Friday, June 30, 2017

Back In Tacoma---Thoughts About Recent Uber Developments And Revisiting Old History: How The Seattle City Council Opened The Door To Uber & Lyft

Before I comment upon Uber and its recent changes, I think everyone reading this blog might be interested in knowing more about where I have just been traveling, especially if you like waterfalls and roaring creeks, you too motivated in wandering south-bound down I-5. The biggest factor impacting my recent trip was the intense heat wave affecting northern California in and around Mount Shasta.  The best way to express it is that  average daytime temperatures at Lassen Volcanic National Park were in the low 60s degrees F. before exploding to the high 90s F., twice reaching 99 F. All this meant that we required shade to cover us and water to dip in, which thankfully were both in large supply southeast of looming Mount Shasta, a peak even higher than Mount Rainer in elevation.  If you find the heat too troublesome, you will experience some profound relief once the sun goes down, with early morning temperatures dropping down to the low 40s F., a more that 50 degree differential between day and night. Bring a warm sleeping bag.

My can't miss recommendations for this general area are Burney Falls located in Burney Falls State Park; and the three water falls--Lower, Middle and Upper found upon the McCloud River.  There is a wonderful 15 mile river trail bordering the McCloud which has easy and quick access points to the three falls.  The actual walking distance between the falls is less than two miles.  Do it, like we did, early in the morning and enjoy the scenery and wild flowers while avoiding the later afternoon hordes.

One tip for visiting Burney Falls, and thus avoiding the $8.00 day use fee, is to visit at early dawn and have these amazing falls both all to yourself and for free.  Some excellent camping choices are Butte Creek and Trout Creek camp grounds, both minus fees while providing large and fairly private sites.  At Butte Creek, located just east of the Lassen boundary, we had personal access to the creek, finding a good sitting place where we cooled off in the rushing water.  Due to the record snow falls, all the rivers and creeks and steams are bloated to near capacity.

If you have some spare time the next couple of weeks, it would a good time to visit this part of California for yourself.  You will be happy you did.  And if you do pass through Mount Shasta City, be sure to visit the Sacramento River Headwaters City Park located just about a mile north of the small downtown.  Bring a water jug and fill up at the spring.  The water is both plentiful and free.   Another interesting local phenomenon are groups of post, post, post 60s young hippies gathering in the park attempting to revive memories of mid-1960s summer days of love and marijuana and singing Dylan and Cohen to the heated air.  And HG Wells thought there was only one kind of time machine!

Current Uber & Revisiting City Council Decisions

While many will celebrate the ouster of Travis Kalanick as Uber's day-to-day manager, I advise that you don't cheer too loud because, as I said in last week's posting, you are only going to see a more streamlined and efficient company.  And if you think Kalanick influence will suddenly evaporate, think again as he owns millions? of Uber shares so in reality, he really hasn't gone anywhere other than one step to the right, or to the left if you prefer.   Will Uber suddenly become a more moral and kinder and caring company, more responsive to it's independent operators needs and wants?

It is highly doubtful, and if you need proof, I advise you read the Quartz Media online article, "Locked In---Inside Uber's Unsettling Alliance With Some of New York's Shadiest Car Dealers," a true exposure of how much Uber care about their operators.  In brief, you will find how Uber, in partnership with some very questionable car dealers, are preying upon immigrant populations who don't completely understand what they are doing when signing their signature upon the dotted line. Many Uber operators in NYC find themselves committed to weekly paying $500.00 or more back to the dealers, something that can span three years and more.  I also referred in my last posting to Uber as the "New Plantation."  Read the Quart article and see how I wasn't exaggerating.  If anything, I was understating the situation and just how bad it is for many of the Uber operators worldwide. Check out stories about Uber drivers in Kenya, who after working all day, and after paying all their Uber obligations, end up earning five dollars.  No fun I would say.  No fun whatsoever!

And who do we have to thank locally for inviting Uber (and Lyft) into our transportation world? None other than the good LIBERALS sitting a few years ago upon the City of Seattle's City Council, voting 8-1 to lift off their 250 car Uber & Lyft operator cap and provide unlimited (and mostly unregulated)  access to Seattle's and King County's streets and potential transportation ride customers. And again I want everyone to remember that City Council member, Kshama Sawant, that great self-proclaimed guardian of worker's rights voted to open the Uber Pandora Box.  You might also remember that it was Ed Murray, the now out-going mayor, who initiated the process to convince the City Council to toss away its own much discussed TNC operator cap.  It remains a mystery why they did it, as it was done minus plausible explanation.

And what did Murray dangle before the local taxi industry to go along with him and cut their own throats?  The tradeoff of all those leased medallions becoming real property was the bait, something that should had happened decades before, and something that should have never been part of some "devil's bargain."  As we in the industry know, what was once worth $250,000 is now down in value to something like to $18.000.  What a great deal it wasn't for us, along with all our lost business to 14,000 plus Uber and Lyft operators.

Briefly continuing upon that topic, I want to say to the reader who wrote that I am not fighting for driver's interests, is that at one point I was set to become then GM Tommy Key's assistant, something that was blocked by Yellow's managerial board.  Why wasn't I hired?   Because, in my presentation, I told them that we had to immediately file a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, clearly spelling out what I saw coming, which all unfortunately came to past.  That they made a huge mistake in going along with the City of Seattle's plans is shown in the their now very diminished company.  They were warned and they didn't listen.  It is that simple.  And of course, who paid the ultimate cost?  All the lease drivers and single owners.  What is new?  There is nothing new.

Mount Shasta City Taxi

Seeing a cab sitting in the shade, I walked up to the driver and inquired about the local business.  He said they have about a three-month long season, almost entirely dependent upon the flood of tourists pouring through.  How much are the insurance costs for this two cab company?  $300.00 per car per month.   I found that odd given that I pay $505.00 per month for me and two drivers on YC 1092 but that is the way it is, insurance companies pooling the nation's cabs into one pool, making this tiny cab company through the nose.  Oh well!  And by the way, their per mile rate is $2.50.