Integrity: There’s an app for that

Taxi monitoring software would cut down on long-hauling, but can it be approved?

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

There are about a dozen good reasons the Nevada Taxicab Authority should adopt Frias Transportation Infrastructure’s RideIntegrity taxi monitoring software to help regulate the taxi industry.

But there are a handful of reasons why it won’t.

RideIntegrity uses GPS tracking to enable its operator to monitor the movement of vehicles in real time and store trip movements in a database.

The authority and its staff have seen demonstrations of the system, and the five-member board will consider how it would conduct a pilot program on some cabs operating in Clark County.

If the RideIntegrity experiment works as promised, it could be used as a tool to gather evidence that could be used to prosecute drivers who illegally long-haul cab customers.

The reasons for having it in place are obvious. It would result in an anticipated reduction in long-hauling, a complaint that’s high on the list among tourists. It would enable the Taxicab Authority administrator to redirect a small staff of regulatory agents to other tasks. It would help drum out drivers habitually guilty of long-hauling.

But I’m skeptical the system would ever become operational. Here’s why:

• The cost. Frias Transportation Infrastructure has never publicly stated how much it has invested in the development of RideIntegrity, but CEO Mark James has said that it is millions of dollars. In order to recoup that investment, he has suggested adding a minimal fee to each taxi transaction. Would the Taxicab Authority have the appetite to lead the charge for a new fee to pay for RideIntegrity?

If a 10-cent charge was added to every taxi ride, it could raise more than $2.7 million a year based on the number of Southern Nevada taxi rides that occurred in 2012. But it’s a lengthy process that may need legislative support to get off the ground.

• Privacy issues. Imagine the uproar that would occur among drivers over a system capable of tracking their every move. Why is this cab spending so much time at the strip club? Or at Starbucks? Big Brother, indeed, is watching.

• The Frias connection. While taxi companies often work together on matters like securing additional cabs for well-attended events like next month’s NASCAR race and the Consumer Electronics Show, they’re vigorous competitors. James has made every effort to separate his technology company from his cab company, but competitors won’t want to see the Frias group get any kind of a competitive advantage and some will undoubtedly perceive RideIntegrity as an advantage to Frias.

• Other needs. The Taxicab Authority is undermanned and underfunded. Would the authority board lobby for a high-tech regulatory solution when the agency is in dire need of more enforcement officers, new cars and simple office software upgrades?

Does the Taxicab Authority really want to address long-hauling? Conspiracy theorists have long believed that the regulators turn a blind eye toward long-hauling.

If RideIntegrity isn’t adopted, count on them to accuse it of being soft on the cab companies even if the cost, the privacy issues or other needs are the reason it isn’t adopted.

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