It was long in coming but last Wednesday, August 3rd, the local weekly newspaper, The Seattle Weekly, featured an article written by Sara Bernard entitled "A New Airport Contract Puts Taxi Drivers in a Tough Spot." Overall it is good but it appears working from both old and erroneous information. The old (and it might be the correct) reporting works from the premise that Eastside-for-Hire's winning of the Sea-Tac service contract is confirmed but as I reported last week, that might not be true. As the saying goes, silence from the Port "is deafening;" and quoting from Bob Dylan, "No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden." And for me, that is the best part of Bernard's piece, splicing out a Port of Seattle regal in its pretentions, in its royal decrees.
Evidence for this is the article's comparison of outbound fees between Sea-Tac and three other airports: Phoenix, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Currently Yellow Sea-Tac taxi drivers are paying $5.70 per outbound trip. Based on Eastside-for Hire's 22.5 million dollar winning bid, in the beginning each outbound trip will cost $7.00, ending with $9.00 per trip regardless of fare length, meaning a ride to Olympia costing the same as driving across the street to the Double Tree.
The three cities mentioned have outbound rates that are considerably less. Phoenix charges $1.00. Philadelphia charges $1.50. Washington DC, our center for all things democratic, charges $2.55 per outbound fare. One must ask why there is such a huge difference between Sea-Tac and the other airport's outbound rates? And when Sea-Tac's rates are compared to Seattle Yellow Taxi's weekly $180.00 dispatch fee, one might again ask just how and why is Sea-Tac getting away with charging so much money? Given that, I decided to use my own experience as a best case example.
My following example is based upon me driving a seven-day work week while averaging 20 fares per shift, something I have been doing for years, even in these down times, equaling in 140 fares total. Divide 140 into my weekly $180.00 fee and you come up with a individual fare cost of about $1.30. Now if I add just 10 fares per my night driver's shift over a five-day period and the total comes down to about 95 cents per trip. And since I know I make a lot more than the average Sea-Tac-based cabbie, why are they paying so much for a lesser return? Another question is why don"t they understand this discrepancy? Does any of this make any sense? From my point-of-view, clearly it does not follow any reasonable logic.
Maybe all of this is because both the cabbies and the Port of Seattle share a mythology, a misconception that Sea-Tac represents the "pot-of-gold" at the end of the taxi rainbow. That it doesn't, and never has, should have been acknowledged fact a long time ago but it seems it is to Sea-Tac's economic benefit to perpetuate a self-serving myth. And perhaps it can also be said that Sea-Tac is literally banking on the hope that the cabbies will never figure out the true financial story.
Yes, one cabbie might, meaning me in all my exhausted glory, understand the real story and its distorted monetary figures but one individual will never stop an advancing tide, taking all of us to tell the Port of Seattle that their game is up, wanting a fairer rate for outbound fares or simply we will boycott Sea-Tac until you do. I know this approach might work because I believe they know what I know: taxis are the best transportation alternative for their airport customers. It was true before Uber and it remains true. Taxi remains "king," or if you prefer, "queen" of the passenger transporting services.
At the beginning of this post I mentioned that there was some misinformation in the article; and that being the quote of how much one cabbie was making, stating he is subsisting on $11.00 per hour. It reminds me of another quote a few years back when the reporter actually believed a cabbie when he said he was making only $8000. a year, the writer not understanding the cabbie was speaking to the IRS and no one else. This is what happens when well meaning and innocent reporters jump unknowingly into the taxi whirlpool, their reporting becoming a trifle dizzy. Not a criticism as much as fact. How can you know when you don't? But the truth is, I know, and look at me, I am standing upon my head spinning in place! Wonderful!