Sunday, January 12, 2020

If You Really Want Us To Accept The Fare, Here Are Some Simple Suggestions & The Real Reason Why Larry Gossett Lost His KC Council Seat

Today my blog is directed toward one particular group, and that is the folks collectively making up Puget Sound Dispatch ( Seattle Yellow Cab) and those in charge of dispatching the calls (bells) to the taxi fleet. While they don't seem to realize it, what we have here is a failure to communicate, that is, to accurately and correctly send out account fares in a manner allowing us to understand where the call is, and whether it makes any sense to accept the fare.  And it isn't that PSD doesn't understand this, because when an airport run is dispatched, the word "Airport" is always attached to the initial fare offering, clearly communicating that its both an important and good fare, ensuring of course that the call is quickly accepted and attended to.

Yes, a very simple and effective method guaranteeing the customer will get to their flight on time.  That they don't take this commonsense approach with equally important account time calls is something that should change, and here are my suggestions on how it should be done, and in the end, making PSD, the cabbie and the account customer very happy.

When the fare is offered, the following steps should be taken:

1) Like the "airport" designation, designate that it is a good fare, for example, if it is going somewhere in Eastern Washington , mark it with an "E WA," telling the cabbie that its a fare you want to have.  Another major reason for providing this kind of information is that Seattle's horrible traffic means you sometimes need to have a good reason to battle traffic getting to that fare 4 miles away,  not making good sense on any level accepting a "far away bell" when its going to take you 20 minutes of hard driving to get there, all for $5.00.

By labelling the call in some positive way----"Good Fare" or "$100.00 plus Fare" or "Going to Kent," it will enable the cabbie to make quick, coherent decisions.  That PSD is currently unhappy is signaled by their telling you, once the call is rejected, that you just lost a $40.00 run, etc.  Personally, I find this kind of response insulting because none of us cabbies want to "throw away money," PSD's actions a kind of "sticking their tongue out," taunting for not accepting the fare, implying minus any doubt they think (and know) I am an idiot.

2)  Provide part of the address when the fare is offered, again providing us necessary information.  That this is now sometimes done suggests it is something that should occur 100% of the time.  Again, given Seattle's traffic congestion, it is something I need to know.

3)  Provide the time-call time.  Say I am in Zone 190, and I am offered an account time call at 4:00 PM in Zone 105, and I see the info "Time Call Due in 30 minutes," telling me that I will have the time to make it without "killing myself," fighting the damn traffic to the pickup address.

And, ladies and gentlemen, these are the simple solutions to a nagging issue.  Communicate, PSD, and you will be rewarded with better service by all those deranged cabbies.  After all, this is a working partnership, and all of us are paying $180.00 per week for these dispatch services.  My advice then is, stop acting like there is an ongoing war between driver and PSD, and instead, do what is necessary to assure good service 24 hours a days in a 365 day year.

And lastly, peace and goodwill to all men and women, cabbies included.  Amen!

Larry Gossett's Complaint

I bring up the subject of the now defeated longtime King County Council member because, last week, he could be heard on KNOW radio lamenting his unexpected electoral expulsion from the County Council.  But I know something everyone listening at that moment didn't know, and that is Larry's complete failure to remember our (the local taxi industry's lawsuit) against King County when he was the sitting Council President.  I know this because, earlier this year, Larry was a passenger in my cab and I asked him about it.  No, no recall at all.  That we battled in the courts for months?  No.  That I led the fight?  No.  That Green Cab was allowed not to follow the rules governing the issuance of 50 KC medallions?   No, not remembering any of it.

Yes, Mr Gossett is a nice and caring man, having served Seattle and King County, and in particular, the minority community for many years.  But then again, it wasn't nice what he did to all us aggrieved cabbies, and not for a second remembering, explaining why he lost the election, because, how can you claim to be prepared to govern when you don't know where you are at any particular moment.  My question is, just where were you, Mr. Gossett, when we were spending over $100,000 trying to get your attention?

Oh, that's right, you don't appear to remember!

Postscript 01/13/2019 9:48 AM

To underline my point about marking, highlighting fares, my first fare yesterday after posting yesterday noted "Going to airport" which certainly got my attention. Starting from the 5900 block of Airport Way South, I got to the Museum of Flight in 6-7 minutes.  As I said, provide us with the necessary info and off all of us fly to the bell!  Yes, taxi reality as I know it.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Uber Is Running Scared In California

Uber, along with on-demand delivery service, Postmates, jointly filed a lawsuit Monday, December 31st, aimed at blocking a new State of California law called Assembly Bill 5 (or AB5 for short),  a law that took effect the next day, on January 1st, reclassifying gig workers as something less than solely independent.   In addition to that effort, Uber, along with Lyft, Doordash, Postmates and Instacart, have collectively pooled 110 million dollars to put an initiative ballot measure upon the November 2020 ballot designed to effectively block what the new law intends, Uber and the others wanting to stop independent, freelance "gig" workers from being reclassified as employees, understanding they will annually be responsible for hundreds of millions in additional expenses.

