Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Nonsensical Demand Study

Tomorrow Sally Clark and her taxi/for-hire/limo sub-committee will be holding part two of her related public hearings, this time an attempt to gauge what is being called the "consumer point of view."  While it is laudable to be inclusive, to have as many competent voices in a given discussion there comes a point when instead of inclusion you have created a crowded room. This certainly happened last Thursday with panel B, two additional voices suddenly superfluous, cutting short more important testimony and insight.  Sally's pleonastic approach ultimately does little to enhance the argument other than filling the council's chamber with hyperbole and noise.  Doesn't she understand that it is the driver's themselves who best understand the passenger perspective given the intimate setting we are sharing with them?  It is also naive not to realize that taxi driver's also take taxis themselves, especially when travelling abroad. During my 2011 Eastern European trip I took a total of five taxi rides in a twelve-day span, including a fairly long ride out to an underground monastery. Since 1982 France, Italy, Spain, Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador, UK, Hungary, Mexico, Vietnam, Moldova are just some of the countries where I have been in the back, not the front seat of a cab.  Why aren't I on tomorrow's panel?  Simply because, just like Seattle as I know it, a lack of imagination is in operation, the prosaic and the mundane it's overwhelming guiding principals.

Which brings me to the demand study, this grand determination on whether or not Seattle needs more taxis or similar kinds of services.  The for-hire industry of course is all for it, as it delays the decision, providing them additional months to steal our fares off the streets while the City of Seattle snores. Before I elaborate further I will tell you what every taxi driver in Seattle and King County already knows.  If instead of the for-hire release, the City of Seattle and KC had dual-plated or regionalized the 900 or so taxis already licensed, there would currently be no conversation about the for-hires or this silly demand study because they would have increased taxi availability by approximately two/thirds or roughly 65 percent.  Talk about superfluous and doing the unnecessary.  If done tomorrow, the so-called demand problem would be immediately taken care of.  Sure, some owners would complain but we talking about serving the consumer here, not about maintaining inflated and artificial monetary values.  Think of it, over 900 taxis available 24 hours a day to serve the entire King County region.  And the reason is hasn't been done is because it is too simple, too obvious.  Seattle has this very bad habit of rotating in circles over and over and ultimately digging itself into a hole.  Not an effective way to govern. 

And in five minutes I am going to tell you what the demand study will take 3-4 months to determine.  That Seattle taxi business is cyclical, even on a given 24 hour day.  There are peak demands, even if only for 2-3 hours on the slowest of days.  That during any typical 24 hour period, there will be 2-4 busy periods, and the longest duration being about 2-3 hours.  I literally could knock this demand report out in one day and be completely accurate.  All of this bureaucratic fiddling then is nonsensical.  It is pointless.  We all know that the City of Seattle made a grave error by releasing an unnecessary industry upon us.  What is there to discuss other than how is the City of Seattle going to extract itself from the mess that it alone created?  That should be the question discussed and no other. 

My final suggestion is that the City of Seattle and King County create a permanent and paid Taxi Review Committee whose sole existence would be to review any and all taxi-related proposals generated by government.  No, I am not talking about anything like the current taxi advisory commission. Instead a small advisory board of say three prominent (and sane) industry figures.  This would prevent the kind of situation we are now dealing with.  Their small salary would more than offset the kind of potential monetary damages this unfortunate current quagmire might ultimately generate.  Folks, we need real and genuine thinking here, not what has heretofore passed as taxi wisdom. We need to do better.  How could it be any clearer?

And everyone is lucky that "she-who-can't-be-named", famous from these pages, is not involved.  Her advise after reading my posting about last week's meetings is, quote, "Go for the kill!" saying that all these people (meaning the City Council) are not going to do anything to realistically resolve the situation with the for-hire industry.  And this coming from a real 1960s hippie, cactus flowers in her hair and all that.  She is from Brooklyn, NY so she has the correct background to kick your you-know-what!  Watch out if I have her provide testimony.  There will be hell to pay!

A Smile

During my Monday taxi foray I had the nastiest of passengers. Quite ridiculous.  Anyway after that individual blessed me with her exit I picked up this family from Alaska, the parents and a daughter and took them from the University District to a DT hotel.  It was a good ride, the father especially laughing at my description of my previous passenger.  As her parents departed the taxi this 8-9 year old tyke gave me the warmest smile.  Whatever prompted her it was sweet, making the crazy day just a little bit worthwhile, a small balm upon the  afflicted taxi brow.


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