Thursday, August 4, 2011

Local Alert: Meter Rates Going Up in January: the Good & Bad of it

You will be pleased to know that this week I have thrown myself upon not one but two taxi sacrificial altars, attending both the taxi advisory commission meeting on Tuesday morning and on Wednesday afternoon the taxi advisory group (TAG).  Being my usual harried self I had totally forgotten about the TAG meeting given that it meets quarterly and unless I am given an advance warning I am always surprised that my presence is requested.  It did mean that I finally made it to the 19th Century American landscape exhibit currently at the Seattle Art Museum.  It is worth seeing and I particularly recommend the marsh (flooded fields) paintings by Martin Johnson Heade.  There are in general a large variety of new paintings on display on both floors of the museum.  Get out of that taxi and take in the local culture!

The news from the taxi commission is, that after two wasted meetings, we finally held something that resembled a functional assembly.  Unfortunately two members were absent due to illness and one of the appointed taxi drivers failed for a third time to make the meeting so it appears he will be replaced.  Anyone interested in being subjected to bureaucratic torture can contact me and I will forward your name to the county for consideration.  The commission is currently building up a working future agenda of member priorities and concerns.

My two points were, one, making all Seattle & King County taxis dual-plated, meaning they could pick up anywhere at any time (other than the airport, the train station, and Pier 91, which are Yellow concessions) in our giant of a county now named for Martin Luther King Junior. For all you local historians, two facts of interest.  It was once William Rufus King County, he a slave holder and Vice-President under Franklin Pierce. There is also the rumor that he was at one time an intimate companion of President James Buchanan. There is a large painting of his family (minus the VP) hanging in the DeYoung Art Museum in San Francisco. The other historical note is that King County is our nation's largest.  I once had a coyote hail me in Sammanish. If I am foggy on any of this local history, do correct me. 

And two, for my other pressing priority I have chosen the expansion of taxi stands, suggesting that industry input is essential concerning location and allocation at new stadiums (the Husky), grocery stores and the like.  Currently, at various locations, local drivers are given no option but to pick up illegally, blocking traffic, etc. That needs to promptly change.  I also feel it is time for the policy toward stand creation to be changed into something far more taxi driver friendly.  Currently, neighboring businesses can veto any  proposed stand or zone on their particular street or curbside.  I believe that decision should be between the city and the local taxi industry. Seattle has this very bad habit of soliciting everyone's opinion regardless of interest.  God forbid we discover alien life forms.  I can foresee Seattle contacting Mars or some yet undiscovered planet on just how to conduct life on Earth.  And allow them to regulate the taxis!

The most important development occurred at the TAG forum.  All of this has to do with a bill passed recently in Olympia concerning L&I (Labor & Industry) protection for all lease-drivers.  It appears that the cost per driver is about $135. per month.  Given this, a series of changes appear to be coming.  The meter rate for all Seattle/King County taxis will be increasing in January 2012 as far as I know.  The "drop" or initial meter charge will be increasing to $3.00.  There will also be a per-mile increase, of at least 10 cents but probably more.  In turn Seattle & King County will allow for an increase in the lease caps, meaning lease-drivers in the new year will have higher leases.  The meter rate increase in theory will offset higher lease rates.  The good part of all of this is that finally the lease-driver will receive some protection and compensation when involved in a serious accident.  Given that I was nearly killed (I just got lucky) in a brake failure accident occurring in November 1995 I can say that this L&I deal might be for the best. There are always trade offs, my friends, so try not to be too despondent.  Taxi rolls up and down, whether we smile or we frown!  Stay tuned because in November I will have much more to accurately inform all my fellow brother and sister taxi drivers.

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