Friday, August 29, 2014

Bypassing Sweet Home & There Is Always Trouble In The Backseat

Instead of greeting you from Oregon I am instead back in Tacoma writing this week's post in a branch library.  Timing dictated on both ends of my central Oregon hiking foray that I make haste to where I was going.  Quartzville Creek, while beautiful, had too many folks for our taste though I strongly recommend the high county, nearly 5000 feet elevation that is offered by continuing east-bound on Oregon Forest Road #11, just above where it intersects with State Route 126.  For me there is nothing like a clear horizon decorated by mountain peaks. 

From there we continued on to the famous Scott Lake which again was a disappointment.  Shallow and suffering from excessive hype, the lake and area was crowded with too many folks seeking a "wilderness celebrity" better left to itself.  The one very redeeming feature were the Benson Lake and Hand Lake trails leading into the Mount Washington Wilderness.  Behind and beyond Benson were the three Tenas Lakes, the middle Tenas offering us a clear and deep Alpine swimming pool.  The Lake Hand trail was different altogether, taking us through late-season wild flower strewn meadows, finally ending for us at a very interesting magma-flow field.  The only problem being post-taxi fatigue got the best of me, almost requiring that I be carried out upon a stretcher, taxi the poorest kind of fitness training.

Today, about 14 miles east of Sweet Home, we hiked the 1 1/2 mile RT jaunt to Soda Creek Falls which doesn't sound like much until you realize the first leg is all uphill.  The falls, a slender cascading thread, was well worth the time and sweat.  The only taxi I saw the entire trip was a Portland-area Broadway Cab north-bound on I-205.  It was my favorite color. Yellow!

Watch Out for the Backseat

When it comes to taxi, separation between driver and passenger is always the best of policies.  Greeted last Saturday with a new system and no idea how to operate it, I stumbled along the best I could.  Passengers can now swipe their debit and credit cards from the backseat.  Wouldn't you know it my first fare was a drunk young woman using a credit card.  Getting her to her Wallingford District address, both of us experienced difficulties processing the transaction, meaning I had to enter the backseat to supervise what neither of us knew little about.  Thankfully the card transaction went through but unfortunately the person in question insisted on hugging me.  Thank goodness though that was the end of that nonsense.  I am sure many wish to repeat the same but I continue to limit the opportunities.  As for putting all of us cabbies out there minus any instruction except a one-page "cheat sheet" I defer comment other than saying only "taxi" would do something like this.    ______ help us all!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lake Kelcema

My intention to write even a shortened report upon the entirety of the new regulations has been sabotaged by an ill-behaving computer.   Having switched to another computer and having less than 40 minutes left before heading off to dinner, I will instead tell you that off the Mountain Loop Highway north of Granite Falls, Washington resides a beautiful alpine lake nestled in the Boulder River Wilderness, Lake Kalcema.  Luckily yesterday afternoon I found I had the lake completely to myself.  To say I felt blessed is an understatement.  Finding a small sandy beach surrounded on three sides by ripe berry-laden Huckleberry bushes, I leaped into the lake, treating the experience as a kind of naturalistic baptism.  I couldn't have been more content.  The sun was shining and the water, surprisingly, a pleasant temperature.  No taxis, no people, no machines of any kind.  Just blissful silence.  There was nothing else to request.  I had everything I needed.

Next Monday my report might be equally short but even sweeter when I will be in Sweet Home, Oregon with the ever famous "she-who-can't-be named."  We will be camping and hiking in an area near Quartzville Creek.  Known for its gold dust-laden waters we will see what hidden treasures are to be found.  If its only peace and quiet I will be eternally grateful.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Twenty-nine Airport Runs & Wednesday TAG Report

Is everyone fleeing Seattle or more correctly, has the booming local economy created a new wealthy sub-class launching everyone into the air?  Whatever the impetus, it has been impressive, providing me with twenty-nine fares to Sea-Tac over three consecutive weekends, meaning in six total days I have averaged nearly five a day.  Nothing like this has ever personally happened to me before, signifying something whatever that something might be.  And amazingly they are not the only good fares I am getting.  Saturday I got a cash fare from the VA Hospital to Tacoma, that large city about 30 miles south of Seattle.  Last weekend I kept going to the City of Kent, again located about 17-20 miles southeast. While airport runs are always welcome, it doesn't mean they are always the perfect fare, a situation too well illustrated by a fare last night originating in the north end, at about 88th NE and Roosevelt NE, an approximate 18 miles north of the airport.

Sunday night in Seattle can be and is one of the best times to latch onto an airport fare, given the many "red-eye" flights leaving for the East Coast.  Knowing this, I have gotten into the habit of working the more demographically prime areas for such fares. And sure enough, just before 9:00 PM the fish bit, and all I had to do was drive about 3/4 of a mile to the required address.  Not being a time-call I assumed the person would be ready to leap out and go.

Alerting the passenger by telephone I pulled up and began waiting.  Minutes passed and no passenger.  Getting out of 478, I made sure I was at the correct address.  Verifying I was there I relaxed and soon the garage door opened, signalling the guy was finally coming.  What shocked me was his flight's departure time.  It was now 9:10 PM and his New Jersey flight was leaving at 10:57! 

Ridiculous but there it was, provided no choice but to fly like a taxi banshee.  Voicing my displeasure and clearly hinting this effort was worth a good tip, off we roared down south-bound Interstate 5.  Further complicating the drive was a very congested roadway, prompting countless maneuvers and lane changes at 60-80 MPH.  More than once I told him his poor planning was unwise and hazardous, endangering all concerned.

Arriving at the ticket level exactly at 10:31 PM he had 26 minutes to make it aboard which I assume he did.  He gave me with tip $68.00.  He wasn't generous.  What else is there left to say?

