Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Snow Day Fare & An Essay: Three Nights Walking In The Snow & WA ST Business License Confusion & Uber 4th Quarterly Loss: $842 Million

Over a nearly 11 day span, Seattle and most of the entire state of Washington was severely impacted by record and near record snowfall.  At certain moments, business soared, creating real money-making opportunities for the more fearless cabbie.  During the second Monday's snowfall, I got a $110.00 fare from Ballard Swedish Hospital, taking me to the City of Tacoma, a ride of approximately 30 miles due south of Seattle.

In my ever ongoing quest to describe taxi as I experience it, I present a mundane fare made noteworthy by inclement weather, representing taxi reality as it really is.  That this kind of early 21st Century history goes unnoticed is reason enough to tell you about it, to record what otherwise will go unseen and unremembered.

If I could be so lucky, I can only hope that hundreds of years from now, someone will both read this and gain understanding of what this particular period of America was like, comparing it to their own current lifestyle and culture.  In short, I hope anyone in the future will see this as a fragment of a distant past era now made real for them in the year 2318 or later, taking this as a hello, not as a solitary goodbye from a long, dead representative cabbie.

Ride Into The Snow Monday February 11, 2019

Sunday evening and Monday morning Seattle was hit by 4-6 inches of fresh, very wet snow.  Knowing it could be a good day, I set out hoping for the best.  After two short fares, I hit taxi pay dirt, a HopeLink account fare taking the passenger from Ballard to an address in Tacoma, giving me nearly $110.00 for the ride.  Given the weather, she had been waiting since 10:00 AM and I was belled in at about 11:30 AM.  Happy to see the cab, this after a 30-day hospital stay, we packed all her belongings into the trunk and off we went, with me knowing that as we proceeded further south, the more likely I would be driving straight into a raging storm.

Deciding to route myself south through downtown to I-5 southbound, it took me about ten minutes to reach the Jame Street entrance ramp, entering onto a wet but snow-free roadway.  Keeping my speed at 60 MPH, I marveled as other drivers sped by, knowing they hadn't learned their lesson concerning snow and ice and how you can be surprised when you least expect it.   And sure enough, upon reaching Southcenter, parallel to Sea-Tac, snow greeted us, telling me I should expect the worse, and about Federal Way, I found out just how bad it would be.  My passenger, being from Alaska, talked about winter and bears entering the house, her mother's screams telling the momma bear and her three cubs it was time to leave.

By the time I reached the Tacoma Dome, snow was briskly falling, huge flakes inundating the freeway, visibility poor and only growing more limited as I neared my exit.  Heading toward an address on South Yakima Street, I was now in "winter wonderland," thick, heavy wet snow coating the streets, making it difficult but not totally impossible to move forward.

Stopping across the street from the required address, and dodging traffic, I assisted in carrying everything to the house.  Someone came out onto the porch, saying she would help but she was only wearing slippers.  I saw that. Whatever else she said I ignored, having to quickly move and get out of harm's way and back down the roadway.  Wishing my passenger the best, I was out of there, mildly slipping and sliding back onto to I-5 northbound.

Greeted with more snow, I made it north minus much of anything until I accepted a fare waiting at the VA Hospital.  Now that fare became more complicated because Seattle's sky had broken loose, translating into a rough ride back to Renton.

Later, when a roadway combination of compact ice and snow plus rain plus a further coating of snow made driving potentially lethal, I stopped early, ate some great Chinese dumplings, and got the hell out of there, snow outpacing the road crews, parking 1092 behind the Broadview Library and walking down the hill.  Fares were now everywhere but I couldn't care.  I understood what awaited if I continued.  It was time to stop.  A friend later told me an errant driver slammed into his cab.  Yes it was time to stop.

_____________________________________________________________________

Essay: Three Nights Walking in the Snow


                                                              Monday

Snowing had stopped.  For once, the city was quiet.  No one but myself walking the residential streets, first north on Palatine then down 127th, proceeding south on 8th NW.  Everything, houses, trees, lawns, streets glistening white in the dark.  Beautiful!  Glad to have it all to myself, feeling a solitary peace.  It was wonderful.  Alone!