Uber is also mad that some professions are exempted from the new law while they are not, Uber finally getting the idea they are no longer a "favored child."  Their statement that "There is no rhyme or reason to these nonsensical exemptions." says everything about the corner they feel backed into, understanding full well their ten-year long regulatory honeymoon is over---California, the City of London amongst others doing what should have been done years ago: acknowledging that Uber is a rogue operator minus moral limits. 

All this says, along with their continuing financial losses and bad publicity, that in 2020, Uber is in big trouble, and only a blind optimist thinks their situation will somehow be improving soon.  As previously noted, their founding CEO has cut all ties to his former company.  Soon, I wouldn't be surprised if the big industrial investors propping up Uber also disappear, tired of losing tens of billions of dollars. 

I am also doubtful that California voters will suddenly be sympathetic to companies like Uber, Lyft, etc crying foul while milking their workers for every dime they can extract.  It is a bad situation, something no longer to be condoned.  Three cheers for California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and her colleagues for telling Uber they can go to hell, or something like that.  As said, it has been a long time in coming.

(Editor's note:  This article was written in part from news reporting featured in the NY Times, the Guardian, and the San Francisco Chronicle.  The opinion expressed of course is mine, and solely mine)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Are We Happy Now?---A Year-End Seattle Taxi Report & Former Uber CEO Resigns From Uber Board & Be Sure You Use Your Turn Signals In Washington State

Ah yes, another year's conclusion of taxi fun and games, and am I now insane?  The answer is probably yes, but life goes on, and so do the endless taxi miles taking me where I don't, and you don't, want to go.  But go I do, and all my fellow crazed cabbies, so do you as the decade ends, leaving us where, where can we be?

I suppose we can call the 21st Centuries second decade the Uber Decade and be quite correct, we never in the taxi industry having before faced such rapacious, unscrupulous competitors, all made possible of course by foolish, dimwitted municipal administrators and regulators not understanding they were bargaining with the Devil Incarnate itself impersonating as Upper-Middle-Class Gentility. Yes, we can all laugh at their stupidity but the truth is, it happened in large part due to their hatred of us, we the so-called "evil taxi empire."

Why their hatred?  Call it discrimination personified, viewing us as less than them---taxi untouchables (dalits) not worthy of respect or consideration, all of us thieves, rapists, murderers.  Ain't it funny that Uber's 2018 American reports displays clearly just who the criminals are?

Yes, while the tables have been slightly turned in our favor, we remain at a great disadvantage, Uber's tsunami still engulfing the taxi industry, sweeping away our business in their tidal wake.  No fun at all.

Are we happy as the third decade approaches?  No, I don't think so but we are still breathing, aren't we?

Or is the grave beckoning?

The Jump is Nearly Complete

As I mentioned last week, the former Uber CEO, having nearly completed the selling off of all his Uber stock, has now resigned from the Uber governing board, meaning he will no longer be connected in any form whatsoever with Uber.  Funny?  Of course it is, as he laughs all the way to the bank with his three-billion in ill-gotten gains. What else can I say?  Nothing is the answer.

When Driving in Washington State, Use your Turn Signals, or Else!

This week the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that under all conditions, drivers must use their turn signals or they will be held accountable by the long arm of the law. What this means, that even though you are in a turn-only lane, you must signal or you can be ticketed.

Ain't that nice, legal sugar and spice

or is it lice

provided by the judicial mice?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Visiting The Local Magistrate: Seattle Mandates You Pay $80.00 Regardless of Anything

Fines, tickets etc are one unfortunate part of taxi life.  It is going to happen despite your best efforts to avoid the bureaucratic thumb attempting to snuff you out.  Thursday afternoon saw me visiting a local court magistrate in a vain attempt to mitigate a Red Light Camera ticket received at the south-bound intersection of 6th Avenue crossing James Street.  I knew I would have to pay for my transgression but how much was the issue. And this after I thought I knew the location of every intersection camera in the city.  How did I miss the signage?  I can't really tell you other than I have no excuse whatsoever.  Driving taxi is a war, and to not pay attention every second is potentially fatal. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my everyday reality.

