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Taxicab Authority to implement tax increase, other changes

Big changes lie ahead for Southern Nevada’s taxi industry as the Nevada Taxicab Authority gears to implement a series of changes approved in the 2015 legislative session.

In a legislative briefing at Tuesday’s authority board meeting, Deputy Attorney General Christine Guerci-Nyhus outlined changes enacted by legislators in Senate Bill 376.

Cab companies will begin paying a 3 percent excise tax in August, some of which will fund state road improvements, some for a medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The Taxicab Authority also is required to remove geographic restrictions on taxi licenses called medallions by Jan. 1, a move that will help some companies and hurt others.

The authority board also will draft regulations to enable the leasing of cabs to drivers, a move that could enable drivers to compete better with transportation network companies that are expected to be operating in Las Vegas by Labor Day.

Guerci-Nyhus explained that the new 3 percent tax, which will be paid by transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft as well as Southern Nevada’s 16 cab companies, takes effect Aug. 28. She explained that the companies will be responsible for paying the tax on each fare collected and that it won’t be a 3 percent assessment to passengers added to the fare.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean customers won’t be paying more. At the authority’s July 23 meeting, board members will consider rates and could increase fares prior to the implementation of the tax.

The implementation of the tax plan is complicated by the need to adjust taximeters on the fleet of about 3,000 cabs with any new rate.

The removal of geographic restrictions from the county’s 394 geo-restricted medallions will be a good thing for small companies with a high percentage of restricted medallions like A-Cab, which operates primarily west of the resort corridor. Ten of the company’s 95 medallions have geographic restrictions.

It should also benefit the Frias Transportation Group’s five cab companies, which have a total of 100 geographically restricted medallions.

The authority board is expected to consider either a gradual removal of those medallions through Jan. 1 or a single cutoff on that date.

The leasing of cabs to drivers has been used in Northern Nevada and now will be allowed in Clark County.

Under the proposal, cab companies would be allowed to lease a cab for a 24-hour period to a driver or team of drivers. The cab company would receive a flat fee from the driver, but the driver or team would be allowed to collect all the fare revenue during that 24-hour period.

The proposal may help stem an anticipated exodus of drivers to transportation network companies because the drivers would continue to be cab company employees, but be allowed to drive more flexible hours, one of the appeals of driving under contract with companies such as Uber.

Other legislative changes ahead for cab companies involve the use of alternative technology for taximeters and the appeal process for decisions reached by the Taxicab Authority.

Cab companies would be required to demonstrate any alternative technology for calculating rates before authorized.

New legislation also eliminated the Nevada Transportation Authority as the appellate body for Taxicab Authority decisions. Appeals that occur after Jan. 1 will go straight to the court system instead of to the Transportation Authority.

The board also recognized two Nellis Cab employees for their honesty in returning $5,000 to a tourist who accidentally left a computer tablet case filled with the money in the back of a cab.

The board gave certificates to Gregory Janz, the Nellis driver who found the case, and Corazon Nalog, a Nellis human resources professional who heads the company’s lost-and-found program and helped track down Dr. Steve Matti, who accidentally left the case in the cab after he arrived at McCarran International Airport.

Matti, who was initially identified by the company as a Houston dentist, is a doctor specializing in emergency medicine.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Find @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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