Yesterday at the Tacoma Library I was thumbing through a National Geographic book containing 400 worldwide destinations that you MUST visit. In addition to full page features the book contains lists of top attractions. What really caught my attention is that Seattle's own Pike Place Market was listed Number One of all the open air and farmer markets in the country, making it the place to go when visiting the Emerald City. For those who are not recent Seattle historians the City of Seattle tried to knock the entire market down, only to be blocked from such foolishness by the local citizenry. Thankfully the market remains, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Who knows but some years I would not be surprised if the actual number of tourists strolling through the crowded aisles actually surpasses a million, it is that popular. What struck me is a related decision, when added to current City government managerial style, tells me that little has changed regardless who is in charge. If the City can make the worst choice, they will.
Back in 1987 when I started driving taxi in Seattle there was a large taxi stand (zone as the City likes to call them) at the NE corner of 1st and Pike Street. It was big enough for two taxis and it was always busy. It was perhaps the best place to find a fare in the entire city because it was right across from the main entrance to the market. In other words the demand was and remains high, as tourists loaded down with bounty take rides back to their hotels, and reasonably often, after picking up their luggage, off to Sea-Tac. Everything was wonderful until the City made a very poor and unwise decision. They removed the stand.
It was something like 10-15 years ago that the city eliminated the taxi stand from the busiest pedestrian corner in the city and what appears to be the top tourist destination in the entire state. The major problem with this was demand remained but the ability to pickup passengers easily and legally was taken away. What was accomplished was to make the tens of thousands of annual passenger pickups on that corner illegal and fraught with difficulty now that there is no place to stop. That is why the list caught my eye, just another glaring example of the disconnection that passes for governance in the City of Seattle.
I say this as the City Council and the Mayor allow the problem with the illegal for-hire and limo pickups to fester. Bruce Harrell, a city council member who wants to be mayor, has even made public statements that appear to be in favor of new unregulated ersatz taxi services that potentially endanger the public. I don't think Mister Harrell realizes that the Seattle voters are not interested in another Mike Nickels. One was certainly enough, as local basketball fans will validate.
Tomorrow I meet with the two fellows who have been hired by these same incompetent folks to do what amounts to be a potential taxi passenger head count during all hours of a given Seattle taxi day. The said purpose of this demand audit is to determine whether current service availability is sufficient or will other considerations be necessary to fill the service gap. As I have already commented upon this in earlier postings, all I will say is that I have tired of the City's operating style which gives resident experts short thrift, instead importing non-taxi personnel to do the study.
My message to the City government is this: Why do you think we are interested in anything this study has to say? Using the eliminated 1st & Pike taxi stand as example number one, you folks do not know what you are doing. And how many more mistakes have to be made before you look at yourselves and recognize that? Next to the old stand was the Mirror Tavern which offered one dollar glasses of beer. I advise all city officials elected and appointed to look into a mirror but please no beverages as you seem tipsy as it is. See what you see and get back to all of us.