EDITORIAL: Solving long-hauling

Too many Las Vegas tourists are being taken for a ride. Long-hauling, the cabdriver practice of intentionally using routes that are longer than necessary to inflate fares, remains a problem, especially at McCarran International Airport. The scam is a horrible welcome for the city’s visitors, yet it continues year after year. Plenty of locals are victimized, too.

As reported Sunday by the Review-Journal’s Ben Botkin and Richard N. Velotta, Nevada Taxicab Authority investigators wrote 225 long-hauling citations in all of 2013 — including just two in December — down from 425 in 2012. Authority Administrator Charles Harvey said cracking down on long-hauling is a priority, but the primary means by which he hopes to do so — adding more investigators and, possibly, GPS tracking devices — would come at a significant cost.

There isn’t enough money to hire more investigators and pull over every cab that goes through the airport connector tunnel. And even if the funds were there, how does it benefit traffic and tourism by having dozens of de facto police officers pulling cabs over in the tunnel, further delaying passengers who just want to get their Las Vegas experience underway? The cab industry already is over-regulated, so much so that it’s extremely difficult for new companies to enter the marketplace. Limiting competition hurts consumers, which is why fixed fares are a bad potential solution, too.

If authorities want to limit long-hauling, they should empower travelers with knowledge from the moment they touch down in Las Vegas. Regular McCarran travelers are quite familiar with the clever, celebrity-filled videos that are shown on monitors throughout security screening areas. Passengers making their way from the gates to baggage claim and ground transportation could just as easily watch an entertaining video in cab lines on how to avoid being taken advantage of in their travels from the airport to hotels or convention centers.

Go get comedian Jeff Foxworthy, of “You might be a redneck” fame. “If you tell your cabbie you want to go to the Las Vegas Convention Center, and you go through a tunnel, you might be getting long-hauled.”

Consumers are far less likely to be abused when they have information, which comes at much less expense to taxpayers and much less lost time to tourists. Authorities should stop looking for ways to spend more of the public’s money on long-hauling crackdowns, and start looking for more ways to empower taxicab passengers.

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