Why Vegas NEEDS Uber

I’ve been at the airport for the last 20 minutes and I’m still shaking from the cab ride from downtown Vegas to LAS. When my friend and co-worker (who lives in Vegas) told me there was no Uber, I was kind of shocked. But I figured, “Hey, they have more taxis than they know what to do with so I didn't need to rent a car. I can just get a cab.”  

When I arrived last Sunday I went straight to the taxi line and got a cab from the airport fairly quickly. The cab was clean, air conditioned and the driver was a really nice guy.  

During my stay I didn't need a cab since I was downtown. Everything I needed was within walking distance. When I did need a ride, my friends would pick me up and drive us to a coworking space where we would, well you know, work. The week went by like a blur and we got a lot done. Overall, a successful business trip in Sin City.  

What could possibly go wrong on the trip back to the airport, or trips around Vegas?

How about taxi service with wildly fluctuating rates for the same distance, taxi lines that take forever to navigate (and that only valets can “magically” expedite) and varying levels of driver pleasantness and car cleanliness? And if you do ultimately have a problem, no real recourse?

Let me back up to give you some background — last night (Friday) I wanted to get out of DTLV for a few hours and meet up with a good friend of mine who happened to be in Vegas. He was staying at the Southpoint Hotel and Casino, which was 13.3 miles away.  

When I arrived, the price of the fare including tip came out to $50 and change, or about $3.50 per mile. It seemed like a lot to me, but I couldn't really complain. I got from point A to point B without any hassles.

After playing Texas Hold 'Em for a few hours, I headed back downtown. I went to the taxi line and waited. And waited. And waited. After 10 minutes I was getting antsy and vented on Twitter.

Another seven minutes goes by and still no taxi in sight. Not to mention there were two people in line ahead of me. So I called a cab. I found a service with 3 stars and lucky me and someone picked up immediately! I told them where I was and they replied, "Sorry sir, we can't send a cab to hotels. You need to just wait until they arrive."


I hung up the phone and walked over to the valet station and asked if he could call us some cabs, since there were multiple parties waiting. He got on the phone and made a call; three SUV taxis magically arrived before he hung up.  

When I got into the cab, the driver was a jolly guy all around. There’s not a lot of traffic at 2 am, so he got me back to downtown Vegas quickly. This time the fare was $15 dollars cheaper, which was cool.

I woke up this morning, packed my shit and went to the valet to get a cab to the airport.  The car that came looked really beat up but I really didn't care. The inside is what counts (for me anyway).  

I got in, and the first thing I saw was a beer bottle.  Kind of gross but hey, it's Vegas! I start to roll down the window before we left because the car was balls hot. Why? The AC wasn't running. But hey… it’s Vegas?

The guy turned around and asked, "Where you headed?" I told him, "Airport, please," and we were on our way. That’s when I noticed what I’d literally gotten myself into.

I looked around in the cab and I was disgusted. I’ll let these pictures do the talking:

Now comes the best part. We arrive at the airport, I gave him my credit card and he said, "This is a cash only taxi.” I thought he was kidding because he was smiling...then I realized he wasn't kidding.

“How am I suppose to pay you?" I asked. He replied, avoiding the question: "I can give you a receipt."


Clearly he saw that I had some cash (thank you poker gods!). I give him the $30.50 and got the hell out as quickly as I could.

Now, before you start making assumptions — such as that I work for Uber (I don't, I'm just a loyal customer and brand advocate) — hear me out:

  • I know this is a first world problem, but I live in a first world country and uberX is how I get around in Los Angeles when I can't take public transportation.

  • I am not rich by any means. I work hard and make enough money to expect a good customer experience and good customer service. I have had a bad experience with Uber. But when I gave a negative review, they quickly gave me a service credit and stated the driver was new to the area (DTLA is full of one way streets) and the ride was on them. This was unexpected, and I didn’t expect anything from them.

  • I have nothing against the taxi industry. In LA they are actually innovating the cab ride experience to keep Uber and others from taking over their market share. If uberX is not available, I just open up TaxiMagic and have an uberX-like experience. But there’s no alternatives in Vegas.

So what the hell is your problem princess?

The problem is that I don't have a choice. The Nevada Taxicab Authority can get away with pretty much whatever they want.

Got a complaint? Don't worry, you can call customer service, wait on hold and leave a message that will most likely not get returned. Bottom line: there is no accountability or competition to change anything.

So why does Vegas need Uber?

If you don't know, the city of Las Vegas is not doing too well. While Las Vegas ranked No. 3 in employment growth in the first quarter of this year, it's still 6 percent below the city’s total number of peak jobs. Will allowing Uber to operate in Nevada increase job growth? Maybe a little, but it still won't be a silver bullet by any means.

I strongly believe that Vegas needs Uber is because their economy primarily relies on tourists to spend money on gaming and entertainment. While Tony Hsieh has done amazing things to help revitalize downtown Las Vegas, the casinos and the strip are what fuels the local economy. Six out of the ten largest employers in Nevada are casinos, while the other four are government jobs. (There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m just stating the facts.)

If their economy heavily relies on tourist spending money on entertainment and gaming, and if they have a shitty experience getting from place to place, why would they come back? There are other places in the country, and the world, that have legal gaming. You know like Atlantic City…

I am probably in a very small minority of tourists who knows or cares what Uber is or does. However, I won't be visiting Vegas unless I need to for business. I don't find any pleasure in having a shitty experience and I avoid them at all cost.

Uber doesn't need Vegas, Vegas NEEDS Uber.

P.S. I optimized the images the best I could with ImageOptim but since they are on S3 and not a CDN they might load slow.