The judge herself was great, friendly, and having seen my situation thousands of times, voiced even before I could say it, the fact that I was probably rushing a passenger to an appointment, something completely accurate.  She apologized when announcing that the City of Seattle would only allow her to reduce the fine to $80.00, mandated not by her but by the powers dictating her authority. Given the madness I encounter daily upon the streets I don't blame anyone for trying to control what is truly insane driving behavior exhibited by the masses.  And with the City of Seattle planning even more red light and school cameras, I am sure the good judge will be busy past commonsense.  

The only personal positive I can take from the experience is the great public art to be found in Seattle's municipal buildings, some great Eastern Washington photographs and one very interesting large oil painting making the moment slightly less painful.

A Rat Jumping Ship?

Has Uber hit its last fatal financial iceberg?  From recent actions demonstrated by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, the Uber sailing forecast appears to be doomed, Kalanick having already sold off 90% of his company stock, $2.5 billion dollars worth, and will soon be divesting the remaining 10% of his Uber holdings.  Since June of this year, Uber stock has lost 43% of its original value.  The question is, when will Uber's corporate investors join Kalanick in getting out before going down with the sinking ship?  The new year, 2020, should tell us much concerning Uber's future.  Maybe, just maybe, 2020 will be Uber's setting sun, an unsavory company receiving its just desserts.

And all those former loyal Uber customers might find themselves riding in a taxi. I would like that, and I am sure, you would too.

A Reader Asks a Question

When was Uber formed?  The answer is 2009, with the original idea for the company forming in 2007 & 2008.

Dealing with Drunks: Just tell them goodbye

Late last night, two inebriated fellows, wanted to go a local MacDonald's.  That they didn't know where one was didn't stop them from angrily bossing me around.  I immediately told them then to get out or I was calling the police, having done nothing wrong expect perhaps letting them into the cab, not interested in their unnecessary abuse. That is how you deal with unruly drunks.  There is no other way.

These guys were high-caste Indians from India.  Have you been following what has been happening recently in India?  In my case, India's bad behavior was transferred to my cab, and I am neither Muslim or from Kashmir.  No, I do want Indian citizenship.

Again, treated once again as a taxi dalit. Boring!

Friday, December 13, 2019

After Uber Is Again Banned In London, Uber CEO Khosrowshahi Says London's Decision Is "Just Wrong!"

In late November, the City of London once again stripped Uber of its license to operate, having taken a similar action back in 2007.  While Uber continues to operate in London while appealing the decision, how can Uber truly protest after it was found that many customers, while trustfully using their app, were provided at least 14,000 unauthorized rides by unregistered drivers, drivers minus unverified driver licenses and not carrying any kind of insurance coverage.  What this translates into is, that in the case of at least a minimum of 14,000 rides, Uber did not know who was driving their customers, and worse, provided those rides with no protective insurance whatsoever.  Most often, it appears, this all occurring with the complicity and cooperation of fully registered Uber drivers  actively assisting in defrauding the Uber app, allowing friends and family and complete strangers to drive their cars or use their identities, most often for personal profit.  I see a number of important questions springing from this kind of behavior.

1) Given this is criminal behavior, what kind of screening process, if any, did Uber utilize when signing up these people to drive for them?

2)  Did the City of London, like the City of Seattle, relinquish all screening and regulatory control to Uber, thus allowing Uber to sidestep normal regulatory process and procedures?

3)  Will the City of London hold Uber drivers transferring their app to someone else legally responsible?

4) If the City of London does re-certify Uber, do they intend to retain oversight just as they now oversee all London Black-car taxicab licensing and behavior?

5) Will the City of London require Uber to pay damages to the thousands of customers who unknowingly rode and paid for fraudulent service?

Why it might seem odd for someone in the USA to pose these questions for City of London/ Police Department authorities, I do this solely to encourage everyone to put Uber's behavior in the proper perspective---that it is outrageous for something on this scale to occur without far reaching consequences for Uber, and not only in the United Kingdom but everywhere it operates.  When will Uber's egregious behavior end, with how many more unauthorized rides, rapes and murders to their unworthy credit?

Why I know it's difficult to stop or modify government behavior, why does the same need apply to corporations like Uber, where accountability at best isn't worth the paper its written on, and company CEOs can act like they are the wronged party?  I believe it is time, past time, to make Uber an example and permanently shut them down in London and across the globe, sending the firm message that their kind of arrogance is not acceptable. Other, far more responsible companies will come in to fill the gap, and perhaps taxi will once again be recognized for the honorable industry it is, hearkening a new era for a falsely maligned cab industry.

