Monday a taxi colleague told me how he sat and sat in Ballard last Friday night, beginning at 6:15 PM and waited for the next 1 3/4 hours before getting a call. Driving over to Ballard Avenue, he watched multiple Uber cars dropping and picking up. What Mike experienced and observed is something I know well, suffering through my two worse connective weekends in memory. No fun, and from my observation, everyone, Uber, town car, for-hire and taxi drivers are dealing with what I have been saying was inevitable: a saturated marketplace, Saturday night's East Pike (Capitol Hill) bar-break looking like something out of Manhattan, cars jammed everywhere due to a smaller than usual bar-crowd, more folks staying home that night, meaning few fewer passengers available for the number of taxi and quasi-taxis out there working. In a spontaneous, desperate spasm, drivers poured in from all directions, not understanding that at least this morning Capitol Hill would not be easy pickings.
Diagnosing the melee, I headed to the University, instantly picking up a bar employee off to Beacon Hill for $31.00. Soon thereafter I picked up a woman in West Seattle fleeing a failed date, literally running out of the house signalling me with a flashlight. Her erstwhile suitor was passed out upon the floor and his uncle was wandering in the house minus clothing. I got $45.00 including tip for taking her all the way to the Renton Highlands.
While there is business, and there always will be some, our local business model is seriously eroded, there just not being enough fares for everyone who wants one. The sad fact is this situation was completely avoidable, a bureaucratic failure of gigantic proportions. This is what poor management brings you: total chaos. We are in deep trouble and the verdict remains out. I am not sure what the final conclusion and outcome will be. I do wonder if my taxi colleagues in general understand how serious the situation is, that we appear to be literally teetering on disaster's edge. All I know is that I do not want to face the same business challenges I have the last two weekends. Misery and complete desolation is not a healthy combination, enough to permanently damage the taxi heart. Sitting for two hours is too much to bear, no one tough enough weathering that kind of stress.
Analysis of a Bad Situation: the Tainted Gifts of Bureaucratic Mistakes
We in the local taxi industry are up against the wall and our future is bleak. While understanding better than most the plus and minuses of the local taxi associations, I still place the primary blame upon the regulatory system, which after years of disinterest and mismanagement and outrageous mistakes, have both strangled and financially paralyzed the industry.
Instead of providing constructive guidance, the City of Seattle and King County have openly obstructed much needed refinement and expansion. And instead of providing regulatory protection, they have openly ostracized us, opening markets to illegal competitors while inhibiting our ability to respond, obligating fees, licences and rules not required of others.
In the essay/parody concerning governmental servants, I jokingly describe the bureaucratic mindset making destructive and befuddling decisions, attempting to demystify with humor what to many must be a puzzling incompetence. One all important point to remember: liberal does not necessarily translate into progressive policies. We in the local taxi industry have been clearly blindsided by liberal politicians attempting to serve everyone, mindlessly blowing up the economic dam, engulfing and drowning us in a sea of unnecessary service providers. Our local taxi market cannot sustain 5000 or more individuals all trying to serve a limited number of real and actual customers. Who would make these kinds of delusional decisions? No other than a Seattle City council populated by self-perpetuating liberals not interested in knowing our reality from the ground up. Why really know something when pretending instead is far more entertaining?
And from the taxi perspective, it is impossible to deal with regulators who say they are responsive while simultaneously obstructing thoughtful resolution. Over 30,000 Mariner fans attended Sunday's baseball game and still official no cab stand at SafeCo field. And who was sitting at what once passed for a taxi stand? Two flat rate for-hire drivers.
That is the bureaucrat's answer to our concerns. Clearly they do not care, despite all sincere protests to the contrary, the City of Seattle and King County is selling us down the taxi river. Consider the following essay an explanation but not an excuse. The City of Seattle and King County could do much better. They are simply choosing not to, proscribing and setting the agenda, limiting options and narrowing potential outcomes. It is obvious. I will repeat myself. It is obvious what is going on.
Anatomy of the Bureaucratic Brain
The nominal bureaucrat's cranial circuitry is a smokescreen presenting benign impartiality as official policy, pretense and pantomime its all important tools. "We are here to serve you.......We are the unprejudiced public servant.......We are the labyrinth you must negotiate.......What do want........?----- Can't you see that there are thousands just like you waiting in line?"
This seamless contradictory response, a simultaneous acceptance and denial is the bureaucratic acknowledgement that yes, you are entitled and yes, you are a nuisance demanding basic services that theoretically can or will be provided if only you complacently comply and accept what is given even if it isn't what you asked for in the first place! Protest? There can be no protests!
Efficiency is the bureaucratic brain, and time is lost asking unnecessary questions that are unanswerable because you are down looking up and we at the top are ever so busy, busy, busy! processing incoming and outgoing we do not have an appointment for you this century! But just in case, take a number!
But rest assured, our degrees from the Pinnacle Heights School of Governmental Parenting and the finest training received From Those Who Know More Than You Do enabling us to make decisions concerning what is culturally and eugenically best for you and all other yous even if the particular you that is you is left behind bereft, homeless and with nothing upon to dine,
please do not for a moment think that the bureaucratic brain is cruel or unkind because this very moment, at their leisure, they are toasting you their unwashed brethren with a glass of vintage blood-red wine!
TAG (Taxi Advisory Group) Quarterly Meeting Wed 05/14/2014
I took the time to go, wanting to ask some questions, and considering the answers, I am glad I did. What I found interesting is that folks from the City of Seattle and King County, a total of six matched the number from the combined taxi and pubic sectors, equalling of course twelve for what was intended to be a briefing about the city council's bill/ordinance. Where was everyone else?
When asked about Uber, town car and flat-rate for-hire enforcement, we were told unequivocally that powers (unnamed) from above are stopping the enforcement arm from doing anything.
That the Uber Referendum is now scheduled for November, 2014.
That Mayor Murray's negotiation with Uber & friends is not going well. It appears that insurance is the issue. That a cease & desist order is pending.
I didn't laugh when, asking why the City-only and County-only flat-rate for-hire cars aren't clearly delineated, we were told there are orange and black stickers in the upper front windshields. That must explain why I have never noticed them in over 4 years. When I responded why don't have "plates" on the rear, the answer was they didn't want them to look like taxis. Now that was funny!
Jim, the Farwest general manager complained that three of his cars were cited for burnt out license plate lights. Considering that Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar have been operating illegally for years, with serious questions about insurance coverage, there seems to be a glaring enforcement imbalance. As I have been saying, the taxi industry have been completely compliant, obeying all the rules, paying our fees and what to we get? Of course a big kick in the butt!
Eddie, Jodie Trueblood's replacement, the new head of King County Licensing, also attended yesterday's meeting. He came over from WA State Liquor Control. Next posting I will provide his full name and email address.
PS 05/16/14: Eddie Carter is his full name. Telephone # and other contact info next blog posting.