Monday, October 20, 2014

A Young Man Adrift Upon A Rainy Seattle Night

Something I now refuse to do is serve, in any manner speaking, as silent accomplice to a hospital discharging a homeless patient onto Seattle's streets, suddenly subject to wind and rain and uncertain fate.  This morning at about 2:30 AM Ballard Swedish, via a HopeLink charge, put me on the taxi errand of taking an ill young man, minus warm clothing and hat, to a homeless shelter theoretically located in downtown Seattle.  Once on our way it became apparent that one, I had an incorrect address, and two, my passenger was given no information on how to contact or connect with the shelter. 

What had occurred was simple enough.  The Swedish on-staff social worker had flushed the guy out the door before making standard arrangements for this kind of precarious "middle-of-the-night" transfer from one agency to the next.  The young man, new to all of this, was clueless.  The early morning was stormy, not fit for man nor beast and especially not for someone penniless, bewildered and forlorn. 

Once downtown, I understood the shelter we were seeking was not the King County Administration Building at 500 Fourth Avenue but the City Hall located one block over at 600 Fourth Avenue.  Having no telephone number I advised dispatch of the situation.  Saying I would try to find a place for the kid I tried both the Union Gospel Mission and DESC but no luck due to the rain, all usual and available beds taken. DESC did provide a reference list which at least allowing me to call the shelter in question, of course receiving no reply.  After giving 45 minutes to this sorry misadventure I called dispatch again and got a return HopeLink authorization to return to the hospital.  Escorting him back into the ER lobby I quickly told the story, telling them I did what I could, saluted and flew out of there thus avoiding any and all bureaucratic gibberish. 

Having seen this scenario before, as I said, I will never participate again in these kinds of shenanigans.  Evidently immortally is easy for some.  Thank goodness I don't share the same errant predilection and convenient memory loss.  Did they really think they could buy my acquiescence for $21.00?  Shows what they think about cab drivers generally is all I can say.  Money rules the world?  For many clearly the answer is affirmative, even if it means tossing someone out onto the streets, a dollar saved the sweeter the financial bottom line.

The Real and Accurate Concern

While too many at Yellow are concerned about their own buttock, the real issue with the new computer dispatch system is mechanical failure and how it is affecting the system's ability to process incoming calls and dispatching them quickly and effectively to waiting cabs.  While the majority complain and wail about system nuances, the real question is just when will the system operate as designed.  Most cabbies I know are dinosaurs moaning in the bog, not understanding extinction dawns unless drastic action is taken. 

Beyond question PSD/BYG (Yellow) as per usual did not do what was necessary to properly and effectively launch the new system.  There can be no argument on that point.  The real question is how all of us involved collectively will respond.  Hopefully Mr. Anderson's arrival next Monday will save the taxi day.  Beyond anything it is clear system dysfunction can't continue much longer, soon taking away all incentive to call Yellow.  Let the new efficient era begin, and then hold your ears while the dinosaurs cheer!   What kind of prehistoric animal are you?


  1. Packed full of features, Infocabs can take bookings, dispatch jobs, track vehicles, manage business contracts and much management system

  2. Joe, there are no excuses for how this system was launched.


    The lack of planning is already self evident, as well as the rapid erosion of our customer base.

    Drivers are already aware and most are looking for another job!

    The question has morphed into “what can they do from here?”

    The question was never about whether you are a good or bad driver, since that was always a relative construct.

    You are as good as the calls and flags you are getting or as bad as the lack of the demand is for your services.

    While true that those who have years of experience might find some way to preserve parts of their income, this downturn, regardless of the excuses, have already gone beyond a mere change of seasons and system malfunction.

    For example, the return of hotel calls.

    These calls are useless and it took years to reverse this policy.

    THEY ARE BACK and in a market of diminishing returns, as well as being penalized, there is no real rationalization to resurrect this kind of a call and yet, THEY ARE BACK!

    More importantly, it had nothing to do with the system and everything to do with the lack of planning and a lack of accountability on the front end.

    The ONLY thing Yellow did not anticipate is how uniform the complaints would be.

    Joe, this is a GPS based system in a city that does not have a uniform urban structure.

    Perhaps this system will work better in a city like San Francisco or Washington DC because both are densely populated and more urban in nature. Seattle is far more residential, thus not having the same kind of population density throughout.

    Yellow needed someone to properly assess this BEFORE they made this kind of investment.

    While true that a combination Zoned/GPS based could have been more expensive, perhaps with the proper planning, it could have ended up being far more cost effective in the long term.

    Worse, even if they work out system issues, it will not automatically lead to greater returns.

    Customers were already leery of our worst habits, but after this, in combination with the intense competition, those who drive at night have already seen a more than 50% reduction in their income and these are just the drivers who prowl the streets of Seattle.

    You should talk to the County Cabs, who are dying as a result of this rollout.

    This gentleman from DDS will not cure these kinds of ills.

    He cannot cure a lack of planning or a lack of understanding of your market.

    He cannot cure the mindset that unleashed this.

    He cannot offer you any kind of panacea, other than to tell you that you should upgrade if you want this kind of functionality.

    I have also heard that Yellow was planning to petition the city to increase their lease fees so they can recoup their investment in the system. This and the plate leasing thing.

    I guess they see the driver as an endless stream of revenue.

    In conclusion, IF Yellow cannot learn from this and adapt, as well as come up with ways for drivers to earn a living, then they will indeed perish.

    To quote H.G. Wells; “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.”

  3. I'm seriously a huge fan of this blog. I think it's really interesting to get a glimpse into the life of a cab driver. Mainly because you never hear about these kinds of things.