Someone please help me wipe away my taxi tears. A spare kerchief will do. My eyes are moist because a Saturday tradition has gone astray, that is the HopeLink return trip, message 68 for all you non-Yellow folks, which allowed the driver to request the second half of a round trip fare. This has always helped on a slow morning, not to mention not making the HopeLink client/passenger wait. This particular fare from South Park to Shoreline, Washington (suburb just north of Seattle proper) was a good one. No driver I know is going to decline a $98.00 round-trip. But Fred, who was a trifle slow getting back me, had bad news. Yellow did not have the return trip. He didn't tell me why but I knew. She was returning in a for-hire car, for the reduced rate of $43.00 and some odd change. She has been doing this ride daily for a few months now and she only gets a Yellow taxi on the first leg of her Saturday journey. Do the math and you can see that from this one individual alone, collectively Yellow taxi has taken a severe monetary bath. What about all the unknown others? I don't like thinking about it. As I have been telling everyone, sure, all of us are losing money from all those illegal for-hire street pickups but the real threat is their dispatched-based business. Because of a languid morning it took me another 2 plus hours to match the lost $49.00 dollars. That my taxi friends is reality hitting you smack! in the nose. Fun stuff it isn't.
Another dimension to all this is something the passenger pointed out. The majority of the for-hire drivers she has been meeting are very inexperienced. She recounted a story exemplifying this. Earlier this past week she had a for-hire driver divulge all this personal information to someone in her building who is essentially a mild stalker. When the driver pulled up this particular person asked and received answers to questions he had no business requesting, the driver not in any way realizing or understanding his error. When later confronted with this, he denied that he had done anything improper. It was a minor confrontation, concluding with the passenger filing an official complaint. Though it was an innocent error it again shows how truly difficult it is driving a taxi, ersatz or not. What the City of Seattle (and King County) is doing is flooding the market with rookies that only further dilutes the overall professionalism. It isn't wise but do you think the bureaucrats are paying attention? Beware of 8 AM to 4 PM (or 9 to 5) government, employees punching their time clocks and cashing their checks while everyone pays for their somnolent complacency.
What Was That Driver Thinking?
In fairness, it just isn't "for-hire" rookies that are making mistakes. A Yellow driver on Saturday night showed that all too clearly. Business was heating up a little and this driver, taken up in the moment, decided to speed up the taxi equation. I was driving down First Avenue south-bound in Belltown when Yellow 6 _ _ flies by me going nearly 40 MPH. Not reasonable when crowded conditions suggest extra caution, not the opposite. Compounding his error were the foolish jaywalkers crossing Virgina, the driver swerving to the right and just missing the pedestrians. Turns out the guy is new. And I will keep saying this until the good folks down at Licensing finally understand this. The pressure and stress inherent to taxi causes the best of people to make stupid decisions. When you put the woefully unprepared out in this deranged environment bad things inevitably happen. As Bob Dyan sang, "When will they ever learn?" Who knows but I can tell you this, the answer is not "blowin' in the wind" instead clearly lying directly in front of their noses, long or short. "Com' on," I say, "isn't it time you respond to the obvious?" I can only hope so.
Stay Tuned, My Seattle Taxi Brothers & Sisters
Today is an important week for all of us. Tomorrow Sally Clark the current president of the Seattle City Council is appearing before the Seattle & King County Taxi Advisory Commission. The meeting begins at 9:30 AM, Seattle City Hall in a room on Level L2. All are welcome.
Wednesday morning I am meeting with Joel Sacks, who is the new Director of Labor & Industry. Amongst other topics will be the audits.
On Thursday there will be two City Council panels discussing the for-hire and limo situation. I believe I will be sitting on the second of the two scheduled panels. Friday I will give a report concerning all three meetings. Yes, I am working for YOU my fellow residents of the taxi ZOO!