"What you should do is start running as fast as you can in the opposite direction!" Larry the Mechanic
I have an announcement to make which I have very mixed emotions about. While it has been clear for a long time I have remained interested, in my small way, in making needed changes concerning the local taxi industry, I never thought (not realistically at least) I would be asked to directly contribute by entering management, but this past Monday, that is exactly what happened when I accepted the task of managing the taxi side of Seattle Yellow Cab.
Yes, whatever my job title is, be it general manager or operating manager of Yellow Fleet (formally known as the BYG Co-op), I have entered a period when Yellow is going through a time of great transition, with the request made for me to shepard the taxi lambs to greener ( dollar green) pastures. And most importantly, creating a permanent financial solvency by putting more drivers in the cabs and keeping them there for more than a few days. In short, I have been asked to put the taxi jigsaw puzzle back together again. At least it isn't Humpty-Dumpty I am trying to paste back together.
For those wondering why I was chosen, explanation one is that I have been planning, as mentioned in previous posts, to begin a comprehensive training program at Yellow, so in one sense a dialogue was already ongoing between me and Yellow Fleet. And finally, like the recent Swedish Hospital CEO change, replacing a non-physician with a very experienced doctor, Yellow decided it would be best to have a "long-in-the-tooth" cabbie in command. That fact, along with my proven track record as someone who once negotiated successfully with the State of Washington over L&I charges, is why I was asked to facilitate the repair. If everything is about money, then it was clear that I once saved everyone a bunch of money, of course endearing me to anyone paying attention to something that might have bankrupted the entire State of Washington taxi industry on the whole.
Do I think I can accomplish what at first glance seems formidable, if not impossible given both present and inherent obstacles and hurdles blocking easy and quick remedy? Yes, my answer is in the affirmative, only because, no matter how wounded Yellow might be, we still retain a very significant customer base which can be, and must be, built upon. But, as I am gaining quick understanding about Yellow Fleet's current situation, I now understand I will have to act quickly during March and April to stem the bleeding.
While the situation isn't particularly positive, it's not like it was in the past, when some mistakes and miscalculations seemed to be either intentional or systemic, more recent errors appearing due more to inexperience and a lack of coordination between Yellow Fleet and Puget Sound Dispatch than anything else. It appears that some issues can easily be put to rest, with others taking a bit more tinkering. Again, gaining ground quickly by the end of April is crucial, with the end of August telling everyone just how well, or not, we are doing collectively as a taxi association. If we are not doing well after six months, I am sure I will be chased out of town all the way down to Mexico.
And what will this effort require, making Yellow Fleet financially strong again? Coordination and cooperation from all concerned, meaning all the drivers and owners and, most importantly, the dispatch side of Yellow operations, Puget Sound Dispatch, allowing us to do what we must most urgently need to do--- creating more 24 hour, around-the-clock business. Even getting close to the old normal will help immensely. Who wants to sit hour after hour staring at the dispatch computer? No one, I can assure you of that!
It may sound obvious, and that's because it is, because at the bottom of all of Yellow's ills and problems is inconsistent business for all the cabbies out there sitting and driving around. What made Yellow so successful was our once large business and customer base. When the Blood Bank utilized Yellow as its sole courier, everyone was busy regardless of time of day and night. While it is true certain kinds of business will never return, assigned to the "Age of Taxi Dinosaurs," there are areas ripe for expansion, especially our Seattle to Sea-Tac business. If we expand our "to Sea-Tac" customer base by at least 50% from where are now, we will be more than fine. Cabbies will be smiling. I can, with a second thought, guarantee you thatwill be true.
The same scenario, once having a large and successful customer base, and seeing it diminish, can be realled by looking back to the 1980s and early 1990s version of Farwest Taxi, which at that moment was the dominate Seattle taxi association. And w hat killed Farwest?
Very poor management making bad and even worse business decisions, this occurring when a large group of arrogant owners (self-appointed know-it-alls) took over and destroyed the greatest account-based customer-base I have ever witnessed. When you're dumb, you're dumb and these guys were the taxi poster-child for unbridled idiocy. On a given noon Monday through Friday there would be 50-60 bells alone sitting downtown crying out for cabs. It was amazing. Even more amazing is how it was all destroyed over an approximate 24 month period, fools plundering the taxi pantry, efficient in their inefficiency
And just what wounded Yellow, albeit not fatally? Yes, management issues to some degree, especially in regard to not quickly adjusting to the competition provided by Uber and Lyft. At various times day and night, Uber has taken 50 to 75 % (my own rough estimate) of what once was our off-the-street and bar-break business. While the situation remains dire, we still have a good percentage of brand loyalty left, something we can and must build upon and expand. While not completely writing off the "20-something, 30-something" customer demographic, I don't see it coming back anytime soon unless Uber's investors tire of annually losing billions of dollars.
But again, I believe innovative advertising and customer outreach plus greatly improved driver professionalism will begin to bring us back to even. And I have given myself 12 months to do it, having given a year commitment and no longer. I already have in mind a few able folks who might be interested in succeeding me. Officially my duties begin March 13th, 2017.
In the meanwhile I will try to get myself oriented to the point where I won't be completely mystified come that pending second Monday in March. I also have to complete by that same March 13th my medallion change from 478 to my lottery acquired City medallion, number 1092. Yes, it is true, that unlike many folks making the transition from worker-drone to management, I will be both, making me somewhat singular in the everyday, workaday world, meaning I will see for myself if indeed we are progressing forward or not.
So, as I began, I am, and will be seeking assistance from everyone connected to Mother-ship Yellow. We are all in this together. Unlike some examples from the past 20-30 years I promise to be completely transparent and, time permitting, always personally welcoming to everyone sharing their ideas and thoughts.
