While there have been previous TNC (Uber, Lyft, etc) inroads at Sea-Tac, with surrogates either picking up Uber passengers, or Uber drivers themselves, it seems, picking up on the ticket counter level minus official attention and intervention, a major change is the offing. Last Tuesday, upon staff planning and recommendation, the Port of Seattle has adopted a one year "pilot" program allowing TNC operation upon the third floor, sharing space with taxis and other providers. Sixty spaces will be provided, along with a nearby parking lot holding one hundred and sixty cars.
Though at first sounding like a reasonable compromise, a logical response to public demand, it isn't when you realize that Sea-Tac, as far I know, will be potentially open to over 14,000 TNC operators. Currently, the Yellow taxis serving Sea-Tac are capped at 250, meaning the disparity is both illogical and unfair. My cab is not eligible because it is only has a city plate. Even if all Seattle and King County licensed taxis were allow to work the airport, we would still be only looking at just over 900 cars so the math in this case, is distorted, making little sense.
Again, I must remind everyone that TNC companies were initially capped at 250 cars per company until Mayor Murray's intervention. As I have been saying all along, and will keep repeating, how and why did this all come about? An interesting question that, to my taxi mind, requires a real answer. Is anybody else curious?
There are some conditions, primarily that the TNC cars must average 43 miles per gallon, and of course a per ride fee plus a lump sum fee of $100,000 for permission to join the one-year pilot program. If there are requirements to have on-site supervisors, like Yellow must have, I have not heard of any so far. I would think this would be very important to ensure that only currently app-registered TNC operators are picking up Sea-Tac passengers.
If you don't think this is important, think again, because earlier today, an old friend told me he used an Uber operator this past Saturday who DID NOT originate the ride through the app. In fact this rogue Uber operator provided TWO trips minus the app, meaning, as I told my friend, "you were riding in an uninsured car." Given Seattle Port Authority liability, these kinds of shenanigans should not be happening at Sea-Tac, because obviously, due to safely concerns, illegal operation creating unnecessary dangers for a trusting and unaware public.
Of equal interest, I am told that, on April 4th, Sea-Tac will announce the results of who won the RFP derby, telling us which combination of operators will be providing taxi or taxi-like service for the next five years. Given Sea-Tac's TNC pilot program, will it really matter? One might rightfully ask if the Port Authority really cares what happens to both the taxi industry and the current loyal group of drivers serving Sea-Tac? Like other questions concerning regulatory decisions, I will let you form your own conclusions.
Why Is Washington State Labor & Industry Prosecuting Tacoma Yellow Cab?
In last week posting, I attempted to tell everyone why certain decisions are made by describing the kind of people making them. While agreeing or not to my premise, I find personal vindication in the Port TNC decision, and again, in the legal action WA St L&I has taken against Tacoma Yellow Taxi, this stemming from something allegedly occurring some time 2007, yes, nearly 10 years ago.
Back during those early dark days of what is now known as the "Great Recession," Tacoma Yellow was operating with about 18 insured cars out of a fleet of approximately fifty taxis. A similar situation is happening now at Seattle Yellow, with many cars sitting on the new lot essentially "mothballed," currently licensed but not insured.
What L&I did in 2007 was count all 50 cars as completely operational even though Tacoma Yellow has the insurance records proving otherwise. This occurred even after Tacoma Yellow had agreed in 2007 to a legal compromise with L&I, paying L&I insurance on all operational vehicles. L&I, all these years later, are accusing Yellow of lying despite of what appears to be indisputable evidence proving their innocence.
Is Tacoma Yellow being picked on? Again, do the research and come to your own conclusion. I encourage the folks at L&I to do the same. Maybe L&I could instead put some time and energy into determining whether TNC drivers are actually employees, and not the independent operators Uber and Lyft say they are. But Uber alone has 61 billions dollars to hire the world's best legal team. That dollar amount might explain what is going on a regulatory and administrative level all over the State of Washington. When I was passing through Las Vegas in late November 1977 someone told that in Vegas "Money talks and bullshit walks!" Very possibly true, might you agree?