NYC, after welcoming over 58 million tourists in 2015, expects that number to increase by at least another million visitors, marking a new record of 59 million for 2016. Impressive, wouldn't you agree, especially when adding that figure to an already extant metropolitan population of 20 million or more, totaling, from the taxi perspective, into a potential rider customer base of approximately 80 million ready to tool around Manhattan viewing and hearing the sights that is one very Big Apple.
When comparing Seattle and King County's competing statistics of 1.4 million total residents and 19.2 million visitors (according to a Seattle Times business article), its clear NYC wins by the proverbial tourist mile. There are good and logical reasons why NYC has 13,000 taxis. The same logic can't be applied to Seattle's taxi and taxi-like transportation providers, given that our potential customer base clearly having more operators than we need and require.. The question of course is why is this true?
The answer is simple: municipal and county regulators and administrators wanting to believe that Seattle (and King County) is something that it isn't--- mythology equaling fantasy equaling governmental mis-estimation, and ultimately, operational malfeasance and delusion,whether intentional or not, morphing into distorted reality, equating the small large and the insignificant important and momentous. Obviously this type of approach isn't helpful when resolution is the goal, resulting only in confusion. Clarity, despite all objections, is always better than the alternative. But expecting clarity from politicians truly is a fantasy!
First I will start with the approximate Seattle provider number, the figures speaking for themselves. Our market is saturated, and all the independent operators, regardless of affiliation, are drowning in the crowded sea. There is simply nowhere to swim!
Seattle & King County Service Provider Estimation:
14,000 Uber operators
3000? Lyft drivers
900 plus Seattle & KC taxis
250 City-Only Flat-rate For-hire cars
250? County-Only Flat-rate For-hire cars
Unknown Number Shuttle Express vans and limousines (carrying half-million passengers 2015)
Unknown number pedicabs (carrying large number during and after NFL Seahawk games)
This all roughly equals an approximate 20,000 operators for a potential customer base less than one quarter the size of New York's. Of course adding to NYC's 13,000 taxis are 14,000 Uber operators and 15,000 Green (livery) metered taxis, making for approximately 42,000 taxi and taxi-like providers but, as I said, given the population numbers (resident and visitor), these numbers are reasonable. What we have currently in Seattle is not. If we didn't have 200 plus cruise ships visiting here each season we would be sunk, and I am not joking!
And again, in addition to our over-crowded provider group, we must add buses and light-rail to the overall mix. This week light-rail is opening stations in the University District and Capitol Hill, meaning you can travel all the way from the UW to Sea-Tac for $2.25. Given that a taxi will cost you $50.00, what choice will the rational consumer take? You can also take an express bus to Sea-Tac from 2nd & Yesler for $3.50.
All this means a further cutting into an important ridership, making it harder on a daily basis. Even if we have a yearly 5 % or better annual visitor increase, the majority will never come close to entering a taxi, especially for the larger revenue fares. We cabbies are getting screwed and our situation will only worsen. That is the reality we are facing, along with again not having a viable taxi stand for SafeCo Field for the upcoming Mariner baseball season. I know all of us cabbies look forward for being chased down 1st Ave South by the police! Aren't those flashing lights pretty?
In my lost version concerning this topic, I outlined a very blunt personality analysis of the kind of person making all these wonderful decisions. Obvious that they have never driven a taxi or worked (in any substantial way) a laboring or blue-collar job. I will leave it for another time. I will say I do know the type well, having once been married to a millionaire's daughter, 12 years with her thoroughly teaching me the morays of the privileged upper-middle class ruling elite. If there were any positives to our disunion, it was a wedding present of five weeks in Europe, my first foray off the North American continent. You have probably all heard songs (like Billy Joe Royal's "Down in the Boondocks) about love between the unequal classes. What they don't sing about is, after they are married, how Miss Queen treats Mister Factory Worker. It is a dissonant song, believe me!
Anyway, at least in the short term, given that both Spring and Summer are upon the taxi horizons, business will improve but unless we cut in half or better the number of independent operators vying for the same limited dollar, our collective pain will continue unabated. Don't think so, well then, obtain a for-hire license and join the menagerie. You too can become a taxi or Uber or whatever else you choose baboon! Enjoy your time in the jungle because of course it is a real zoo! Ain't that hilarious?!