I know I have made comments similar to this in the past, but given that I appear to have stirred up a minor taxi "hornet's nest," by my revelation that late night WAT van service is spotty at best, I feel a reminder is necessary. Back in 1987, and now thirty long years later, the making of money minus true and real customer interests, was, and are, is what the taxi industry is all about. Why Uber and Lyft made such immediate headway is the confounding (and amazing) fact that transporting passengers safely and efficiently from point A to B remains secondary to every other taxi industry priority. All the majority of people I have met in the industry want is MONEY, meaning as much MONEY as they can get minus doing MUCH of anything for it. This assessment also includes the majority of my taxi friends and buddies. Maybe it is the current societal sentiment that each individual deserves everything minus real and honest effort, calling it the new Facebook reality that everyone warrants the instant silver spoon, you and me and everyone, like the English Queen, deserving and getting by upon an annual 25 million dollar stipend.
And the why of this, the explanation is simple as taxi pie: almost no one I have met either wants to drive a taxi or be involved in the industry. All the taxi industry is for them is a means to make MONEY and little else. Examining taxi through this prism you will find this to be true. Often you hear that someone wants to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer but when can you remember someone saying that they want to solely be a cabbie minus any other profession?
Individually the reasons are many but the results are the same: the taxi industry is, at least by a 90 percent percentile, composed of people who don't want to be there, and in many cases, desperate to get out. All of this adds up to what I have been observing: a lack of taxi wheelchair van services during late night and very early morning service hours. When you really don't care, you don't care and that is the reality despite the monetary assistance provided to local taxi WAT providers by the City of Seattle and King County. While some might call me harsh, I say, like playing a game of basketball HORSE, prove it by making the basket, from this point forward, minus all excuse, ensuring that when someone at 3:00 AM needs at WAT van ride to Harborview Hospital, they get one. Don't carp, don't complain, don't point your finger at me. Just prove it, making it happen in the middle of the night.
Last week I paid $528.29 to renew 1092's annual taxi medallion, $500.00 of which going directly to City and County coffers. The remaining $28.29 went directly into the van operators pockets in recognition of their valuable service provided to our overall community. And truly I personally don't mind supplementing them when they are doing what they are supposed to do but when they impact folks like the Canadian couple I met at King Street station, needing an unavailable van at 11:00 PM, then I become resentful when it is clear that WAT drivers are not keeping their commitment to the handicapped and disabled community.
As I just said, too many members of the taxi driver and owner community want it ALL minus doing anything for it, providing "lip service" and not much else. It is true concerning what I just said: the majority of guys DO NOT want to drive a cab, only doing it minus other well-paying options. Throughput the the greater Seattle and Tacoma metro areas, you find scores of East Africans and East Indians working at gas stations and 7/11 stores, arduous positions paying very little but requesting a lot. It is a bad situation.
Taxi instead pays much more, and for those in the know, proving an upper-middle class income of over $100.000. Since that if true, I personally expect all cabbies of all stripes to do what is asked, what is required: pick up that waiting customer day and night regardless whether they are walking or occupying a wheelchair. It is part and parcel of the taxi agreement we all signed up for.
So my final word is just shut up and do it! and be damn well happy you are making the good money you are. Personally, this moment finds me exhausted because I just worked my "butt off" the past three days but I made some "good money, honey!" so I won't complain, taxi being just what it is and nothing else: HARD WORK!
Editorial Note & Correction From Last Week
In last week's post I reported that the current PSD general manager also heads the Seattle WAT van group. I misspoke. He hasn't had held that position for at least the last three years.
Postscript Wednesday 06/14/2017
This morning I talked with a taxi buddy who is also a WAT owner, someone I count on as a true and reliable friend in the industry. While acknowledging that at times there isn't enough late night and early morning van coverage, he said the issue has its beginnings with Yellow's departure from providing Sea-Tac taxi services, those services now provided by Eastside for Hire and its cab affiliate, E-Cab.
The old arrangement was thus, with the Yellow WAT operators qualified to work Sea-Tac, it allowed for a far more functional 24/7 operation, meaning there was enough work available to adequately sustain the WAT night-shift drivers. With Yellow's loss of the Sea-Tac provider contract, it translated into fewer available fares and into fewer drivers willing to work the later hours. So while everyone acknowledges that later hour coverage could be better, they are having difficulty coming up with a permanent and viable solution.
My friend went on to say that WAT van operations are expensive, saying that he wouldn't be able to operate without City and County supplemental funds. Recently someone driving for him crashed the van, meaning he immediately had to come up with a replacement, a van often costing between $20-25 thousand dollars. I remember him flying clear across the country to pick up his new van. In the taxi business, if you are not working, you simply have no income. It is that basic, and stark.
So yes, why it is true coverage could be better, WAT operators are seeking resolution. From my personal experience, taxi can be a very lonely world, with all the accompanying burdens falling directly upon your poor head. As I have repeatedly said, no one (in their right mind) would call taxi fun. It isn't unless pain and suffering are provided new definitions.