Las Vegas Sun

January 19, 2019

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It’s red light, green light for Uber and Lyft

Uber in Las Vegas

Daniel Rothberg / Las Vegas Sun

An Uber driver takes a passenger for a ride Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas.

Uber Activation Center at Hampton Inn

Uber workers welcome and instruct applicants on their next steps through the process at the Uber Activation Center at Hampton Inn Tropicana on Wednesday, September 16, 2015. Launch slideshow »

Brace for surge pricing.

After a year of wrangling, Uber finally is back on the road. And Lyft workers started driving local customers Sept. 15.

We’re a little late to the game — Uber operates in 60 countries and in all but five U.S. states. Nevada has been holding out, much to the confusion of tourists and locals who expect such services. So what took so long?

Wait, wasn’t Uber here already?

Yes. Uber launched in Las Vegas on Oct. 24, 2014.

So what happened?

The launch didn’t last long. Within hours, several Uber drivers in Las Vegas and Reno were fined, and some had their cars impounded. The issue ended up in the courts.

Like in “Law and Order”?

Yes. In Nevada, disruptive offenses are considered especially heinous. In November, a judge banned Uber from operating here, citing risks to public safety and rules violations.

“Why did Uber choose to operate first without regulation?” the judged asked.

So now politicians are involved?

Indeed. Taxicab companies railed against legislative proposals that would have legalized ride-hailing. Nobody likes competition.

About six months later, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed legislation to regulate Uber and Lyft. At the time, lawmakers said the companies planned to start operations July 1.

But I tried to take an Uber in July. I couldn’t get one.

The legislation merely set up a regulatory framework for transportation network companies. The Nevada Transportation Authority, a panel of state regulators, still had to write regulations. You know, for safety. That’s a good thing.

That took all this time?

Well, yeah. In early July, the Nevada Transportation Authority heard public comments on the proposed regulations. In August, transportation officials sent 15 pages of draft rules to the Legislative Commission for approval. Once the commission gave its blessing, Uber and Lyft applied for permits.

After lengthy deliberations, the three-member Nevada Transportation Authority on Sept. 14 signed off on the companies’ applications.

Sounds like that went off without any issues.

Of course it didn’t. Until the very last Transportation Authority meeting on the subject, the taxicab industry opposed the regulations. The rules for ride-hailing did not require drug testing or fingerprint background checks, the cabbies complained.

Their bigger beef: It legalized their competition.

But Clark County officials said Uber and Lyft couldn’t operate without business licenses the county hasn’t created yet. Uber and Lyft essentially just ignored the directive. We’ll see what happens.

So when can I take an Uber to see my Tinder date who ordered PostMates while tweeting about Zappos?

Barring any surprises from the county, you already should be able to. Or you could always take a cab.

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