As the relaxed COVID-19 restrictions allow more people to reach the city, a drop in the number of drivers in Las Vegas has frustrated visitors and local residents trying to drive via Uber or Lyft.
Many have complained on social media about long waits for rides or cancellations due to fewer drivers available.
“@Uber and @lyft, what happened to you brothers?” Twitter user CurtiMart wrote on March 26th. “I have to call a taxi because you basically don’t exist in Las Vegas? Sad day.”
State data shows the number of active drivers in Nevada is less than half the number a year ago. As of March 30, there were 13,723 active drivers nationwide, compared to 36,482 the state reported on March 13, 2020.
The numbers for February show that little has changed from month to month, with 13,759 active drivers on the transport network reported by the state, including 7,751 Uber drivers and 6,068 Lyft operators. This is a decrease of 62 percent from 36,608 active drivers in February 2020.
The only comparable decline was seen in July 2018, when the number of active drivers in the state fell from over 80,000 to just under 40,000 after Uber changed its policy to require annual driver background checks.
“Right now, it’s common across the country for drivers not to actively participate (before the pandemic),” said David Newton, agent for the Nevada Transportation Authority.
There’s no concrete evidence, but Newton suggests the decline could be related to some drivers opting for unemployment benefits.
“Unemployment benefits may actually exceed what you could currently earn as a driver with the tourism numbers you’re on,” Newton said.
“I’m not sure, but that definitely seems logical.”
According to Lyft, an important factor is that despite increasing demand, motorists cannot raise prices because the state does not allow the practice in emergencies.
A company representative said that “dynamic pricing” provides incentives for drivers to travel to areas of increased demand. But since Nevada is in a state of emergency because of the pandemic, this is not an option.
“We’re seeing a sharp surge in ride demand as vaccines roll out and people prepare to get moving again,” a Lyft spokesman said in a statement. “We’re working hard to meet the demand. However, due to the state of emergency and regulations in Nevada that prevent transportation companies from providing incentives for drivers, it is affecting the driving experience and driver income. “
Senate Bill 279, which entered Legislature March 18, would deprive the transportation authority of setting a maximum price that hail shipping companies can charge in an emergency, with the increased fees going straight to drivers if passed.
Uber officials did not respond to requests for comments on the driver shortage.
In downtown Las Vegas, the city opened a parking garage for Uber drivers to pick up and drop off passengers. However, city spokeswoman Natasha Shahani said only about 250 drivers have signed up to use the garage since it opened before St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
Circa Resort’s Garage Mahal reported an increase in customers complaining about waiting times and cancellations for Uber and Lyft pickups. This frustration sometimes leads Circa’s employees to be blamed.
“Recently, Garage Mahal has seen longer waiting times to check out, especially on peak days Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday due to a lack of taxis and Ubers,” said Danny Suy, Valet Lead at Circa. “We try to accommodate the guests by going out on the street to find taxis and calling the taxi companies. When using Uber the waiting times are longer (than usual) and guests are frustrated with our team where we have no control over the taxis or the Ubers and the waiting times. “