Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A New Era At Seattle Yellow Taxi & An Open Letter To The Port of Seattle

Last week I saw a letter taped to the wall next to the cashier's window asking Yellow's head of operations five questions.  Listening to various comments from the drivers in attendance I attempted to answer them. This then is a reprise, that if I can remember the questions.  After a 2 1/2 day single shift, it is doubtful I remember much other than I was tried, I am tired and tired I remain.  The best part of my upcoming six weeks wandering northeastern Europe, apart from unexpected adventures and occurrences, is the prospect of being thoroughly rested. Each year a large percentage of Yellow's immigrant drivers go back home for two months or more, leaving during our winter months and returning in the spring, revived and ready again to battle it out for yet another ten months.

But since so many cabbies remain puzzled concerning the immediate future, I will attempt to replace rumor with fact, at least to the limits to what I know.  It isn't that I have a personal pipeline to Yellow's leadership. It is more that I attempt to pay attention and read between the taxi lines.  Direct communication, as so many of us know too well, is often lacking.  Given that is our reality, here are the gaps more-or-less filled.

Yes, the co-op will no longer be operating as once known.  All insurance either will be going through single owners, or as in the case of drivers leasing the medallions, through them.  Drivers with poor driving records will be losing out, with many probably unable to find a car to drive.  It has been said that Yellow is currently paying the unsustainable insurance rates of 12-13 thousand dollars per car.  Multiply that by 150 and you can instantly understand why they are ready to rid themselves of  high operating costs.  That this situation was created in the first place makes little to no business sense.  Another important factor is the now $25,000 rent due monthly for the current lot.  Would you want to pay that much?   I personally find that unacceptable. Seattle rental costs are out-of-control.  There can be no argument concerning that.

Yes, the lot now located at 74 South Hudson will be shut down.  And yes, the shop will also close.  As far as I know, Puget Sound Dispatch, along with the business office, will be locating somewhere near the intersection of South 128th & Des Moines Memorial South.

But no, at least at this juncture, Yellow has not lost the Sea-Tac airport contract.  All evidence points to a year's extension, meaning they will have the contract officially until next Autumn.  Though saying that, it doesn't mean that the current arrangement is guaranteed past next October 2016  Uber and Lyft are applying pressure, along with that flat-rate for-hire industry group, Q.  The best way to counteract their tactics is to personally contact the Port of Seattle and tell them what you think is best for their customer base. Yellow has been doing an excellent job ensuring that the arriving airline passengers are picked up quickly and efficiently.  When contacting the Port of Seattle, please mention that it is essential that Uber and Lyft cars are readily identifiable, just as the taxis are.  Otherwise, the Port of Seattle is endangering passengers by not assuring that all TNC/Ride-share pickups are legal.  Decals broadcasting that the cars are working for Uber and Lyft and any other TNC company is immediately necessary, protecting both the rider public and the TNC independent operators.  What is occurring now, illegal TNC pickups on the arrival level, is not workable nor fair to all of the dedicated cabbies currently serving Sea-Tac.  Dishonesty should not be sanctioned.

Letter to the Port of Seattle

Dear Port of Seattle Commissioners,

Rumor upon wave of rumor is sweeping the taxi industry, whispering that the Port of Seattle is bowing to pressure to open up Sea-Tac Airport to the TNC/Ride-share and flat-rate for hire industry.  Before taking that giant step and changing what has worked efficiently for years, I first suggest you look closely at the industries that are knocking upon the Port's door, seeking permanent entry.  Please first consider who they are and their immediate past.  Would they prove to be the trustworthy partners like Yellow has proven to be? All recent evidence points to the contrary.

Until the Seattle City Council, and the Seattle Mayor, opened up the market to the TNC and flat-rate industries, all of them operated illegally upon Seattle's streets regardless of consequences.  They did not care who they harmed or what laws were broken.  Acting with impunity, and minus remorse, they thumbed their noses at everyone, saying all of you can "go to hell!,"  we will do anything we want.  Just try to stop us!

That both the City of Seattle and King County capitulated to this kind of behavior says nothing good about their decision-making capacities.  Kicking the compliant and regulated "down the street" is certainly no way to recognize 100 years of service to City and County.  They should have done better, and I am asking that the Port of Seattle take a different path.  Reward, not punishment I believe is merited in this case.

Thank you.


One Cab Driver Who Understands The Taxi Road

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