Authorities trying new ways to curb taxicab long-hauling
29 June 2012
- Taxicab Authority checkpoints to crack down on long-hauling (6-6-2012)
- Five steps to quickly fix Las Vegas’ taxi debacle (5-23-2011)
- How should taxi long-hauling be enforced? (5-16-2011)
- Taxicab Authority plays fast and loose with open meeting law in administrator pick (4-18-2011)
- Cab fares going up as result of increased gas prices (4-6-2011)
- Long ride to Bellagio sparked taxicab long-haul battle (7-23-2010)
- Taxi industry opposes proposal for flat rates (7-14-2010)
With the long-hauling of unsuspecting taxi customers still running rampant, enforcement officers with the Nevada Taxicab Authority have begun new tactics to stop the illegal practice.
Ruben Aquino, chief investigator for the state agency that regulates Clark County’s 16 cab companies, said there would be random enforcement checkpoints and undercover stings to discourage cabdrivers from taking their passengers on long routes that result in higher fares.
Most local long-hauling incidents involve trips from McCarran International Airport to resorts on the Las Vegas Strip via the tunnel beneath the airport’s east-west runways, which can increase a fare by $10-$20.
Aquino said after two days of well-publicized administrative checkpoints in early June in which officers had electronic sign boards marking their location, the Taxicab Authority is ready to nab long-haulers without warning.
“We thought it was only fair to all the drivers to thoroughly explain what we’re doing so that everybody would understand before we start citing drivers,” Aquino said.
The Taxicab Authority announced plans for a proactive awareness checkpoint June 6. At that event, cabs leaving McCarran were flagged and briefed about the authority cracking down on violators.
Two days later, the agency had a second checkpoint and cited drivers who were long-hauling.
“The way we were set up, we had a good view of where drivers had to make a choice between going the shorter route or going through the tunnel,” Aquino said. “Some of them slowed down, like they were thinking about whether they wanted to go that way or not. Some even backed up and went the right way.”
Drivers who took the tunnel route were stopped and investigators interviewed the driver and the passenger to determine whether they were about to be long-hauled or if the driver was directed by the passenger to take the longer route.
Under authority regulations, a driver can transport a passenger a longer and possibly faster route if directed by the passenger. But that go-ahead has to be authorized in advance.
On the first day of the enforcement awareness, officers stopped drivers for four hours and had 80 contacts with drivers within the first hour. On the second day, the authority issued 17 long-hauling citations.
“Several of the passengers in those cabs signed affidavits for us to prosecute the offenders,” Aquino said.
Aquino said the authority also is stepping up the use of undercover officers taking rides from the airport to catch long-haulers.
“We use officers in plain clothes taking rides to various locations on the Strip, often on Fridays and Saturdays during the busiest times at the airport,” he said. “One of our officers took nine rides and issued three citations. Another took 11 rides and issued four. Even though we caught a few, I don’t like those numbers. One long-haul in three rides is still too many. We need to change the culture.”
The Taxicab Authority is hiring more enforcement officers and occasionally will operate double shifts to step up enforcement efforts.
In a bid to increase enforcement, Taxicab Authority Administrator Charles Harvey also ordered there be no settlements on long-hauling cases and to seek maximum penalties in the Taxicab Authority’s administrative court. Under current regulations, a driver found guilty of long-hauling passengers is assessed a $100 fine. A second offense merits a $200 fine and between one and three days of suspension from the job.
Punishment escalates with each offense. The fifth offense is a $500 fine and a license revocation. The Taxicab Authority also is looking into prosecutions in Clark County Justice Court, which could impose harsher penalties.
Harvey said the authority also is looking into posting charts in every cab that lists the approximate cost of a ride from the airport to various locations on the Strip to keep cabdrivers honest.
Cabdriver Stephen Lenett, a driver with Whittlesea Blue-Henderson Taxi and a longtime critic of long-hauling drivers, said it’s too early to tell whether the Taxicab Authority’s new efforts have worked.
“I haven’t heard of any (drivers) who have gotten stopped for it recently,” Lenett said. “But I think some companies’ drivers are using the tunnel less.”
Some critics have suggested that regulations be amended to include punishments against cab company owners as well as the drivers to provide an extra deterrent.
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