                                                             Tuesday

Slush!  A rise in temperature and rain creating a mucky surface.   This time I meet someone dodging deep puddles, then again by myself.  Thick ruts greet my steps. No problem.  It's fun having to think about it, avoiding this and that moist trap.  Once again I am enthralled by a singular and rare isolation from humanity.  Thank you!


                                                          Wednesday

The Seattle Times said we could expect the high 20's F.  And it was true, the evening cold and crisp, icing the streets and providing a clear sky.  There is the half moon illuminating the night.  Truly wonderful, stars and an unknown to me constellation saying hello.  Hello, I thought back, hello!  I hear you!  I truly hear you!

Does Anyone in State Government Know What They Are Doing?

It is ridiculous, giving me a hard time about what I am still not sure, saying my car/cab registration and insurance policy doesn't state what I am not sure, the  woman on the phone from the capital Olympia saying something about "avi's" and how I am not operating legally.  I later found out she was talking about the Sea-Tac Airport Fare Counting System and how I had to do what? to be legal.  But lady, my cab is single-plated (City of Seattle only), meaning I cannot legally work the airport without, 1) a King County plate, and 2) a Belled-In sticker.  But you folks did issue me my business license.  What the hell are you talking about? meaning I will have to figure this bullshit out, caused only by your agency because I only know what is required if you folks tell me and how could I possibly be intentionally avoiding something I now nothing about.

And yes I will figure this out, and I promise you I will also be talking to both the Governor's and Attorney General's office about all this, threatening someone while I am being completely cooperative.   If I am confused, what about all my immigrant colleagues who barely know up from down?  It is plainly embarrassing, having government bludgeon the innocent.  Not cool at all is what I can and will say.  Amazing!

And what a waste of my valuable time and breath.  Pathetic.

How is it possible that Uber is still operational? 

A NY Times 02/16/2019 article, reported by Kate Conger and Mike Isaac, says that Uber lost 842 million dollars in the last  quarter 2018, a whopping 88 percent loss increase compared to the same 2017 quarter.  How does this company survive?  As I have posted before, is Uber a Ponzi Scheme?  Is anyone paying attention?  Are people, specifically investors, stupid?  Ha Ha Ha is all I can say.

















Saturday, February 9, 2019

I Have Been Restrained, Holding My Taxi Tongue Until Now

Criticism must have a purpose, otherwise it is a mindless rant filling the world with more unnecessary gibberish, something we clearly don't need.  With the advent of both traditional and social media, complaint, the pointing of fingers in this modern age is everywhere you turn--from radio, television, the Internet to the enraged driver blaring their car horn---the shouting filling the mind and ears.  I say this because errors at Yellow Cab dispatch are compounding at an inflationary rate, to where something must be said, not to disparate but to encourage change and improvement.  While Puget Sound Dispatch management has acknowledged the shortcomings, recognition of a problem achieves little unless it comes with both resolution and the resolve for adequate remedy. While it is said we will now have dispatch services wholly back in Seattle by June, what do we do in the meanwhile when the current  Las Vegas call center is strained to breaking, especially now during this prolonged stretch of unusually icy and snowy street conditions, dispatch mistakes potentially severely consequential, sending a cab to a wrong address resulting in valuable time lost or even an accident.  As one example will show, mistakes could even result in someone returning to prison.  As I keep repeating to PSD management, we need the correct information every single time minus error.  Anything less translates into the non-functional, something we can't accept.  But as this situation has remained acceptable for months, it says something is wrong, ranging from negligence  to dysfunction.  As I have also said many times, not only can we do better, we must do better, there being no other option.  Otherwise chaos, as usual, reigns supreme.

