What had been long rumored has been confirmed---sometime within the next few months, the BYG/Yellow taxi co-op will no longer exist in its current form, replaced by a system where lease-drivers will be renting/leasing taxi medallions on a 3-5 year commitment. Precipitating factors fueling this monumental change in how Seattle's largest taxi association does business is due to the following antecedents reshaping and configuring our local industry.
Regulatory adjustments transforming "rented" licenses into real, negotiable property, along with the desire to be rid of debilitating and prohibitive financial commitments monetarily draining the co-op convinced BYG that, like Uber, a more hands-off operational business model made for a more survivable future. Since the City of Seattle and King County created an uncapped TNC/Ride-share market, it was logical that adjustments had to be made. Removing the cost and headache of car replacement along with maintenance and repair makes numeric sense, eliminating onerous salaries and overhead. One unfortunate consequence is that some drivers might end up without a taxi to drive. I am sure the more experienced drivers will survive. More than likely it will be the newcomers who are destined to fall due to this new evolutionary shift, adaption the underlying imperative. Of course taxi is a "dog eat dog" "cat eat cat" world. Always has been and always will be, continuing into taxi eternity.
But I must point out that if the initial municipal response to Uber. Lyft and Sidecar had been less welcoming, it is doubtful this transformation at Yellow would have occurred, at least this quickly. This is what happens when a regulated industry's pleas fell upon deaf bureaucratic ears. I am guessing that some city council members are pleased with the outcome, feeling that we in the taxi industry have gotten just what we deserved. All I can say to that attitude is that bias and nonfactual mythology should never provide the foundation for broad changes in governmental policy. Just because you don't like someone shouldn't immediately translate into punishment, which is exactly what happened here in Seattle and King County. As I've stated here before, Mayor Murray and the current Seattle City Council members, with the exception of Mike O'Brien, don't like us. That fact is inescapable. And their recrimination has become our operational reality. And what can we do about it? That is a "good question" is my comment.
One Down, Four to Go
Last week's Seattle primary knocked three-term Council-member Jean Godden out of the race, Godden placing third. As someone who once voted for her, I wish her well yet at the same time I remain unhappy she voted to uncap the TNC industry in Seattle. Looking at the primary votes, it is unrealistic to think that the four remaining taxi offenders, Burgess, Bagwell, Harrell and Sawant will all lose out in November though Sawant in particular appears to be vulnerable. I suggest it might be wise to actively support their opponents in the general election while asking for their support for our industry. We require friends on the City Council, not vindictive enemies.
You Can Bet I Would Have
While driving an extra board cab last Wednesday afternoon, I was hit by a driver who ran a red light. Minor damage and no injuries but if I had been hurt I would have filed my L&I claim with the State of Washington. One part of BYG's reorganization is that the L&I "over-payment" issue will be rendered moot. L&I did send me an email. When I have the time, I will tell you the substance of their reply but suffice to say, none of what is happening is their fault. I think it is called, "passing the governmental buck" or something like that. The best part of the accident is that my passenger wasn't hurt. Thankfully my quick foot translated into the front bumper taking the full impact. Thank goodness for something!
File this into the "You Gotta Be Kiddin'" category!
No matter how long a cabbie has been driving, you will experience something new and different and usually, unwanted. My last fare this weekend was this very silly woman who kept saying "how good she was looking tonight" and somehow, someway expecting me to respond favorably in a manner I don't want to even contemplate. Talking over the loud rap music playing from her smart phone, she kept soliciting my attention. The one thing I did say, as a joke, to her narcissistic self-commentary, was that "It was good that at least one person agreed with her." meaning of course, her. Leaving the taxi, she said, "I had been mean to her." for not taking her up on what she was offering. Hey, she can keep it, thank you very much! Good grief, Charlie Brown!
Another Example of Unexpected Consequences
The truth is, and it is the truth, is that the folks regulating the Seattle and King County taxi industry have been asleep at the regulatory wheel for a long time. During the last TAG meeting, the current KC Department of Licensing director said to me that yes, he believes that fingerprints naturally alter yearly, when responding to my question as to "Why are the being drivers forced to have all ten fingers fingerprinted annually?" He said that proof backing his assertion existed but I have yet to see it. When I asked him whether he or anyone else at King County were required to have annual fingerprinting, he said, no, that it isn't required. I bring this up only to illustrate the kind of attitude and awareness prevalent with current administrators, having no idea concerning the world their policies create. Too often the drivers who are licensed to drive taxis, flat-rate for-hire, and now Uber, are clueless to the environment they have entered. For me, an incident Sunday night at Pier 69 (the Victoria Clipper) says it all, screaming it into the night.
Dispatch was slow in announcing that the "boat was in," leaving only me and the taxi supt in attendance. A driver pulls up but acts confused because the door leading to US Customs remained closed. As he started to drive away, the Supt shouted "Where are you going?" and I told him, "The boat is here and the door is about to open." and as I was saying that, a Clipper employee unlocked and propped open the door. Joking I told the driver, "But hey, if you want leave, go!" which prompted him to take off.
As he was leaving the pier, a bunch of cabs came roaring up, thus signalling to him that indeed he needed to turn around. Coming back around, he jumped out of his cab, yelling at me, telling his friends that I had told him to leave. Huh? was the general response, because I am just another driver and anyway, I was just trying to get his attention. What is troubling about this was his "in general" bewilderment, the gentleman seemingly incapable of interpreting a fairly straight-forward situation. As I have said, and keep saying, this is what happens when perfectly nice people are put in a situation they are totally unprepared for. But you can be sure that next year they will again take down his fingerprints, enabling to do what I have no idea. Amazing, amazing, and I repeat, amazing! And I'll say it again, "Good Grief!"