Unfortunately my prediction concerning business volume, and the overall fate of the local taxi industry, might already be coming true as negative evidence builds, reinforcing the obvious. This past weekend I made almost $150.00 less than what I view as my minimum weekend profit after lease and gasoline. This is not personally sustainable. Early Saturday morning I took a taxi buddy home who is not close to having his December rent, T__ just thankful that he has his back taxi lease paid up, meaning he has been in arrears for nearly two or three weeks. Another friend, who I saw sitting at Amtrak Sunday afternoon, borrowed 20 bucks so he could pay his storage bill by 5:00 PM, thus avoiding what would otherwise be an eighty dollar late fee. Both of these guys are veteran drivers and, business-wise, are getting their taxi butts kicked. Obviously this is not a good story, one being written by many drivers reaching for non-existent fares.
The reason behind these sad chronicles are three-fold. One, as usual, with summer now past, seasonally, passenger volume is down. Two, decisions made by City and County regulators and administrators have adversely affected our work environment. And three, for those of us working at Yellow, the continued dysfunctional dispatch system has been costly, with calls down and frustration mounting. One, two, THREE rhymes with misery!
As I repeated at the city council hearings and previously many times upon these pages, Seattle and the surrounding metropolitan area cannot, and more than likely, for years to come, will not sustain the numbers of drivers of all types offering taxi-style ride services, the passenger customer base totally insufficient to simultaneously provide adequate business levels to two thousand-plus independent operators competing at any given hour. Where, I ask Seattle's mayor and the nine current city council members, where were these legions of customers on a miserably dead post-Thanksgiving weekend? Where are all these mythological customers mentioned in the Cooper/Mundy report coming from? Need I remind that Seattle is not New York City? And will it ever become an equivalent entity, filled with millions of inhabitants? Harbor Island will never be mistaken for Manhattan.
The answer to my questions garners an easy response. The customers simply do not exist. Let me repeat. The imagined, and I mean imaginary customers do not exist in Seattle, Washington on a daily and seasonal basis. That is the truth. And wishing it was otherwise, like in some contemporary fairytale authored by a modern Han Christian Andersen won't alter the situation or reconfigure the tale. Even though Seattle is a gateway to Alaska and Asia, it remains what it is, a small, regional center. As is said, putting lipstick upon the lips of a farm animal doesn't change the porcine or bovine into a suitable partner. A steer is a castrated bull and the gelding an unhappy horse. Any and all other definitions not applicable to the subject at hand.
This, as I have oft repeated, is what happens, mis-definitions and misdirection, when local experts like me and many others are not listened to or taken seriously. Not only were our warning and misgivings unheeded, they were completely ignored, and why, why did this occur?
Simply due to a lack of respect, an attitude personally emanating from the mayor and the city council members implying clearly that those of an inferior class cannot possibly understand what is happening around them. Unfortunately, it is no surprise to me that class and caste-based attitude is rampant at Seattle's City Hall, having long understood that the occupants view themselves as morally superior and educated and knowledgeable, their judgements unequivocal and final and beyond reproach. And I wouldn't take any denials on their part seriously, actions speaking far louder than flowery words, their sentences wilting upon parched tongues, rulers forever invoking metaphysical approval and guidance. Historically it is a popular stance, living Gods beyond questioning or rebuke. I suggest that the time for term limits have arrived. Two terms for both the mayor and the city council. That, and that alone might remove literally some of the current complacency, or more succinctly, the dead weight compressing the city management.
And yes, at times there is some business but not enough to make a positive impact upon all concerned. Sunday night, the airport and the train stations were busy with returning Thanksgiving celebrants but what about the previous 40 hours beginning at 12:01 AM Saturday morning? You can bet Mayor Ed Murray and council members like Sally Bagwell, Sally Clark, Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden and that ersatz champion of the abused masses, Kshama Sawant, will never for a second suffer through sitting in a cab not knowing where that next fare will come from. How can you expect objectivity from someone receiving a guaranteed paycheck? My rhetorical reply is you can't, or at least the percentages are extremely low.
I have mentioned this before, and again the truth remains unchanged, the mayor and the nine city council members, save perhaps Mike O'Brien, do not understand one iota the consequences of their decisions upon thousands of taxi, flat-rate for-hire, and ride-share (TNC) drivers and their families. Adding the now serious mistakes currently plaguing PSD/BYG (Yellow Taxi), our reality (the drivers and owners) can be appropriately summed up in one word, DISASTER, and how this horrible situation concludes is anyone's guess.
On that topic, mismanagement on the taxi association level, Mister George Anderson, author of his now infamous dispatching system, made yet another appearance Monday to answer questions from a group of extremely angry multiple taxi license owners. Yellow's extra board is now daily filled with un-leased cabs. Cuts are being made at the garage and the superintendent's and cashier's and dispatch office. One month later and still the studded snow tires haven't been mounted. And the annual Yellow Thanksgiving Dinner was cancelled. Shrilly the alarm bells are ringing, with no rescuers in sight while rebellion permeates the air because people are unable to pay for their most basic needs. Does this mean we have to cancel Christmas too?
This, my taxi friends and brothers and sisters, is not funny. I repeat, there is no humor to be found in this situation, no, none whatsoever. And the grim months of winter have yet to arrive. God! I hate to see what is going to happen. It is not going to be a pretty taxi picture, and you can quote me upon that. Heaven (and whoever resides there), help us!