My wife and I were recently pulled over in a cab on our way home from the airport. The driver was just veering toward the connector tunnel when Nevada Taxicab Authority enforcement flagged him down and asked him where he was headed. The stop was part of an NTA crackdown on long hauling, the old pocket-lining trick of taking passengers the long way home.
Valley taxi companies took an estimated 27 million trips last year, and Taxicab Authority administrator Charles Harvey realizes that he can’t eliminate long hauling. But he is using a variety of more aggressive methods to fight it, including posing as a passenger himself as part of undercover operations and recently implementing a bike patrol so investigators can monitor areas they couldn’t previously.
“I noticed that we have the same problems now that we’ve had since [the NTA] started in 1969,” Harvey says. “And so I decided because we are understaffed and kind of outmanned, we have to look at this creatively and do things differently. And I didn’t want to put Band-Aids on problems anymore.”
The NTA also has gotten tougher on drivers caught long hauling, seeking the maximum penalty for violations, which Harvey says was not the norm when he took over. Penalties are $100 for the first offense, and subsequent violations bring a mandatory administrative court appearance, a three-day suspension and a $200 fine. If problems persist, a driver’s permit is revoked. Harvey keeps the checks as random as possible so cabbies don’t see them coming, especially with smartphones making it easy to warn peers of any potential stings. And he believes taxi drivers are starting to get the message.
As for my cabbie? He was headed in the right direction. I had already made sure of that.