Sunday, May 2, 2010

Leaving Las Vegas

This was previously posted on on or before 2008-01-10:

With the Nevada primary election for the 2008 Presidency less than a week away, there is one acute issue that every tourist notices in Las Vegas: The nightmarish cab and transportation situation.

Aside from a very limited monorail and some very sparse buses, the only mechanized way to move around Las Vegas is by cab. The cab lines are very long, and the price is approximately 2x compared to Manhattan. In other words, a consumer disaster.

It is also an environmental problem, for all the obvious reasons.

Las Vegas has over 150,000 hotel rooms, and the occupancy rate has been very high in recent years. This means there are probably over 200,000 tourists in LV on any given day. I estimate that each tourist takes 3 cab rides per person on average, per day. That's 600,000 cab rides. At an average fare of $15, that's $9 million per day in cab fares.

Each person waits in a cab line at least 10 minutes on average. That's 2 million person-minutes per day wasted standing in line, or 33,333 hours. At an hourly price of time of $20/hour, that's a cost of $666,666 per day. Even for a big city, that's a lot of waste. Of course, there is also a cost to the environment in the form of pollution.

The solution to this problem is of course simple: Build more Monorail and/or subway. Obviously, there should be a monorail right on the strip (Las Vegas Blvd) and/or a subway under it. There should also be something equivalent right under or behind the hotels on the West side. All of them should connect to the airport - how obvious!

Such a subway/monorail system would eliminate over 90% of the cab use by tourists. At conventions, people would get to/from meetings faster. Las Vegas would be a much more attractive place to visit. Conventions would flock to Vegas, instead of seeking to leave to cities with other attractive features.

So why hasn't this obvious improvement not happened? I don't know for sure, but the only plausible explanation points in the direction of a taxicab mafia of sorts. Taxis are the the only class benefiting from this inefficient transport system, whereas everyone else loses.

So are Obama and Clinton expressing any opinion on this subject? Are they in favor of reducing pollution and cheaper consumer prices? Are they willing to take on the taxicab union?

You guessed it. Of course not. Why try to offend something as important as the taxicab union? By the way, if you don't dare offending the taxicab union in Las Vegas, how will you take on Bin Laden?

I guess the Clinton/Obama solution to the transport congestion in Las Vegas is a much more subtle and macroeconomic one. Let's just raise everyone's taxes just enough to reduce people's propensity to travel to Las Vegas to begin with! Then the cab lines will be a little shorter - wait 5 minutes instead of 10. Then we can make this great shift of healthcare expenses from the individual's pocket to the government's pocket.

But wait - fewer people engaging in commerce, fewer business travelers, fewer tourists.... What happens to tax receipts? Ouch...

At least Romney/Giuliani/McCain/Huckabee/Thompson have a different recipe: Don't raise taxes, but rather prevent the unions from creating sensible and environmentally friendly transport solutions - monorails, subways. This would lower prices for consumers, enable people to move around faster, attract more business travelers and dramatically reduce all sorts of pollution, including noise. Unlike a tax hike, a capitalist solution to obvious problems.

I just hope someone makes this a political issue in next week's primary election, or in the November general election. I guess that's too much for which to hope.