Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Persecution Complex? Yes, But Perhaps It's True---Pressing Issues Facing Seattle's Taxi Industry 2017

Over the past two weeks I focused upon hardships and maltreatment associated with cab driving, wanting, more than anything else, to communicate the reality of spending too many hours in the worse working conditions possible and its immediate consequences when forever dodging errant drivers and less-than-sane customers.  Am I seeing phantoms and ghosts in every shadowy corner?  Yes and no and yes, I might be letting all this madness get to me. Understandable, to be affected by a deranged environment but paranoia is better left to someone else as I simply don't have the time to remain delusional or unbalanced.

In Seattle Times' Monday 01/23/2017 edition, the picture puzzle feature Hocus-Focus (original artist and creator, Henry Boltinoff,---1914-2001) presented a woman taxi passenger in the back seat screaming at a much irritated cabby, a cartoon funny in the stark reality of how it can truly be---you the inanimate object berated by the righteous, indignant customer.  Having experienced exactly that, a female passenger screaming at the top-of-her-lungs during a torrential rain storm, I can attest that it is a real and true portrayal. That she finally muted herself was a blessing bestowed by the taxi angels.  God! what an absolute _____ she was!

And yesterday, the young doormen at the Stadium Silver Cloud Hotel actually requested my car keys when all I was doing was zipping into the lobby to find a passenger who had already grabbed the first cab driving by.  I told them that, one, I didn't trust them, and two, that I required psychiatric help but truly I was joking because their request wasn't at all humorous, the first time in 29 years I have heard such utter nonsense.

Over the years, hotel doorman have displayed a decorum translating into the recognition that we are all working together. All I got at that moment in time were some very dirty looks when my actions made it clear that, contrary to all previous preconceived notions, they really were not in charge.  But the truth is, if the hotel architects had designed a pull-off in front on 1st Avenue South, all this kind of  nonsense would not exist. See what happens when you go to college for 12 years to learn everything except commonsense and accommodation to reality?---wide spread misery and confusion for all concerned.  If you don't think that is true then you should go back to college for another one hundred years until you get it straight that architectural design is about human accommodation and function and little else.  Are buildings works of art? Only if they also serve the joint purpose of allowing people to work and function. If not, the structure is a failure and redesign is the order of the new day.  

But getting back to the subject at hand, last week's blog requires a clarification, given I misspoke concerning City and County Uber requirements.  John Megow, current manager at the City of Seattle for Regulatory Compliance and Consumer Protection, sent me an email spelling out the rules as they pertain to TNC operators.  John sent me item F, reproduced here, which spells out succinctly what is expected:

F. Requires that passengers be able to view a picture of the driver and vehicle license plate number on smart phone, tablet or other mobile device used to connect with the TNC dispatch application before the trip is initiated. (Class B)

This makes perfect sense, explaining why the Uber consumer can locate their particular operator in a sea of cars.  I always wondered how that was managed.

Mister Megow also said they were looking into the situation I encountered a few weeks ago in the Fremont, having observed an Uber car with a top-light attached atop of the driver's blue Toyota.  When approached, the young guy informed me that "He was a free man and could do anything he wanted to do!"  He then went into a rant about communists controlling societal rules.  Given that he was a true "loon" I kind of liked him, recognizing him as a fellow "taxi lunatic" though he is competitor  and out to take my potential fare.  I can say the same about my fellow Yellow-ites but knowing that we are in the same taxi-boat we clearly tolerate each other.  And of course we have taken our daily medications.

Given then what I now know, I suppose the City of Seattle had the right to issue tickets to those four Yellow cabbies after all but I do question why they were not initially warned instead.  If anyone truly needs to know a cabbie's identity all they need to do is write down the cab number and contact the City or County.  Unlike Uber and Lyft, we cabbies are the proverbial sore thumb, our neon Yellow cars broadcasting to all who we are.

What is the secret?  There is no secret.  And in some cites, cities of course that care about their cabbies, the cab number in printed in large numerals atop the car, making it viewable from the air. In short, everyone knows, and can know who we are, secret agent men ( or women) we ain't.

Important Issues 2017

Regulators

Probably the most significant issue facing us in the taxi industry is how we are treated and regulated by regulatory authorities both locally and nationally.  For instance it isn't funny what is happening at Sea-Tac with the taxi operators since the transfer over to Eastside.  Again and again I hear reports of drivers not receiving one solitary dispatched call in over three months.  This and having their actual airport hours substantially reduced is solely the Port Commission's responsibility and no one else.

 If they truly care, as they repeat over and over, then the Port Commission will reopen their decision and thoroughly reexamine the situation minus any and all previous opinion.  But unfortunately this is just one example of an industry under siege from the very people responsible for protecting them.  Does this make any sense?  No, not if you are completely honest---it doesn't make any sense.

Cab Associations and Companies

If you can't depend upon the very associations and companies you are connected with, then an intimate trust has been broken, making it something that is very difficult, if not impossible, to mend.  That the American cab companies and associations have treated cabbies as their personal cash cows goes without question.  As questionable as this business arrangement and relationship has been, it worked when taxi was the dominant ride transportation provider.  Now with its ascendancy in wane, new questions to old problems arise. Will the great adjustment required happen before taxi itself disappears from the American transportation arena, taxi becoming a mere nostalgic memory?  One hopes, just as is necessary with governmental regulators, that commonsense will prevail and what was once a hierarchical arrangement transposes into a functional partnership.

To that end, the plan currently at Seattle Yellow is for me to develop a heretofore unseen comprehensive training program that will both revolutionize and modernize driving training,  assuring as much as humanly possible, that the newly minted Yellow cabbie will have some idea how to find a address and relate to the difficult passenger.  That Yellow has agreed to this is the kind of necessary acknowledgement I am referencing.  It is a beginning.  It is a start.

Driver Professionalism

Without good and efficient cabbies we are dead, hopelessly adrift in the transportation sea.  There has to be a recognition from the majority of cabbies nationally that we must be better than Uber and Lyft.  Now that shouldn't be very hard given that they are, across the board, clueless amateurs, and that we, especially the veterans amongst us, are capable of providing superior service.

It is simple.  We in the taxi industry must be the pinnacle of professionalism.  Anything short of that must be deemed unacceptable.  Be clear, guys and gals, we are in a fight for our very professional lives.  Take the challenge seriously or collectively we are doomed.  That is the way it is.  Any opinion to the opposite is erroneous.  It is wrong.

01/26/2017 Postscript----HopeLink News

Pushing myself to finish last night before the library closed, I forget to add what many will find very interesting:  Feb 1st, 2017 HopeLink  rates will go up from $2.15 per mile to $2.50 per mile.  That should bring a smile to everyone who works the HopeLink account.

Another piece of HopeLink news relates to what many of you already know, that once dispatch was transferred to the Las Vegas call center, available HopeLink hours were reduced by 96 hours from a normal 168 hour week.  What I didn't know was why it happened.  Yesterday I was told that the change came, not from Puget Sound Dispatch, but from HopeLink administrators who were uncomfortable with out-of-state call takers.  My only hope is that in the near future HopeLink can be convinced to change its policies concerning  this.  Personally, my largest fares ever have been generated by HopeLink over the weekends. What it means in real terms is that on Saturday and Sunday other service providers are taking Hopelink passengers over the Cascades to Yakima and other points East.  I know that all of us would like to have that $300-400.00 fare instead.














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