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Las Vegas cabbies overcharged tourists $15 million, audit says

April 23, 2013|By John M. Glionna
  • Tourists approach a taxi stand last month.
Tourists approach a taxi stand last month. (Julie Jacobson, Associated…)

LAS VEGAS — A Nevada state audit of practices by Clark County cab drivers has given new meaning to the term “being taken for a ride” — to the tune of nearly $15 million.

Under scrutiny was a practice known here as “long hauling,” in which drivers take an extended route by freeway to the Strip from McCarran International Airport, when local streets could cut both the time and the cost. The practice added an average of $10 to each fare.

A report by the legislative auditor, released Monday, found that in 2012 cabbies running up the meter by taking the scenic route to and from the airport cost nearly 1.5 million fares an estimated $14.8 million.

Auditors warned the Nevada Taxicab Authority to crack down on the practice, which accounted for 614, or 22.5%, of the 2,730 airport trips that auditors reviewed.

Those weren’t good odds: Nearly 1 in 4 tourists was being bilked by their cabbies.

“Taxicab trips are often the first and last experience tourists have in Las Vegas,” auditors wrote. “Therefore, long-hauling may result in tourists having a negative experience.”

State auditors acknowledged that the Nevada Taxicab Authority has tried to combat the problem, but said that more needs to be done, including putting signage at the airport warning of long-hauling and noting the average fare to each casino.

A statement from authority Administrator Charles Harvey said, “The Taxicab Authority accepts the audit recommendations … and will put measures in place to address those findings.”

Teri Williams, a spokeswoman for the authority, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency received 423 customer complaints over long-hauling last year. She said additional complaints may  have come to individual companies.

Regulators said the cab fare to the airport from downtown Las Vegas should run between $22 and $27 and one from the south end of the Strip should be between $12 and $17.

A bill to require cab companies to establish flat rates failed in the Legislature in 2012.

Auditors added that 600 driver trip sheets they reviewed didn't have the proper time stamps that would ensure drivers weren't working too many hours and taking to the roads while fatigued.

john.glionna@latimes.com

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