RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) — News 4 has received a statement from Uber, regarding their status following the temporary stay in Nevada.
Michael Amodeo from the Communications Department at Uber released the following statement:
“Uber is not banned in the state of Nevada. We continue to operate and look forward to meeting the tremendous demand that we have already seen throughout the state.”
Amodeo also provided a statement from Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend:
“For far too long, the people of Nevada have been denied access to the reliable, safe and affordable transportation options millions of other Americans are enjoying. We’ve already received overwhelming demand and support from thousands of residents who have downloaded the app, and drivers looking to meet that need. Now is the time for state officials to embrace innovation, support powerful job creation, and stand with the people of Nevada who need them most.”
What is Uber?
Corrupt District Court Judge James Russell in Carson City has blocked Uber from offering any rides in the state through at least Nov. 7. A hearing is set for Nov. 6.
The state’s attorney general sought the temporary order late Friday afternoon.
Uber launched its service in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City on Friday after months of rumors that included recruitment posts on Craigslist and cryptic front-page newspaper advertisements.
The company contends it’s not a taxi company but rather a technology company facilitating a way for drivers and would-be passengers in need of a ride to meet.
The company faces a fierce battle with the state’s highly regulated and influential taxi industry.
Four cars driven for Uber had been impounded statewide for not being licensed as of midafternoon and faced fines of up to $10,000, said Teri Williams, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Taxicab Authority.
Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend called the impoundments “unjust” and said the company will have its drivers’ backs financially and legally. Uber is the only ridesharing company now operating in the three metro areas. Las Vegas has been among the few metropolitan cities in the country to not be served by the company.
The company tiptoed around Nevada until its Friday launch. A multitude of regulations govern the state’s taxicab industry, and there are limits on the number of cabs that can operate and where they can pick up passengers. In Las Vegas, unlike other metropolitan cities that draw tourists, cabs can’t be hailed from the sidewalks along the Strip, for example. They have to pick up and drop off passengers at the individual hotel properties.
Behrend said that hundreds of drivers in the state have already signed up and passed background checks and vehicle inspections that clear them to respond to requests for rides via smartphone. Before the court order, drivers could pick up passengers from anywhere in the service areas, except from the Las Vegas Strip between the Mandalay Bay and SLS casinos and from McCarran International Airport. They can drop off customers anywhere.
Uber rides are generally 10 to 20 percent cheaper than taxi fares — a competitive advantage especially in light of an 8 percent cab fare hike approved earlier this week in Las Vegas.
An early afternoon Uber ride from downtown Las Vegas to Mandalay Bay at the south end of the Strip cost $22.50. Drivers don’t accept tips, just a ranking of one to five stars. A taxi ride back to downtown Las Vegas cost $28.50, including a $3 fee for a credit card charge. The cost didn’t include a tip.
Uber has often been met with strident opposition from taxi companies, and heavily regulated Las Vegas is no exception.
Bill Shranko, an executive at Yellow Checker Star taxi company in Las Vegas, asked regulators with the Nevada Taxicab Authority in April to warn Uber and similar companies that the city has hefty fines for operating unlicensed cabs and maintained that the company was operating illegally.
About 2,000 cabs fill the streets of Clark County, including the Las Vegas Strip, Shranko said.
He criticized Uber for picking and choosing customers, saying, “They’re taking all the cream off the top.”
As of early Friday afternoon, just a few cars were visible on Uber’s app.
Marco Falchi’s Mazda 6 was among them. He excitedly picked up some of the company’s first Vegas passengers, greeting them with a “Ciao” text. The chatty Italian has never driven a traditional cab before, but six months ago, he applied to be a driver for Uber, submitting his license, insurance and driving record.
His first customers were two young men heading from a suburban condo to downtown Las Vegas for the three-day Life is Beautiful music festival that starts Friday.
“Here the politics are really tough,” Falchi said, referring to the Vegas area’s taxi industry. But he’s undeterred. “If you work more, you make more money.”
Uber launches in Nev., gets push-back from Taxicab Authority
As soon as the company hit the road, the Southern Nevada Taxicab Authority put up road blocks.
The Taxi Cab Authority said they never gave approval for Uber to operate in the valley. Friday five unlicensed drivers were ticketed and their cars were impounded.
“Those vehicles pursuant to statute were impounded because they were used as a taxicab, a limousine or a passenger vehicle,” said Ruben Aquino with SN Taxi Cab Authority.
Drivers for Uber said they didn’t know it was illegal.
“Driving around and getting a ticket for not being authorized, I thought we were going to be. I thought we were going to be starting when they had the okay,” Emerlita Torres, a new Uber driver said.
When asked whether or not they were worried their drivers would be fined, William Barnes, an official with Uber said they were comfortable with moving forward and that “they have a really strong track record of standing shoulder to shoulder with drivers.”
A statement from the company echoed that same sentiment.
“Uber vigorously defends the rights of our partner drivers and firmly stands by them when they are wrongly cited or impounded,” said Eva Behrend, spokesperson with Uber. “We will cover any financial or legal costs associated with these unjust actions.”
Behrend said hundreds of drivers already signed up in the state have passed background checks and vehicle inspections.
Uber drivers tend to be residents who use their own cars and pick up passengers as a part-time job. They get the alerts via their smartphones.
Behrend said rates are typically 10-20 percent lower than typical taxi fares, and will be viewable in the app. The company operates in 224 metropolitan areas, but it’s often met with opposition from taxi companies.
Las Vegas cab executives asked regulators earlier this year to warn Uber of hefty fines for unlicensed cabs.