Yellow Cab, being more than one or two managers and supervisors, is a viable community of real living and breathing human beings. I understand that. I recognize that. And that will always be my administrative approach during this upcoming year. If you ever think I have forgotten, please, please remind me and tell me what's what. Again, if I fall asleep, be a friendly alarm clock and wake me up. Though at times sleepy, when its time to be awake and alert, its time and that is just the way it is.
In other words, everyone, Good Morning, Seattle Yellow Taxi! drink that cup of coffee while turning on the cab. It is time to get going, having passengers to pick up and places to go. And can I say, shall we have fun in this entire process here of operating a professional cab company? I hope so, and shall we also make some money while picking up all our happy and satisfied customers?
Fantasy? I don't think so. Instead, I believe success will be our ever present and growing reality. Spring is nearly here. Pick a bunch of taxi blossoms and make a bouquet, presenting it to your passengers, pleasing them and you too, a taxi flower nodding ascent to the world.
Again, Good Morning cabbies! Good Morning! tossing out the old and welcoming the new! Good morning!
Seattle's Traffic Congestion 20th Worst On Planet Earth?
According to something called the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, Seattle's Metro-area traffic ranks 10th worst nationally and 20th overall worldwide. Astounding if true, and after spending a little more time recently on the local taxi roads, I can literally see what they are referring to. Two others ranking systems put Seattle's traffic nationally at 4th and 6th worst respectively. What no one is talking about is why, why is this truly small metropolitan area so clogged with traffic? One answer is geography, essentially locating a relatively large city amidst a mountain range. Bad, bad idea. The other is a lack of vision by city planners. Yes, they are now attempting to catch up but guess what, they are, instead, falling behind.
This reminds of a local news item from Mayor Murray decrying about the homeless situation in Seattle, calling it a true emergency that must be urgently addressed. Only problem with the mayor's concern is that he has done little to address outrageous rent increases. In the Ballard neighborhood a friend's rent increased by $900.00. a month. A recent passenger, now staying at an Aurora Avenue North motel, being in-between apartments, had his Ballard studio-apartment go from $500.00 monthly to $1200.00.
Yes, locally, the sky is falling but whose fault is it? Being dimwitted I think I know who is responsible. Or maybe I just don't know anything, having dropped out of school so long ago I can't even write my own name.
USA 2016 Traffic Deaths Increasing Over Past Years
According to new data, the United States traffic deaths for the year 2016 were 40,200 give or take a few random bodies. Yes, not only are the local Seattle and area streets more clogged, they are certainly more dangerous, driving around here becoming some deranged version of automobile dodge-ball. As I tell anyone who is interested in listening, the only terrorists I meet are my fellow motorists who are making every effort to kill me and themselves and everyone around them. Is this an exaggeration? No, it is reality, as the recent national body count shows.
Just for example, how many American soldiers were killed over the three-year long Korean War? 23,000.
And what about the Vietnam War, stretching from 1959-1975? 58,000 Americans dying for what we will never know. There have been individual years during the past three decades where up to 50,000 people have died upon America's vast roadways. While one death is too many, 40 to 50 thousand killed is far beyond acceptability.
So while the Federal Government worries about a few errant individuals you can be sure one of your fellow red-blooded Americans will soon try to kill you. But please, don't take it personally, they have places to go and things to do. They gotta move and you are just in the way. And if you are either injured or killed, that, brothers and sisters, is just how it is.
State HB 1917
Whether it will ever become law, who knows but down in Olympia, Washington's lawmakers are back at work, and one bill of interest is trying to get the fees Sea-Tac cabbie's are paying down to a $2.00 gate from the current $7.00 gate. Why this can be controlled by the State is beyond me but I for one endorse the idea because, as I have said in the past, they (the Sea-Tac cabbies) are, plain and simply, paying way too much. I have also heard of infighting between Teamsters 117 and some who are advocating for the change. What's truly up and truly down I can't tell you but once again, as the old story goes, who ultimately pays the price is the cabbie and no one else.
WA State Bill SB 5620; Just what is Uber & Lyft trying to do?
Again, the Seattle & King County taxi industry owes a great thank you to The Seattle Weekly and staff writer Sara Bernard for keeping us informed upon all items Uber and Lyft. In its Feb 15th. 2017 edition, Bernard writes about the combined Uber and Lyft effort to shift regulatory authority from the municipal and county to the State, making it even harder to get a grip upon the ever elusive Uber. That SB 5620 waters down regulations should go without saying. The taxi industry lobbyist Cindi Laws says "This is a giveaway on the magnitude of a Boeing tax giveaway." And I would agree with that, meaning SB 5620, if becoming law, would further hurt the already wounded Seattle and area taxi industry.
What I find most interesting is not Uber's efforts toward self-preservation. No, it is who is named as the primary sponsor, that being WA State Senator Curtis King, a Republican from the very rural, eastern Washington town of Yakima. As I said in an email to King, why is someone from Yakima working to promote and expand the very urban Uber? I for one think this is a very good question.
If you have any questions you would like answered, please email the good senator at firstname.lastname@example.org. On his website he says he wants to hear from you. So take him at his word and tell him what you think. From what I can see, regulation of Uber and Lyft is currently abysmal. Can it get any worse? I believe it would if Uber and King have their way.
I should add that the same thing is also happening in the state of Iowa, with Republicans in control of both the State House and Senate. The sitting governor is also a Republican. Just like Senator King, his fellow Republicans in the "Hawkeye State" are attempting the same thing, writing legislation that ends municipal control.
Again, Sara, thanks for trying to keep all us sleepyhead cabbies awake. It is appreciated.