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PAHRUMP, Nev. -- A fight between senators in Washington, D.C., could resurrect the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear storage project in Nye County. Nye County leaders met Tuesday to support the openingMore>>
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Tuesday, June 18 2013 10:49 PM EDT2013-06-19 02:49:28 GMT
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Tuesday, June 18 2013 5:26 PM EDT2013-06-18 21:26:50 GMT
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Tuesday, June 18 2013 3:33 PM EDT2013-06-18 19:33:34 GMT
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LAS VEGAS -- The Nevada Taxicab Authority is being more proactive on cracking down on the long-hauling of taxi passengers.
According to the authority, passenger complaints are down but citations of taxi drivers have increased.
The authority wrote just three long-hauling citations in May. In August, the number of citations issued increased to 58.
And in the past three months, the authority has written 155 long-haul citations, almost double the 89 written all of last year.
For the third year in a row, the I-Team jumped into cabs to find out if the crackdown is working.
Entering a taxi at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, I-Team Chief Photojournalist Matt Adams told the driver to take him to Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. Nellis Cab driver Muhammed Hashem didn't say a word before heading right for the airport connector tunnel to Interstate 15, driving as if a pack of wolves was on his tail.
Without asking which route Adams preferred, Hashem headed for the tunnel, the longer route. The route takes passengers south, then west, before heading north to the Strip. A ride that should have cost $15 to $19 on surface streets instead cost Adams almost $28. By not asking his passenger for permission to take an indirect route, the driver violated state law.
A second ride from the airport -- this time to the Excalibur on the southern end of the Strip -- driver Solomon Birara of Virgin Valley Cab asked his passenger about the route.
"You want to go the freeway?" he asked.
"I want whichever way costs the least, I guess," the passenger replied.
Birara immediately ignored his passenger's wishes and took the longer, more expensive tunnel route, a ride that should cost as little as $13 instead cost the passenger almost $22.
Every day, every night, Las Vegas visitors and residents get ripped off by being long-hauled. By some estimates, more than half of all taxi rides from the airport are long-hauls, meaning tourists are robbed of millions each year.
"Paul" visits Las Vegas three to four times each year, and knew he was being long-hauled during his most recent trip.
"'You are going the long way around,'" Paul said of his conversation with the taxi driver. "'Oh no,' he says, ‘this is going to be real fast.' It wasn't."
Paul said the driver didn't ask him beforehand which route he preferred.
"I told him where we wanted to go (and) we got in the car and he took off," Paul said.
After years of all but nonexistent enforcement of long-hauling rules, the taxicab authority is finally cracking down.
An officer at the airport is overheard informing a passenger,"If you go through that tunnel, it will cost you more, OK?"
The authority launched a series of airport checkpoints in June and has since been taking its own undercover rides. Even after warning that checkpoints were coming, the authority found many drivers who didn't seem to have a clue that taking the long way is wrong.
For now, Taxicab Authority Administrator Charles Harvey seems to be making good on the promises he made when appointed to the job a year ago.
"Drivers make a conscious choice to take a route to take customers to their destination," he said.
He said he doesn't believe that taxi company owners are encouraging their drivers to take the long way to a destination.
"I've been in this position for a year now and have seen no evidence to support that," Harvey said.
In two years of taking undercover rides, the I-Team never had a single driver who did the right thing. More than a dozen rides and every one went to the tunnel with no discussion.
However, of the six rides we took for this report, cab drivers Hashem and Birara were the only offenders. Four other drivers played by the rules and our raw count of cabs going from the airport into the tunnel dropped from half to about one-third.
The number of complaints doubled during the first year Harvey was boss, and since he made curbing long-hauling a priority, the numbers have dropped, meaning drivers and their employers seem to be getting the message. But, Harvey said, the only way to put a long-term dent in it is for the public to file formal complaints when they get long-hauled.
"I know it is somewhat time-intensive, but in most cases, we can recover their money and make sure drivers are held accountable for their actions," Harvey said.
The requirement that passengers testify in a proceeding after filing a long-hauling complaint is a weakness in the system because most victims are visitors and don't want to return just because of $5 or $10. Even for Las Vegas residents, the process can mean taking time away from work.
But the complaint process does work. This reporter recently filed a complaint after being long-hauled. The driver was found to have committed four violations and was fined more than $400.