After hearing the rumors, and not receiving a clear response from Seattle/King County, yesterday I went down to King County's "For-Hire" desk to receive the definitive and official answer. While seeming stranger than fiction, it is true, anyone signing up to drive for a TNC company, ie Uber, does not have to pay a single dime for something that costs me $180.00. Making the insult worse is that the "Uber" for-hire license allows the applicant to drive not only for them but also for flat-rate for-hire and taxi companies, meaning that the TNC for-hire version is both free and completely transferable while my for-hire license is limited to taxis and flat-rates. And it certainly is not free.
The question then is twofold. How is this possible; and how was the regulatory permission created? Another two VERY important questions requiring an answer is basic. Who then is paying the King County/Seattle fees due; or have the fees relating to TNC for-hire costs been completely waived? If Uber is paying fees that normally are assigned to the independent contractor, then it would appear that a contractual line has been crossed, with Uber taking on the position of employer, negating their ongoing regulatory argument stating they are an app leasing company and nothing else.
But if King County/Seattle is handing out exemptions, I too want to be standing in that bread line. If Uber's getting a free lunch, well, me and all my fellow cabbies too are hungry,sick and tired of growling stomachs and tightened belts. Yes, I'll take ketchup and mustard on that for-hire! And please, make my mine to go.
I suppose one possibility is that Uber does require repayment by its associated independent contractors, the King County/Seattle arrangement one of convenience and nothing less, the mystery explainable, Sherlock Holmes or Father Brown's expert intervention made unnecessary. But whatever is going on, I do believe transparency is required. I want to know why that simply by registering my 2012 Chevrolet Sonic with Uber, I can forego charges I would normally be personally responsible for. Answers are required and I hope to have them for you in the next few weeks; or before January 25th when I leave to join "she-who-can't-be-named" in San Miguel del Allende, Mexico.
Ya Would Think They Would Have Learned........
Even I thought that Yellow had learned its lesson after its near fatal computer dispatch debut but no, they did it again, thankfully though in this instance the damage far less magnified. Last Monday Mister George Anderson based down in San Francisco installed a system-wide software update that, at least initially, resulted in some temporary system failure, requiring either a re-booking or re-logging into the system. As of today, December 29th, the problems continue unabated.
That they failed to warn anyone this software update was coming was the first mistake. And that the only person in the local industry truly knowledgeable concerning taxi computers, Solomon, had a four-day holiday closure, only compounded the issue. So much for proper planning and making sure the customer is satisfied.
Why, why do they keep operating like this? Yes I know, it is a very good and pertinent question.
And something I found out last week surprised me. A colleague told me that the late PSD GM, Frank Dowilla, viewed me as enemy # 1, topping his list. What I find so confounding is that I have only been interested in resolutions, not blame. If my various interventions had been taken seriously, many of the system problems we have all experienced might have been avoided. Enemy? I just don't see it. Personally, while finding Frank's managerial style unnecessarily abrasive, I did respect many of the decisions made during his tenure. Much might have been achieved if instead he had reached out and talked to me,Yellow potentially today looking far differently than a company sinking into the sunset, swallowed up by the transportation sea. And the lot would not have been abandoned, as 74 South Hudson's permanent closure is mere days away.
Yellow Debit Card No More
Another ill-advised decision recently abandoned is the usage of Yellow's driver debit card, something both of questionable legality and widespread driver outrage. One thinks they might have asked all of us whether we were interested in transitioning to a cashless payment system. Not only did many drivers fail to authorize their card, many didn't even bother to open the envelope. Funny, sort of!
Yesterday I had Seattle's last great mayor in the cab, none other than Charles Royer, picking him up in Pioneer Square. A good guy, and I will be checking out his brother Bob's blog. Thanks Charlie, for all those good years!
For All Those......
For all those less that enthusiastic about Christmas I leave you with this poem by the American writer Dorothy Parker. Happy New Year. And as everyone knows, I am doing all I can to make this my last taxi year.
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
Again, I wish everyone the best of success and happiness with the coming New Year 2016! Good taxi luck in the ensuing months!