Friday, May 13, 2016

As The Taxi Stomach Churns: News From San Francisco & Seattle

Taxi is a wild world and the longer I reside on the cabby planet, the wilder it seems to be.  For instance how can I explain how and why, on two connective nights, two women, one older, one much younger thrust themselves from the backseat and through the gap between the bucket seats, suddenly looking right at me?.  The first was just frantic, and the latter invader was obviously fueled by some unknown drug and  alcohol combination, prompting her to attack while we flew down the freeway. Maybe worse were her attempts at apology, her repeated efforts skipping like a flawed CD.  Only good part is that I got forty for a 23 dollar fare but jumping into the front seat at that moment was not smart.   Fun stuff, huh, but maybe not!

From San Francisco Yellow---

San Francisco taxi buddy Gerald N. provided a great (and informative) tour of the Yellow lot at 1200 Mississippi.  Never have I seen a cab lot like this one, reminding me more of a functional taxi city than anything else.  With more time permitting I will describe in detail this most amazing functional,  all-inclusive and efficient taxi institution.  There is much to tell.

Unfortunately they almost lost it all due to an accident settlement, that without legal maneuvering, would have cost them the effort of nearly four decades toward creating something special.  The accident itself spells out why industry regulatory reform across the entire nation is necessary.

The City of San Francisco has at least two outmoded rules that assisted in an eighty-year old driver fainting in his cab and careening into two people standing on the sidewalk.  One is that to retain medallion ownership you must continue to drive a percentage of the time.  And the other is that you never have full ownership, meaning you either lose the medallion upon death or you sell it at an disadvantage, with the City getting a sizable chunk of the owner's profits. 

With these kinds of archaic rules it isn't surprising that San Francisco City officials have so eagerly jumped on the Uber and Lyft bandwagon.  The City of San Francisco isn't going to support an industry they clearly despise.  Instead they have and will continue to treat their local cabbies like criminals, little deserving of anything but a kick in the pants.  As for those bastions of upper-middle class propriety and goodness, Uber and Lyft, well, they are in a different and far more exalted category, residing in heaven, not down somewhere here in taxi hell with all us lower-class denizens, minus fans and suntan lotion.  And they have the legion of lawyers available preventing 10 million dollar judgments.

One very surprising piece of news is that someone from Seattle Yellow has proposed to buy the Las Vegas dispatch call center which both companies now share. Isn't that interesting?  More upon that subject as details become clearer.  It something that was discussed at the Monday SF Yellow board meeting.

And something new in San Fran Cab Land is Desoto Taxi's transformation into Flywheel Taxi, which of course is a dispatching app that has been attempting the past three years to become firmly established and operational.  In Seattle Flywheel is primarily used by the flat-rate for hire companies.

As for news pertaining to Seattle---

 ---A Seattle Weekly newspaper ad gave the surprising news of a commerical partnership between the City of Seattle and Lyft offering discount rides during a particular drinking holiday.  After contacting everyone I could think of, I did receive a friendly and official response saying that while the City of Seattle remains open to working with local taxi industry, they wanted to offer drunk passengers discounted rides, something taxi can't offer.

I find this response problematic for at least two reasons because I am too tired to think of any more at the moment.  One is that this partnership acts as a great public relations promotion for Lyft, giving potential customers the impression that "Lyft really loves them," except perhaps in Austin,Texas; and that when considering some kind of transportation, consider us first, we are your best friends!

And other problem is that it is the City of Seattle  (and King County) that isn't permitting us to consider lowering our meter rates, even for a short-term promotion---simultaneously limiting our options while blaming us for not having any options.  Now while fully willing to accept accountability, how in the world are we accountable in this situation?  Alice in Wonderland, here we come!

---This is what happens when drivers are not fully vetted or checked out thoroughly. A former Seattle police officer who was fired from the department in 2015 for various degrees of sexual harassment of female suspects is now under investigation for sexual assault while driving for Uber.  The complaint is that he tried to kiss a female passenger and attempted to get into her apartment.  A true background check would have told Uber about his SPD firing, thus preventing the entire incident in the first place.

---Computer system problems continue to plague Yellow.  There has been explorations and presentations with and by other companies but isn't the real question here is why did Yellow commit to something without first fully understanding whether it would successfully operate trouble free?  At least this time they are allowing operator input.  That of course is a great stride forward.  We will see if collective decision making really works.

There is more but my short nap on the flight back up to Seattle was only a band aide, time for more serous sleep on a sunny May afternoon.  Happy Friday the 13th everyone.  Watch out for Judas and his glad hand, waiting for that bag of silver.which just might be a bad bargain in the long term. Do we really need two thousand more years of distorted mythology?  I don't think so!



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