Not Understanding Seattle's Addressing System

Given what occurred to me late Monday night, it's clear that the Las Vegas based call center has not been adequately trained in the in-and-outs and the how-and-whys of the City of Seattle's street addressing matrix.  Something all important is knowing the East-West and North-South boundary streets and how they govern the street and avenue directional indicators: East, Northeast, West, Northwest, Southwest and South.  It's a logical system but you have to know the basics, a kind of Seattle addressing literacy to read and interpret the information.  But when you don't, and it seems, relying solely upon "Google mapping" as your solitary source, bad things happen.  Again, I am not saying that the call-takers are incompetent.  Far from it but they obviously are suffering from a lack of training.  Who is responsible for that?  Puget Sound Dispatch and no one else.

I was belled into a Zone 240 address, 1 _ _ 22nd Avenue.  Notice there is no directional attached to the address.  That's because it is a north-south avenue located between Denny Way, the north boundary and Yesler Way, the south boundary.  Unfortunately, the actual address was 1 _ _ 22nd Avenue East, placing it two blocks north of Denny, and in Zone 200.  The address dispatched me to was 18 blocks to the south.

What made this mistake potentially catastrophic is that the fare was called in by a prisoner-release counselor/caseworker who was trying to get his reluctant client back to her work-release facility.  That if I had been at the proper address all would have been fine but once not finding me where I was expected, she never came back out.  I know this because dispatch convinced me to drive to the correct address, this after telling me both addresses were one and the same.  Why did the call-taker say this?  Because "google mapping" told him, that's why.

I also told the call-taker it was inappropriate for me to act as the go-between client and caseworker, as the desperate counselor kept requesting that "I work with him," assuring me he had given dispatch the right address.  Doesn't anyone but me understand about legal liability, about making me responsible for getting this State of Washington ward back to where she belongs?

All this took a good half hour, begetting nothing but frustration as I sat for five minutes, calling again and again in a fruitless effort to reach the client.  And what ultimately happened to her I don't know but as I suggested, the consequences might have been dire for her which is why I say once more, "get it fight the first time, please!"

Do I think anything will change?  No, I do not.

In Addition, a Mechanical Glitch 

Another issue is what happens when Yellow is busy and the "BID" alert keeps ringing like a deranged bell, repeating to a point that it knocks out the sound, meaning you will no longer hear the alert telling you when a dispatched call is offered.  What happens is that you miss the call unless you are staring at the screen.  The problem is clear.  George, the father of this system, is not a cabbie, causing him not to be aware in total of what he was creating.  Typical is all I can say, not understanding the day to day impact of decisions made.  And who is ultimately hurt by this?  Why of course all us cabbies paying the dispatch fee!







Saturday, February 2, 2019

Once Again On Why & How The American Taxi Industry Lost The Transportation Battle

The ex-Las Vegas, Nevada cabbie was only in my taxi for a few minutes but, as he recounted his three Vegas years, I knew he, and others like him, were to blame for our current business malaise, this guy a "taxi poster child" for everything wrong and nothing right in our shared past.  How, you might ask, could one solitary individual be responsible for our collective demise?  How much damage can one cabbie do?

And the answer is, quite a bit when your entire attitude is complete permission to do anything you damn well please---from double and triple loading at the Las Vegas airport, selling booze out of your car, to running a "couple of girls on the side."  In short, he was a free-form, unbridled, total bandido cabbie taking wild Las Vegas by the hand, saying "This is my playground and I make the rules, no one else.  Neither do I have to abide by standards and regulations, they don't apply to me in any way shape or measure, morality an outdated concept followed only by whimpering fools.  I am in complete command!"  In other words, long, short or abbreviated, he was beyond argument, a commonplace criminal.

After qualifying for his "sheriff's card," he became a card dealer translating into just another kind of hustle, making big tips and having a good time.  As I said, I wish he was unusual but he's not, having seen thousands like him over the years, be they Greek, Iranian, Russian, or like this guy, a native born American.

