1.5 weeks ago, I was a travelling Australian passing through Las Vegas. It was the first time I’d crossed outside of California on this trip and the first time being in a place without Uber. I’m no longer in the US, but am very excited for how Uber can change transport in the city. Why? Because I found the taxi industry in Vegas to be absolutely brutal and a horrible experience for customers. I’ve seen worse taxi industries, but only in places like Mexico and Malaysia, not a US city.
I was in Vegas for just under a week but almost every run-in I had with a taxi driver was poor. A few recounts, based on myself and a group of travellers:
- Got into a taxi at a casino (very long taxi queues at the casinos) and gave instructions that we’d like to head to another casino further down The Strip. The driver told us that traffic on Las Vegas Blvd. would be slow, so he popped onto an adjacent highway for most of the trip. It is my hypothesis that fast driving like this (and a detour) drove the meter up pretty quickly and a 5 minute ride turned out to be $21. That’s bad enough, but my acquaintance attempted to give the driver $30, who proceeded to pocket the cash as if we weren’t expecting change. We pushed for some cash back, but that’s still kinda dodgy.
- Approached a taxi while they were stopped at a traffic light coming out of a casino, turning onto The Strip. I asked the driver if he could make a right turn from that position. He proceeded to ask me where I was going. I asked him again if it was possible to make a right turn (which was the direction of a our destination). He responded to this by telling me to “go away!” before waiting another 30 seconds for the light to turn green and driving off without any passengers.
- With a group of 5 people, we proceeded to find a cab at a rank near Fremont St. (old Strip). Upon realising we were one seat short for a typical sedan carrying 4 passengers, someone in our group uttered “fuck..”. The driver seemed to mis-hear this as “fuck you” [assuming it was directed at him], and diligently responded with a proper “fuck you” and told the occupants of the car to “get out!” before attempting to hail some other customers.
So, those were a few examples of how I came to have a pretty negative view towards traditional taxis in Las Vegas. I will say that most casinos had very long lines for people wanting a cab, so this allows driver to be very picky with who they pick up because there is never a short supply of customers.
Plus, the aforementioned occurrences are prime examples of the good that can come from Uber and what taxis lack. ie. a feedback system so drivers need to be polite, gps auditing so drivers can’t take the long route and get away with it, all transactions are done through the app so the driver can’t overcharge you at the POS. All very basic stuff.
In regards to Uber, I’m very optimistic about how the new rollout will go. I think they’ll need to be careful to comply with apparent regulation in Las Vegas (an example would be not being able to pick up passengers directly from Las Vegas Blvd (due to traffic problems)). Customers may also need to get used to using the service a little differently, in regards to finding an appropriate location to be picked up and having a way for the driver to locate a passenger in a place with mass amounts of foot traffic.