Any city looking to host conventions for more than 170,000 people, like this month’s Consumer Electronics Show, needs some serious infrastructure and sufficient transportation options.

But until Nevada lawmakers passed a measure last summer legalizing transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft, Las Vegas had balked at the option to jump into the 21st century. The city previously had effectively banned the TNCs, preferring to protect local taxi cartels.

Vegas is a city that should have every incentive to be the nation’s best at providing hospitality, with huge revenues tied to bringing in tourists and convention-goers. Indeed, on top of its multibillion dollar tourism industry, Las Vegas hosted 22,103 conventions last year, bringing in a total of 5,169,054 attendees.

While the regulatory climate for transportation-for-hire in Las Vegas isn’t perfect now, at least it’s no longer one of the nation’s worst. Thanks to the leadership of state legislators, Las Vegas’ score in R Street’s annual Ridescore report moved up 33 points since 2014, bringing it from a D- to a B.

On the ground, the effects are evident. Exactly one year ago on the first day of CES, I witnessed enormous taxi lines with a wait of 45 minutes for a four-mile ride to the stip from McCarran International Airport.


This year, both Uber and Lyft are cleared to offer their service at the airport, bringing 18,000 Uber drivers (plus an unknown number of Lyft drivers) to augment the city’s 3,000 taxis. In other words, we got to skip the line, and go in a more appropriate style to a conference that’s all about innovation.

Looking at the taxi stand this year (also on the first day of CES and around the same time), it’s pretty clear what consumers think. (Although the airport still has some kinks to iron out in how it handles the influx of ridesharing pickups).

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Of course, the danger of being a disrupter is that, sooner or later, someone might disrupt you. As we are reminded by the innovations showcased at CES, autonomous vehicles are coming, and will soon dominate transportation networks. Indeed, both Uber and Lyft have inked deals to develop this technology. On this front, as my colleague Ian Adams writes, Nevada deserves great credit for getting it right in many areas where other states, like California, are getting it wrong.

At a CES in the not-too-distant future, I’ll likely revisit this post, having taken a self-driving car from the airport to my hotel, and marvel at the days when people used to wait in line at taxi stands.

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