of a decidedly 20th-century regulatory structure has chased off one of the country’s most popular high-tech businesses — and denied hundreds of residents the jobs it supports.
Uber’s test drive across Nevada was a brief one. Through a smartphone app, the ride-share company connected drivers to passengers in need of a lift, generally in less time and for less money than service offered by the lumbering, inefficient taxicab industry. Uber is used in cities around the world by educated people who are accustomed to gaining new, cost-saving conveniences through technology — the kind of people the Las Vegas tourism industry covets as customers.
But Nevada’s protectionist transit regulators moved swiftly and harshly to crack down on Uber drivers. On Nov. 25, Washoe County District Judge Scott Freeman issued an injunction that prevents the company from operating under its business model. To resume service to the thousands of visitors and locals who like ride sharing, and to put back to work the hundreds of Nevadans who drove as independent contractors, Uber will have to conform to the incredibly expensive and outdated standards imposed on cab companies — which helped inspire the creation of Uber’s better business model in the first place.
“It’s unfortunate that Nevada is the first state in the nation to temporarily suspend Uber,” company spokeswoman Eva Behrend said.
In trying to advance economic development, Nevada leaders are projecting an image of a technologically progressive state. Its handling of Uber indicates otherwise. The 2015 Legislature must clean up this mess by passing a bill that lets Uber be Uber — and shows Nevada welcomes outside innovation and competition.