Craig Leisy's TAG (Quarterly Taxi Advisory Group

Much more on this later but I made a point of attending because Mr. Leisy would be providing everyone an overview of the mayor's Uber bill which became operational in part last week.  Am I pleased that the Office of Consumer Affairs is as confused as everyone else concerning it?  No, I am not happy.  Tomorrow I am going hiking and camping in the North Cascades.  Part of the reading material I am taking along is that damn bill.   Expect a thorough review next week unless I run away with a pack of woolly marmots, never to be seen again.  Sounds like a rational alternative.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Last week and today I had conversations with two City of Seattle officials, today's meeting being with an individual responsible for direct TNC, taxi, flat-rate for-hire and town car enforcement; and last Thursday's meeting, where me and four others met with the criminal division's lead prosecutor, seeking information concerning prosecutory status and other related issues. What has become clear, beyond any suspicion, is that the mayor's office is holding up all and any TNC prosecution.   Just how questionable that tacit is appears clear, especially since during the 55 day mediation period, the taxi industry received  over 100 citations while Uber, Lyft and Sidecar received sum zero criminal misdemeanor notifications.  The contrast is startling, especially since Mayor Murray is requesting yet another "grace period" that appears to be directed again toward his TNC friends.

And what will the taxi drivers receive during this same time period?  I think the answer is unfortunately obvious. The prosecutor, a perfectly nice and seemingly fair and straight-forward person, is currently seeking clarification.  In the meanwhile, questions concerning TNC insurance persists, potentially setting up disastrous incidents, consequentially perhaps answering what everyone clearly understands: a dangerous situation for the passenger public persists, catastrophe and  tragedy just one uninsured driver away.

Something else I found out today is that many suggested positive taxi regulatory changes have either been ignored completely or allowed to languish upon the legislative shelf. I commented this afternoon that it goes back to what I said last week concerning the lack of important governmental relationships.  Doesn't the primary Seattle taxi associations understand that their existence is tenuous and situationally out-of-control?  No, they do not understand.

 Denver Comes For A Visit

A taxi buddy, reader of my blog from Denver dropped by yesterday while on an extended layover en route to Anchorage.  He rode along for a couple hours, experiencing the _______that is my taxi-style.  Loyal, though still a relative taxi rookie, is smart and tough, just the kind of guy our industry needs to battle our way back to operational sanity.  Hey, thanks for saying hello!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Taxi Essay: Headlong Toward Oblivion: A Failure To Build Relationships

When does blame end and accountability begin, allowing for a rational analysis of what is a systemic disaster born how many theoretical decades ago but only now displaying its true face to a shocked and disapproving general public?  In this case it begins when you are nearly completely submersed and gasping for breath, going down for a final time, not realizing the depth nor the dimension of the problem.  Another way of explaining it is claiming surprise you are totally drenched while standing  unsheltered amidst a torrential downpour. After a while it all looks like buffoonery which is difficult to deny when everyone is pointing fingers at you and laughing.  This is what it has come to for the local and also national taxi companies and associations, a damning assessment of what has been operational for the past 100 years and where the regulators currently think you are heading, which for them appears to be absolutely nowhere, akin to driving in circles.  I can understand that.

Anyone close to the taxi industry, me for instance and my over 26 year relationship plying the taxi streets, quickly noticed a minor criminal attitude governing many of the individuals involved, be they driver or owner or mechanic or dispatcher.  The obvious problem I saw from the beginning with this attitude is that instead of lurking down dark alleys the taxi industry was fully illuminated by the bright glaring light of governmental oversight and regulation.  It was like robbing a bank with an official name tag, meaning clearly you were going to be instantly caught, which is exactly what happened, smiles replaced by frowns, handcuffs replacing handshakes. It made no sense but when you are not paying full attention it is difficult to comprehend your own foolishness. 

That we in the Seattle taxi industry are about to be dismembered should come as no surprise.  We are only receiving what we asked for, the rampant sinner fully expecting God's wrath.  Why wouldn't you expect a strong response after your cars became disintegrating "death traps," with owners deaf to any and all complaint or friendly suggestion. Both mechanics and dispatchers found bribery a lucrative sideline activity while too many taxi drivers fifty years ago and even still today think their cab is a shortcut to chaos and personal anarchy.  Like I said, all very stupid when Big Mommy and Daddy government observes your every move.  What was everyone thinking? 

If instead, starting way back in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, the taxi industry, like other regulated industries, had begun constructive conversation with regulators, they would have built the necessary connections protecting them when someone like Uber came knocking.  Some cities, Portland, Oregon for instance, did step up and protected their endemic taxi industry. Clearly in Seattle that did not come close to happening.  Instead, everyone associated was labeled incompetent and beyond rehabilitation.  When told their assessments and conclusions were incorrect, they ignored our complaints, actually stating they knew more about our own industry than we do, understanding how to better serve the general passenger public.  Friends do not do this to friends, and clearly our friends in City and County government are few.  The mayor's bill, replacing the city council's, soundly kicks us squarely in the butt.

All of this could have been avoided by sharing a weekly cup of coffee in 1926 or 1966 or that important year of 1987 when I first got started in the business.  Of course I quickly noticed something was extremely wrong but feeling I was only passing through felt I could ignore the obvious.  I couldn't have been more incorrect, dragged down with the rest of my taxi brethren, ground beneath the heel of vengeful government authority.  A lesson learned yes, but how do we recoup what has been lost?  Plain and simply I don't think we do, at least not quickly nor easily.  Having been our own worse enemy it will take maybe decades to regain market share.  Hard times are upon us and come January a mournful bell will toll for the dead and the dying.  It is inevitable. It is our fate.