Yes, one might call this an idle hope but justice does sometimes occur.  I suggest contacting who you may and telling them Uber must be held accountable.  It will only take a few minutes. And I am sure your God of whatever definition you have concerning metaphysical influence, will bless you for it, an unexpected bonus to your busy day, God too an interested party to madness sanctioned as sanity.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Quoting Troy West, Uber Chief Legal Officer: "What It Says Is That Uber Is A Reflection Of The Society It Serves."

This quote is taken from a New York Times article written by Kate Conger reporting Uber's announcement verifying 3,045 sexual assaults for the year 2018, 92 % of the attacks originating with Uber operators assaulting their customers.  9 customers were murdered and 58 killed in automobile accidents.  While the total trip volume is high, over a billion rides provided, those still are shocking statistics generated by Uber.  Lyft too announced over 40 rapes occurring over their ride-share system.

Can you imagine the uproar if the American taxi industry made similar announcements, admitting to rape, murder and an in-general mayhem occurring in their cabs?  But here we have Troy West, the guy responsible for overseeing customer safety for Uber "ho-humming" these terrible incidents by more or less saying "what do you expect, we live in a violent society."

While it remains true that violence exists in America, one DOES NOT expect to be raped taking an Uber, Lyft or cab home from a concert or local tavern.  Do you  expect to be raped when shopping for apples at Safeway or shoes at Macy's?  Of course you don't, instinctively expecting a safe and sane shopping environment provided by responsible businesses.

To believe Troy West, that being raped is inevitable due to the society we live in, is to embrace the belief that anarchy and bedlam is our everyday norm, something that simply isn't true, West instead attempting to justify Uber's totally inexcusable behavior.  What his statement says to me is an admission that Uber is not in control of its own operations, and worse, never will be, our "insane society" making this kind of behavior a distorted, inescapable guarantee, that having our customers murdered and raped just part of our everyday business reality.

Unreal is all I can say.  And how and why Uber will continue to be accepted as a functional company is something I don't understand.  Even one rape is completely unacceptable but over 3000 boggles all credulity.  How can this be possible? 

And how can this keep happening day after week after month after year?  Government and its regulators must intercede before they too or someone they love are victimized by an unqualified ride-share (TNC) operator.  Just recently, an Uber driver in Lebanon was convicted of raping and killing a 30 year old female British diplomat, someone who was scheduled to return home to the UK the next day.  I mention this only to illustrate the true human costs of the lackadaisical regulatory approach taken by governments across the globe toward Uber and Lyft and other TNC companies.  To quote Pete Seeger, "When will they ever learn?"

Good question, isn't it?

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Car Is Everything & I Don't Want To Be Rated

My Ford Crown Victoria, YC Cab 1092, certainly has a smooth and steady suspension, that very apparent after my coffee cup survived a mile-long ride atop the car, only realizing it was there once upon entering Highway 99 southbound.  Quickly pulling over, I gratefully retrieved the errant cup, pleased it had survived the perilous journey.  I mention this because a well- maintained cab is everything to the cabbie.  Without it, we are literally nowhere whatsoever, stranded upon the roadside or worst. 

Currently I am averaging approximately 5000 rough and tumble taxi miles per month.  When I bought the car, the odometer read over 103,000 miles driven.  Now 1092 has over 253,000 miles and counting.  Two weeks ago the differential and axle required professional attention.  Saturday I had the oil changed and a light bulb replaced.  What's next I can't tell you but whatever is required I do it because there is no alternative.  The car is everything, something I know and won't forget.  More than once, poor cab association maintenance got me involved in accidents, telling me that kind of attitude is inexcusable, money their unfortunate bottom line. And yes, I have been paying attention, which is all I want or need to say, be it tomorrow or today.

I Don't Care How Many Stars You Think I Am

The headline story in last Friday's Wall Street Journal complained about the spread of false ratings over the Internet.  Yes, anyone can say anything, true or not, to influence a potential buyer in one direction or the other.  And even if the rating or comment is real, done by an actual consumer, opinion is too often subjective, often based upon bias not founded upon objectivity.

Personally then, I neither want or need to be rated by passengers as Yellow is currently doing, arbitrarily judging our performance.   I never requested this disservice. The only rating me or any other cabbie is interested in is framed by tipping, by the tips we receive.  My friend Ted, playing a customer one of his new songs, received a hundred dollar bill for a short ride, the guy reporting that "he was stoked!"  That is the kind of rating we want, meaning money, by far the best enduring compliment.

And thank you very much, I am sure.