Is he a bad guy?  Well, it depends upon your definition.  He gave me $13.00 for a $7.00 fare so at least he felt some camaraderie meaning he had some redeeming qualities lurking inside him.

So call him a free-spirit, call him a free-lancer but also call him what he also is, a disgusting, reprehensible crook, taking our industry down the gutter to perdition, joining his fellow devils at the sulphurous, burning gates of hell.




Saturday, January 26, 2019

Brochure Found! New Dispatch Update Six Days Late

(Editing Note:  I started this Sunday minus the MTI advertising brochure, something I plan on leaving at the PSD cashier's window for everyone to thumb through.  Other than my preamble, which you can skip, what you will be reading is my again quick glance at what MTI is featuring.  I do encourage all Seattle Yellow cabbies to go back and read my first posting concerning this dated 08/29/2018.  Yes, the process has been long but ultimately I feel we will all be pleased with the finished product.  As for all you paranoid cabbies out there, I assure you I have no financial interest in any of this other than 1)  hoping it makes me more money, and 2) my wish and desire for all of you to do the same.  That is my only motive but 3, I don't expect anyone to believe me.)

Sometime in June 2019 the new taxi system for Puget Sound Dispatch will be operational.  While originally slated to be functional and up this February, various delays including the actual building of the system and the City of Seattle's hesitation in approving the the new "soft" meter,  has held up planned implementation.  Due to all this, and given we are in the midst of the "school run" reason, it was decided by PSD management (Amin & Zim) that it just made sense to delay the start-up until the school's are out.  One could call this overcautious, but given what happened when "George's" system was installed and the resulting chaos, no one wants that nightmare to be repeated.

But despite this, PSD has been progressing forward, as the change over to the new tablets have indicated.  In addition, in the next couple of weeks, all single owners will be asked to pay for part of a new credit card payment system we will all be utilizing.  More on that later.

Just please be aware I am personally monitoring the ongoing process, given I too have a vested interested in everything working properly, along with the premise that fairness is part of every step forward.  Knowing we cabbies are, as a collective group, more than paranoid, I understand that clear and concise communication is essential.

And you should know that I know that just by mentioning the word paranoid, you are now paranoid.  My thirty years in this deranged business has taught me much, this just mentioned fact one of them.  While all of you might be many very descriptive adjectives, and often irritating to the quick, I remain committed to everyone receiving just and reasonable treatment.  If that means I too am crazy then I admit it, just another loyal card carrying member of the "Royal Taxi Insane Asylum Society," Chinese food my favorite "mood-controlling" medication.

MTI---The Next Generation of Dispatch Technology---www.mtidispatch.com 

MTI is used by both cab, bus and trucking companies around North America and the world, including the UK, continental Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

Features:

The Driver App operates on both tablet and smart phone devices, offering an open platform with endless operating options and access to live trips.

Soft Meter featuring high-accuracy GPS and easy to read meter display.  This is operated in a "blue tooth" signal kind of fashion, the meters no longer sealed by a meter wire and clip but still completely secure.

Real-time GPS featuring map plotting, area stats, dispatch and trip navigation, allowing drivers to easily switch between trip info and navigation screen.  What this means is that individual drivers will no longer have to utilize their own GPS devices, your new computer system offering that function.

Two-way communication allows two-way messaging feature between dispatch and cabbies.

Web TelOp is the screen the dispatchers will be using.  Please note that dispatch in its entirety will be solely based in Seattle by next summer. Web TelOp is both simultaneously more simple and complex than our current call-taker screens, providing more instantaneous information for call takers and supervisors.

MTI booking app.  This has real potential depending on how everyone wants to use it.  Since it has been verified by Seattle/King County licensing, it just isn't theory that all companies can match TNC app rates if desired.  Regardless of that, our new app will have driver details and photographs along with payments options and driver/passenger communication options.  Driver tips and driver rating can be available, along with email receipts and fare quotes and fare price estimations.

