Friday, Oct. 30, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Mr. Sun, Why don’t Las Vegas taxicabs operate in fare zones near the Strip rather than offering metered rides? And why don’t they offer flat-fare trips to the airport? It seems this would do away with long-hauling and “meter abuse.” Shine some light for me, Mr. Sun. — Eric
New York City’s cabs have meters, but for trips to the airports, passengers pay flat fees — Manhattan to JFK, $45 — eliminating any temptation drivers may have to take longer-than-necessary routes.
Until last year, Washington, D.C., bucked the big city allegiance to meters and based prices on a quirky zone-fare system in which fees varied in concentric circles emanating from downtown.
Local regulators and industry types argue that meters — though not without problems, the most obvious of which is long-hauling between the airport and Strip — are a better deal for passengers and drivers.
Taxicab Authority Administrator Gordon Walker said setting flat fees for trips to McCarran would cheat drivers, most of whom pay part of the fuel bill, out of compensation for time and money spent idling. (Meters add 20 cents for every 24 seconds the vehicle is idling.)
Cab rides in Las Vegas are on average shorter than in most big cities. And some cite that statistic to argue that zone fares would likewise cheat passengers. A study before Washington, D.C.’s recent move to metered cabs found that customers traveling fewer than four miles saved money with a meter versus a zone fare.
Bill Shranko, chief operating officer of the Yellow, Checker and Star cab companies, said the simplicity of the meter — no one needs to understand a zone system or know what the flat airport rate is — protects customers.
“No matter what cab you get into, you know you’re going to pay the exact same fare. If you went to different rates and flat rates, there would be more opportunity to deceive the public.”
A meter might have prevented the scene of Yuletide cheer that Mr. Sun witnessed one Christmas morning at the Newark Airport, when a limo driver and his passenger found themselves in disagreement over the cost of the trip.
The driver attempted to resolve matters by holding the passenger’s luggage hostage in his trunk. The passenger retaliated by attempting to kick in one of the limo’s windows and, when that failed, pull the driver’s radio out of the vehicle by the handset.
Questions for Mr. Sun should be sent to [email protected].