Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Local Taxi Update---The Unfortunate Demise Of Topnotch Insurance, City Of Seattle Free Rides, Yellow Dispatch News

                                Look into the depths of your soul and learn first to know yourself,
                                then you will understand why the illness was bound to come upon
                                you and perhaps you will thenceforth avoid falling ill.

                                                                Sigmund Freud, from "Collected Papers"

After a cool June spell, more usual summer weather is upon us but more importantly, is business heating up? Yes and no but how I didn't get one Gay Pride Parade related fare on Sunday remains a mystery.  I got a few on Saturday but zero on a Sunday when 3-4 hundred thousand people converged upon downtown, clogging the streets and making life miserable for the average cabby.  Maybe it was just my strategy of staying away from trouble because I got three Sea-Tac Airport runs in a row then a discounted run to Everett.  Odd day on what is normally a real "money-maker" but as I have said and will always say, a cabby's only guarantee is a kick in the behind, hopefully avoiding, if possible, frontal attacks injuring more than just the fragile psyche.  

Now that 478's insurance is coming up for renewal  I sent an email to my old taxi colleague, Robert Rashidi, owner of Topnotch Insurance, only to receive a referral to another insurance agency. "What the hell is going on?" was my first thought.  And the answer is something I forgot completely about, and that was a misguided legal action of about two years ago brought on by the Sea-Tac  Airport Yellow drivers and facilitated by Teamsters 117 against two local taxi insurance agencies, Key and Topnotch.  The driver's contention was that Key and Topnotch had secretly conspired to manipulate rates.  Why anyone would attempt something like that in such a small market, and thinking they could create a local monopoly, would have been my first question before getting lawyers involved.  But given that this was early in the Teamster/Sea-Tac cabby relationship, I think the Teamsters were overly eager to do the drivers' bidding, overreacting instead of applying due consideration.

Perhaps now the Teamsters know what I have known for a long time, that over emotional and wrong-headed assessments is the typical cabbie's first response.  Dawn Gearheart, the Teamsters taxi contact, has recently shown real knowledge and judgment concerning us _____ cabbies.  But two years ago it appears a combination of new driver cultural assimilation and taxi fatigue resulted in cloudy or just plainly paranoid judgment that at times was just plainly wrong and misplaced.  Having rubbed taxi shoulders with those guys when I was the nominal head of the fight against King County, I personally know how erroneous their judgments can sometimes be.  That they helped destroy our effort can't be denied.

It isn't that they are bad people.  Instead it is like I said, factors related to taxi and being in a new environment  affecting what they do and say.  Most importantly, listening carefully to these guys is utterly necessary when deciphering what is correct or real.   Again, it is not a matter of intelligence because the majority of this new wave of immigrant cabbies are very well educated,being doctors, lawyers etc in their home countries.  The overall prevailing factor is just how "the awful physical grind that is taxi" affects the body and mind, contorting reality into something that at times seems like hallucination, all of us cabbies residing in a not-so-pretty "Alice in Wonderland" world where anxiety and stress is our drug of first choice.

And the results of that is Key fought a legal battle before settling; and Topnotch's Robert Rashidi decided to "toss-in-the-towel," tired of dealing with never ending madness.  Knowing both Robert, and Manjit of Key (we served on the taxi advisory commission together) well, I understand their strengths and weaknesses but fairness has never been an issue. That they were subjected to legal harassment says much about our industry. Our real opponents and adversaries lie elsewhere.  Uber, Lyft, Mayor Ed Murray anyone?

Pride Parade Free Rides

Again the City of Seattle teamed up with a ride-share company to provide safe and free rides.  A contact tells me that the City of Seattle does want to unitize taxis but has been unable to reach anyone in the industry to make this happen.  I will avoid any commentary but I will say  I was able to post the collective bargaining workshop info because I received a detailed email from the City of Seattle.  I am told there is money available for taxi participation.  I am glad that's true and if anyone involved in this effort is having problems reaching anyone at Farwest, Orange, Yellow, Northend etc, I suggest they contact me.  I will make it happen.  No problem.

Yellow Zone Queues

I was under the mistaken impression that the "queuing system" would be turned on "zone-wide" but that isn't true.  Instead there are currently 6-7 outlying zones that are "turned-on" to the queue, allowing dispatch to make evaluations.  One approach being considered in having the queue on for all zones only during school-run hours.  One major factor concerning this is that many drivers are saying they want the "closest-car-to-the address" system to remain.  Again, your input is important.  Tell dispatch what you think, what you want. And do it sooner than later, not waiting until autumn comes along.

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