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Can Cowboy Cabbies and Uber Farmers Be Friends?

One thing the Nevada Legislature is brutally effective at is making a bad situation worse. Such was the case last year when the Carson City conclave gathered their collective intellects to legalize “ride-sharing” operations.

Market forces and consumer demand made legal ride-sharing inevitable. But in passing the “Uber bill” our elected officials created a system whereby all ride-for-hire companies are created equal, but some are more equal than others.

Anyone who has ever stood on a Washington, D.C. street corner in the rain or snow trying desperately to hail a cab by doing a one-man “wave” understands the all-but-irresistable allure of using your smart-phone and a ride-sharing app to get from Point A to Point B.

But that doesn’t make taxicabs obsolete or unnecessary. So we’re gonna have to find a way for both to co-exist. It’s kinda like the song from “Oklahoma” declaring that “the farmer and the cowboy should be friends.”

For that to occur, however, it is incumbent upon elected officials next session to reach some level of regulatory parity between the two competing platforms.

Which, from a free-market conservative perspective, means deregulating the taxi industry as opposed to shackling the ride-sharing industry.

In fact, a study released this summer conducted by Michael Farren and Christopher Koopman of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University concluded that “taxi regulation was outdated.”

But if next year’s Legislature can’t screw up the nerve and common sense to deregulate the taxicab industry to some extent, then at the very least, some legitimate concerns related to comparative fairness need to be addressed. Here are just three quick examples …

Taxicab drivers are required to undergo FBI background checks. Uber and Lyft drivers are subjected to far less stringent background checks. Either both should get FBI checks or neither.

Taxi drivers are required to obtain a separate Taxicab Authority permit and take a test to prove that he or she “can read and orally communicate in the English language.” There’s no such requirement for ride-sharing drivers. We should apply this to both or apply it to neither.

If a taxicab inspection – mandated quarterly – reveals a burnt-out bulb or the vehicle’s “check engine” light is on, that vehicle is yanked off the street until the hazard is fixed.

No such safety inspections of ride-sharing vehicles are conducted whatsoever. Again, apply to both or apply to neither.

Ride-sharing is here to stay – at least until teleportation is perfected.

So it’s only right that the 2017 Nevada Legislature look at how to level the playing field that the 2015 Nevada Legislature left so unbalanced so all parties are competing fairly and the government isn’t picking winners and losers in the passenger ground transportation industry.

So let it be written; so let it be done.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach and publisher of NevadaNewsandViews.com

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