How ride hailing could transform Vegas over the long haul | Crain's Las Vegas

How ride hailing could transform Vegas over the long haul

Travelers wait for a ride at a Uber/Lyft departure stand. | Flickr photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Ride hailing is the new normal in Las Vegas. Across the Strip, lines for Uber and Lyft are occasionally longer than for taxis. And their foothold is likely to increase as locals and tourists from Southern California adjust their plans to consider costly new paid parking at many Strip casinos.

Between June and September 2016, roughly 11,000 Las Vegas-area residents had driven at least one trip for Uber alone, according to the company.

We know the likely effect – a slow erosion of market share for the taxi industry and public transportation sector. According to the Nevada Taxicab Authority, taxi trips declined 19.2 percent from November 2015 to November 2016. Ridership aboard the Deuce and the Strip & Downtown Express bus lines dipped more than 17 percent between March and August 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, according to Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. Uber and Lyft began operating in the state in September 2015.

Yet despite the preference millennials show for ride-hailing services' lower cost and features such as driver and passenger rating, experts say there will always be a need for taxis and public transportation – just less of one as time goes on.

“You will always need public transit – light rail and buses – for the long haul,” said Las Vegas transportation consultant Tom Skancke. “Ride hailing just becomes the new first and last mile.”

Even taxis will have their place, according to a prominent Uber driver.

“You can’t street-hail a taxi on the Strip, but in other cities, you can, and that’s a tremendous convenience,” said Harry Campbell, owner of the Rideshare Guy blog. “But the convenience factor is still here as well. If I walk out of a hotel and see a taxi stand and an Uber stand, a taxi stand is still more convenient because I still have to physically open my Uber app, call for a ride and wait for a response.”

The ways in which this transformation could impact Las Vegas in the long term are legion. Connecting the monorail to McCarran International Airport – a convenience this city has never been able to get due to opposition from cab companies – is suddenly more likely.

“The cabs used to be concerned with the monorail,” Campbell said. “I can guarantee that they probably don’t care about these ancillary services now. They’re much more focused on battling Uber and Lyft.”

But the big changes aren’t coming until Uber and Lyft complete their long game to transition to driverless vehicles, according to Skancke.

“Will we need eight-story parking structures with autonomous vehicles and ride-hailing companies?” he asked. “The answer’s probably 'no.' We need a product like CityLift, out of Oakland, that is movable and electric and doesn’t require a $400 million investment in infrastructure.”

January 10, 2017 - 9:20am