As for the payment system, both Square & the MTI system will be used, with Square ultimately becoming the back-up system.  And overall, MTI's problem solving abilities will be a prime positive,  MTI providing quick 24/7 solutions for all potential system failures.

Expect to have more direct management communication soon.

Seattle/King County Taxi For-Hire Fee Reduction

Yesterday, when renewing my for-hire, I was pleased to discover that it had been reduced to $135.00 from$180.00.  Are you amazed?  I am.

Taxi Protests & Strike in Spain

In it's 01/23/2019 edition, the New York Times reported taxi driver protests in both Madrid and Barcelona against Uber and the Spanish TNC Cabify.   Madrid cabbies are on indefinite strike.  While we have been sheep, the Spanish cabbies are lions, roaring at Uber and their governmental supporters.  I have taken cabs in both cities.  During my 1982 honeymoon, we took cabs all over Madrid.  It was fun.

WA ST L&I Back Again?

There is an attempt to once again to make us take on L&I insurance in the WA ST legislature.  HB 1515 & SB 5513.  More later upon this expensive subject.

Taxi App Rates

Yes, taxi app rates have been deregulated for a few years now, something verified for me last week by Seattle/KC Licensing.  Green Cab says they will be taking advantage of that.  We'll see if and when that happens.













Monday, January 21, 2019

Three Days Off Clearly Not Enough......

With the MLK Jr holiday I was able to avoid the cab for 3 days but clearly it wasn't enough as somehow this afternoon I misplaced the glossy MTI brochure I intended to use to update everyone about Puget Sound Dispatch's plans concerning the new dispatch system.  Maybe daylight will reveal it but once again, more delay, something too commonplace in taxi-land.

But my dilemma is indicative of what the taxi lifestyle (or death-style) is, never having adequate time for anything other that grinding yourself into the ground trying to make that ever elusive dollar.  While having a good past week money-wise, it only seems that way because on average I once made the same amount just working Saturdays and Sundays. Uber is not only killing our business, it is killing me.

And yes, while complaining vociferously about my fellow cabbies I do understand how difficult it is to make sense of the oft times nonsensical world that is taxi and living in an alien culture called the good, old USA.  All I can do tonight in response is go to sleep and start the crazy routine all over again. That's my reality, and for all the cabbies in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Paris and all those many cities and town around our globe sharing that grim reality, I wish you the best.  Good night is all I can say.  Sleep well and make some money in the morning!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

When The Dead Follow The Blind---The Folly Of The Seattle Cabbie

                                                                    Folly


While an optimist, I am also realistic.  Yes, while hoping for the best, I do understand that the majority of my fellow Seattle cabbies remain blind to their own reality---that by failing to culturally  assimilate to their adopted country they remain tied to an ignorance preventing them from ever truly leaving their country of origin, an uncut umbilical cord never allowing a true birth from constrained thought to real independent thinking. 

Tonight, talking to a group of immigrant drivers at the train station, again confirmed what I already knew, that being serious about themselves is not a part of their agenda.  For ten years I have attempted to awaken the greater Seattle taxi community to what is occurring around them in plain sight but when you don't want to see you don't and that is just the way it is.  It isn't that they are bad but again, their indifference is frightening and no amount of shaking altering their stance.

And since I am convinced of that, why should I insist pushing against inertia, angering me so much that here I am writing this at 11:25 PM when instead I should be in bed after a very long taxi day.  In short I am sick of their imbecility.  I don't like it, I don't need it and I don't want to communicate with it.  It has nothing to say to me, nothing at all, their nonsensical conversation mere gibberish, a language I refuse to speak.  It is that simple. And yes, I have been a fool for trying when instead I am better off sleeping which is what I am about to do, sleep and forget all about taxi, my dour dreams a blank nightmare freezing the night and the too rapidly approaching morning.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Like California's Governor: Questioning Rates & Fees At Seattle Yellow Cab & Insult---What Do The People Want?

