Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Taxi Essay: Headlong Toward Oblivion: A Failure To Build Relationships

When does blame end and accountability begin, allowing for a rational analysis of what is a systemic disaster born how many theoretical decades ago but only now displaying its true face to a shocked and disapproving general public?  In this case it begins when you are nearly completely submersed and gasping for breath, going down for a final time, not realizing the depth nor the dimension of the problem.  Another way of explaining it is claiming surprise you are totally drenched while standing  unsheltered amidst a torrential downpour. After a while it all looks like buffoonery which is difficult to deny when everyone is pointing fingers at you and laughing.  This is what it has come to for the local and also national taxi companies and associations, a damning assessment of what has been operational for the past 100 years and where the regulators currently think you are heading, which for them appears to be absolutely nowhere, akin to driving in circles.  I can understand that.

Anyone close to the taxi industry, me for instance and my over 26 year relationship plying the taxi streets, quickly noticed a minor criminal attitude governing many of the individuals involved, be they driver or owner or mechanic or dispatcher.  The obvious problem I saw from the beginning with this attitude is that instead of lurking down dark alleys the taxi industry was fully illuminated by the bright glaring light of governmental oversight and regulation.  It was like robbing a bank with an official name tag, meaning clearly you were going to be instantly caught, which is exactly what happened, smiles replaced by frowns, handcuffs replacing handshakes. It made no sense but when you are not paying full attention it is difficult to comprehend your own foolishness. 

That we in the Seattle taxi industry are about to be dismembered should come as no surprise.  We are only receiving what we asked for, the rampant sinner fully expecting God's wrath.  Why wouldn't you expect a strong response after your cars became disintegrating "death traps," with owners deaf to any and all complaint or friendly suggestion. Both mechanics and dispatchers found bribery a lucrative sideline activity while too many taxi drivers fifty years ago and even still today think their cab is a shortcut to chaos and personal anarchy.  Like I said, all very stupid when Big Mommy and Daddy government observes your every move.  What was everyone thinking? 

If instead, starting way back in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, the taxi industry, like other regulated industries, had begun constructive conversation with regulators, they would have built the necessary connections protecting them when someone like Uber came knocking.  Some cities, Portland, Oregon for instance, did step up and protected their endemic taxi industry. Clearly in Seattle that did not come close to happening.  Instead, everyone associated was labeled incompetent and beyond rehabilitation.  When told their assessments and conclusions were incorrect, they ignored our complaints, actually stating they knew more about our own industry than we do, understanding how to better serve the general passenger public.  Friends do not do this to friends, and clearly our friends in City and County government are few.  The mayor's bill, replacing the city council's, soundly kicks us squarely in the butt.

All of this could have been avoided by sharing a weekly cup of coffee in 1926 or 1966 or that important year of 1987 when I first got started in the business.  Of course I quickly noticed something was extremely wrong but feeling I was only passing through felt I could ignore the obvious.  I couldn't have been more incorrect, dragged down with the rest of my taxi brethren, ground beneath the heel of vengeful government authority.  A lesson learned yes, but how do we recoup what has been lost?  Plain and simply I don't think we do, at least not quickly nor easily.  Having been our own worse enemy it will take maybe decades to regain market share.  Hard times are upon us and come January a mournful bell will toll for the dead and the dying.  It is inevitable. It is our fate.








3 comments:

  1. I have a close friend who's getting a taxi on his trip next month. This way, he won't have to worry about renting while he's there. He also doesn't have to leave his car at a parking lot! It's going to be much safer. Thiago | http://www.yellowcabaz.com

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  2. Your insights are dead on. The disconnect between cab companies and the drivers was incredible at my company. All the company cared about was collecting the daily rental. With no competition, they could treat the customers with contempt and impunity. The attitude that the customer had to put up with "it", enduring shoddy service because they had no choice if they wanted a ride. Drove me out of the business and glad of it.

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