Yesterday, Tuesday December 8th, I sat through my first Port commission meeting. Forsaking both sleep and writing time I battled a steady rain all the way from Tacoma to Seattle, just making the 2:00 PM start time. Thankfully I arrived just in time to to make my public commentary, a colleague having signed me in, allowing for one solitary taxi driver voice to be heard. Yes, amazingly I was the sole non-owner to stand up and speak, again advocating for an industry utterly devoid of self-interested parties, most cabbies concentrating upon their own navel. It is a sorry situation, our nearly complete lack of viable representation, something requiring immediate repair, a two minute podium not enough time for addressing decades of association mismanagement and regulatory failure. Again, the entire Yellow taxi Sea-Tac contract might soon implode and, as usual, there I was, the driver's sole spokesman. To their credit, others did voice concern about major changes looming at the Port but these complainants either single owners or paid lobbyists; the taxi foot soldier, as I said, conspicuously absent.
What became clear beyond any doubt is our (the lease-drivers) need for an organization defending our goals and civil rights.. While the thought is simple, the solution is complex, creating a union or driver trade association out of thin air. Still, once my book is publication ready, I will start the process. Looking at my current progress, it probably won't be before mid-February at the earliest, once I am back from Mexico. This trip I guarantee I will have my book with me on a known laptop. I will get the work done, and then, and only then will I begin the attempt to bring everyone together in a coherent and legal organization. If having a bureaucratic gun to your head isn't enough to convince folks to join up, I will finally surrender to the non-negotiable reality that Seattle's taxi industry is beyond redemption. It very well may be the case but you never know, don't miracles happen everyday? Just ask the current Pope. He'll tell you all about it!. And all you Roman Catholics should start saying a few Hail Marys. Prayers are definitely called for. Light a candle or two while you are at it, never knowing what will grab the taxi God's attention.
Two ominous notes from yesterday's meeting concerned TNC concessions at Sea-Tac and Yellow's contractual future. Uber obviously has been lobbying the Port, making potential inroads toward obtaining curb space with the taxis on the third floor. The port employee making his report to the commission mentioned "very quickly" Yellow's billing issues. His short sentence should scare the hell out of the Sea-Tac taxi drivers. Listen between the lines and you will be alarmed. This could be the proverbial "tip of the regulatory iceberg" sinking good Ship Yellow Cab's continued presence at Sea-Tac. The situation is dire. Is anyone paying attention?
One potential mistake the good people at the Port of Seattle might be making is thinking, erroneously, that providing taxi and taxi-like services, is easy, something anyone can do. Opening up Sea-Tac to TNC "amateur hour" could be a huge mistake. An example from Yellow this past weekend shows yet again that too many independent operators are not up to the taxi task.
To say that Seattle was rainy Friday, Saturday and Sunday is understating how much moisture fell from the skies. Rivers are flooding and hillsides are sliding upon railway tracks and roads, our past summer-long drought a distant memory. It was during these water-laden weather conditions that a rookie Yellow taxi driver stopped on the west side of Aurora Ave North (State Highway 99), telling his well-dressed passengers they were going to somehow have to cross over the highway to that famous eatery of Seattle's millionaire-class, Canlis, on their own, that he wasn't going to take them any further.
That these customers had no idea how to do the impossible is understandable. Obviously this is a very bad story, with the ultimate consequences yet to be written but like the driver who last week took his passengers to the wrong Boeing Field, who truly is to blame? Who was it that licensed and certified these individuals taxi ready? Of course none other than the City of Seattle and King County. Will the bureaucrats there be held responsible? No, of course not. And will the driver be fired? Unbelievably that also might not happen. Amazing, isn't it?
And this should be fair warning to the Port of Seattle commissioners. You might want to reconsider flooding the airport with transportation neophytes. All hell could break loose and then who will be taking responsibility for the mess and accompanying scandal? If anyone thinks Uber will, you are naive. Or worse!