It is estimated that 150,000 participants will flock to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year. CES is a citywide forum for the introduction of novel electronics. Large producers and small start-ups vie for attention in a carefully cultivated party atmosphere, populated by a crowd of inventors, investors and innovators at the forefront of the ongoing digitalization of society.

And yet, they are forced to party like it’s 2009. One map explains why:


It was in 2009 that transportation network companies first burst onto the market, giving consumers an array of conveyance options they have since come to expect.

Las Vegas is in the midst of a showdown with the TNCs. For the moment, entrenched interests have the upper hand and have forced Uber, Lyft and other services to cease operation in the city, pending the resolution of open legal questions. The result of this showdown is that conference participants deplane from their flights, collect their badges and walk directly into…a cab line that would call upon patience possessed not even by the mythical Penelope, wife of Odysseus.

The line at McCarran Airport is, by now, infamous. A 45-minute wait for a four-mile-long ride suggests that there must be a better way. Yet the state insists, for “our own good,” there is not.


Seated in a Las Vegas cab, CES participants bound for conference venues are treated to the sort of world-class service that one can expect from a monopolistic cabal. The fare tracker displays a number that ultimately has no relationship with the final price of the trip, as a needless credit card up-charge is assessed at the trip’s end. Ultimately, the cost of a participant’s journey will rival the operating expense of a sophisticated battle tank traveling a comparable distance.

This Las Vegas taxi fare estimator builds in conservative assumptions about traffic and tip on a trip from McCarran Airport to the Strip. For comparison, consider that, using UberX, a much longer trip from the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington to Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Va. would cost significantly less.

A CES participant who wishes to get from one side of Las Vegas to the other encounters similar service and similar expenses. To them, I commend a relationship with a higher power that can aide in making sense of the cost of traveling an entire mile or two.

If CES is about the future, it is not without a healthy amount of irony that regulatory inertia should define the way that its participants get about. Las Vegas scores at the very bottom of R Street’s recently completed study of transportation for hire markets. It’s no wonder why.

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