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Uber, Lyft Hit Southern Nevada Roads

Well, it took a while, but ride-hailing companies are finally up and running in Nevada.

Uber and Lyft got on the roads Tuesday after the state approved rules and regulations for the companies.

But, the Clark County Commission still wants the companies to have business licenses to operate, potentially setting up another challenge.

Eva Behrend, a spokesperson for Uber, told KNPR's State of Nevada that so far the business licenses for the drivers are not in place.

"At this time there is no business license for drivers to apply for, and we do not have a brick and mortar [business] at this time in Clark County," she said.

She did say the company has worked with local and state officials for a long time to craft the regulator framework for ride sharing in Nevada. 

Uber originally started rolling last fall, but was almost immediately shutdown by the Taxicab Authority. A court battle followed and eventually the Legislature took up the issue. 

It took several months of back and forth, but a bill was put together, approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor during this year's legislative session. 

Behrend said before the Uber cars started to roll this week, thousands of people had checked the app.

"This was a tourist destination for people around the world -- they're used to using Uber and when they get to Las Vegas, they were surprised when they couldn't use it," she explained.

The company has only been around for five years, but it is operating in 340 cities around the world. 

While ride sharing was trying to get off the ground in Nevada, many in the taxi and limousine industry were strongly opposed to it. 

Behrend said that's an issue of education. 

"A lot of this is us explaining, and our need to educate folks on how ride-sharing works and how it is different from existing models," she said.

She believes cabs, limousines and the other ride-share company that started this week, Lyft, add to the overall competition which is good for drivers and riders.

While ride sharing is up and running, one of the biggest pieces of the transportation pie that is not open to Uber and Lyft, McCarran International Airport, is still up in the air.

Right now, the companies can drop off at the airport, but they cannot pick up. 

Behrend said they're working with the airport and hope to have the permitting process worked out soon and cars headed to and from the airport by early next year.

In a statement after the interview, Behrend told KNPR Uber has set up its system so passengers at McCarran cannot request cars for pick-up, and it has warned drivers they could be cited if they drop off passengers at the airport.

"We remain committed to continuing discussions with the airport and developing a permit for TNC [transportation network company] service at the airport," she said.

Behrend also explained the idea of surge pricing, which she says is not a matter of making more money when cars are more difficult to find, but putting more cars on the road when they're most needed.

"It increases the prices temporarily to encourage drivers to get on the road and go to that location," she said. She explained further that when demand and supply get down to normal levels, the prices also return to base prices, which is 90 cents a mile.

Behrend said there is a lot of excitement for the service in the area, and a high demand by drivers and passengers for the service. She believes the service is filling the need for jobs and the need for more transportation in the valley.

"I think at the end of the day, folks in Las Vegas -- and in all of Nevada-- have waited a very, very long time for more transportation options, and more economic opportunities," she said.

Eva Behrend, spokesperson, Uber

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)