I am not the only one feeling I am being overcharged for services or products rendered.  California's new Governor, Gavin Newsom deciding that the state of California is paying too much for the drugs provided by the major pharmaceutical companies and is putting together plans to force the drug firms to lower costs.  Newsom's point is that he knows the drug firms can lower their prices but instead are charging whatever they want simply because they have in the past, with no incentive in changing their behavior.  While not interested in argument, Newsom insistent that the situation must change soon. 

Similarly then is the legacy the group of Yellow Taxi single owners is taking on, one where associations, be they Yellow or Farwest or Eastside for Hire, have acted as having complete control over their operations, driver concerns more than secondary, they are essentially nonexistent.  It is this attitude that us single owners at Yellow/PSD have decided to challenge.  Since we are the ones monetizing Puget Sound Dispatch, we need to have both a voice in operations and a clear understanding to just how our money is utilized and where it is going.  Our demands are based simply upon company performance, or the lack of it, in the following areas:

Available customers and accounts, plus advertising

Quality of dispatch services, including call-taking and support

Support services including cashiering, driver superintendent support and City of Seattle & King County regulatory advocacy and communication

Weekly dispatch and daily cashiering fees

The reason we are going forward is simple.  No one else is going to do it for us, Seattle & KC licensing only interested in collecting fees and little else.  A responsible regulatory agency would be immediately looking into Yellow Fleet's attempted manipulation of their in-house mechanics, resulting in them fleeing the premises.  By telling them their rent was suddenly doubled, they decided to leave, leaving cab maintenance and associated passenger safety in question.

Not only is Seattle & KC not interested in driver advocacy, they are not committed to passenger safety.  They will deny this but from what I have seen over the years, nothing exists to refute this, Seattle & KC allowing Yellow and the other associations to do whatever they please.  That very palpable reality tells us, once again, that we are on our own.  Change will only occur if we are the ones implementing it.

Three owner committees have been formed as our speaking representatives:

Puget Sound Dispatch (PSD) committee

Seattle & King County committee

Action (insurance & government fees) committee

I am a member of the committee that will be meeting with City, County, Port and State officials.  I am including myself solely due to my long experience dealing with government intransigence, knowing the minefields we will be entering.

I remain impressed with single owner resolve.  They are serious.  They are seeking justice, all of which explains why I am supporting their efforts.  Our industry is at risk.  We want to enhance our futures.  It is that simple.

Are City/County Taxi App Rates Not Subject to Fare Rate Regulation?

According to a presenter at the single owner meeting, our meter rates are not regulated where apps are involved.  One person in the know emailed that yes, it is true, our app rates, along with Uber & Lyft, have been unregulated for the past 4 years.  It is news to me and I await response from the City & County.  The implications, as one might guess, are many.

Insult!

A few nights ago on Pier 69, Rick, who once owned and ran Red Top Taxi, joked about a passenger saying to him "Don't be insulted but.....," making Rick laugh because he knows, like I know and every cabbie knows, insult is inherent to driving cabs.  Two recent examples for your reading displeasure.

School runs have become part of our September to June bread & butter.  One associated difficulty is, upon arriving at a school for the first time, to know just what are the pickup procedures when picking up a child for the first time.  That I even entered the school to inquire about the child was a violation to office staff at one particular school, repeatedly telling me you must be at that side of the school.......etc, clearly not understanding their condensation.  My response to this type of nonsense is this: Do you want competency or incompetency?  Knowing what I am doing was clearly offensive to them.  Why is the question.

This next one couldn't have been stranger.  The passenger was going a mere 3 blocks away from a fabric store to a grocery store.  In that short span she began questioning my knowledge of where the store was even though I had said "I had been there many times."  Yelling at me to "Shut up! Shut up!" when questioned about what she was doing, she further underlined her derogatory behavior by stating "I am a doctor!"  When I said, "then what does that make me" she said, "Everyone makes their life decisions."  And that, lady, I thought, certainly applies to you.

Yes, such fun beneath the the taxi moon and sun!