Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Quickest Of Updates Concerning PSD Computer Dispatch Transition

I know many of you out there in Seattle Yellow Taxi-land are more than curious about what is happening or not concerning our transition from the "George/San Francisco" system to something new and different, and most importantly, more efficient and improved.  From what I can tell, and remember from our visit down to Portland, Oregon last Wednesday to view the functioning MT Data/ Mobile Technologies International (MTI) at Portland's Broadway Cab, it is a good system, one, at least initially, allowing all of us to use our existing tablets.  I say this first off given the concern many have about financial outlays.  Whatever our initial costs may be, I believe they will be  minimal.

Our introduction of the dispatch system was both in the classroom and viewing it in an actual cab.  The only drawback to all this was time, as we rushed from the train in cabs to the Broadway lot only to barely have 2 plus hours to take it all in before we once again had to leave.   Excuse my brevity, but here is my quick description of the presentation provided by MYI's Director of Sales for North America, Floyd Kaminski.  MTI is an international company, recently installing their system in a cab company in Helsinki, Finland.

---All their technology is in-house, developed and provided by MTI

----The system is self-configurable, meaning you can design and frame it to your particular needs. This is a huge advantage, allowing you flexibility, something we currently are lacking.

----Open Architecture, allowing for adjustment

----A very superior smart phone booking app

----Driver-tipping options

----System allows for accurate fare calculations

----Has an ability to create fixed rate fares.  More explanation later.

----Booking via WEB

----Accurate tracking of phone bookings

----Driver rating system accompanied with reason why rating was selected

----Cloud-based system

----Accurate GPS

----G4 to G5 system speed

----Real time traffic/road reporting

----Circular or concentric ring dispatching, meaning the system can be adjusted to closest cab or cabs by creating inner and outer rings, with the closest cabs being chosen by time in zone 

----Two-way direct messaging between dispatch and driver

----Web TelOp measures call-taker performance

----System allows driver photo and details

----System can allow "personals" to be dispatched to individual drivers

---Email receipts

You all might notice that this system is much like the app-driven system used by Uber and Lyft.  What this does is allow us to compete on a more-or-less equal basis. 

When all this becomes operational is any one's guess but probably within the next 4-8 weeks.  Contract negotiations are ongoing.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Poof! Instantly $1100.00 Vanishes Into The Thin Taxi Air!

There are too many viable reasons why owning a taxi is a bad idea but the primary one is about the overhead, the many costs related to operating a cab.  Now if I were 30 years younger I could do what I did in 1987---drive as many hours as I wanted minus feeling later like I needed to check into a hospital.  Taxi truly is a younger person's job because the usual 12 hour shift is akin to twelve rounds in the box ring---you are going to end up battered no matter good a fighter you might be.  And the solitary reason to work all those many hours is make the BIG money, no other motivation making sense.  It ain't to increase you mind, I can tell you that!

So while at age 64 I can swing my taxi with anyone, I get tired faster.  I, like so many other aging folks, see and feel the ravages times takes upon the body, which is where the $1100.00 comes in, that being what it cost (including a $100.00 tip) me Friday to have my mechanic Pham install a new rebuilt automatic transmission into my cab YC 1092.  Pre-Uber and Lyft, all I did was pay my weekend lease ranging over the years from $160.00 to $200.00, clear my $1000.00 and leave for the remaining five days.  Obviously now those wonderful days are long gone, usually now taking me four days to make what I did in two, with it all costing me more than ever before. 

Again, the only way to justify cab ownership is to jump into that taxi river for the entire day, breaking only for a decent meal, and as I now do most days, take a quick shower and sauna at the local YMCA.  You can still make bunches of money but as I said, the physical strain is too much to take, all those hours insulting to cranium, body and soul.

Who needs it?  Not me which is why on September 6th, "she-who-can't-be-named" and I are flying first to Iceland for the geothermal springs, then to Paris for the pastry.  We have talked about doing this trip for years and finally we are going.  When we first met, a song we enjoyed was Jonathan Richman's "Give Paris One More Chance!"  And we are about to.

Will I miss being in the cab?  Everyone who knows me knows the answer to that question, the answer easy as Paris Pie in the Sky!

Specious Uber

An Associated Press article today quoted this Uber executive saying that the real problem with self-driving cars are all those pesky, disobedient pedestrians, everyone requiring some kind of remedial training so they don't jaywalk and do all the stupid things us humans do.  What made his position disingenuous is not remembering that the sole reason Uber and other companies use to justify autonomous vehicles is the lack of skilled and PROPERLY TRAINED drivers.  So while teaching people how to safely walk across street, why not also teach them how to skillfully navigate their car down that same street, eliminating the need for robot cars?  Too logical for the corporate brain is what I say.

And reason he didn't mention this is because all these greedy companies want to make lots of money producing these amazing cars of the near automotive future.  Uber, Alphabet, Tesla and everyone else can smell all that "money, honey!" and you can bet on it, "Mister I Want-It-Forget-The-Poetic-Sonnet!"  Moola, Miss Beulah, is what the new slave master wants.  It is that simple!

PSD New System Update

Wednesday morning, me and at least 7 others are taking the train down to Portland, Oregon to review a system we might be using in our cabs.  Again, expect real news concerning everything next week.

Cheers for Pham

I got the cab there at 10:30 AM Friday and he had the new transmission installed and ready to go by 5:15 PM.  Amazing!  Thanks a whole lot!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Taxi Reporter: The Sea-Tac Settlement With ESFH & How And Why WA State Labor & Industry Targeted Tacoma Yellow Cab

In all my years involved with Seattle's taxi industry, I have never found anything to be neither simple nor straightforward.  Oppositely, the contrary always true, oft times finding a complex tangle difficult to unravel and follow, all of which motivates me to provide you the reader with all the information I have on hand to both clarify and demystify current issues impacting all of us, not mattering whether we drive cab in Seattle or India or Australia because taxi, being a regulated industry shares a commonality across our taxi globe.

Utilizing that logic then, the Port of Seattle's negotiation and deal with ESFH (Eastside-for Hire), along with  L&I's past and current targeting of a particular cab company says much to anyone driving taxi in any locale, informing everyone of both hazards and solutions.  That we as an industry remain fragmented is true but instead, by approaching our industry holistically, together we can help repair and heal the damage done by all those local regulators who, by collectively misunderstanding what the ride-share model was, and is, opened a Pandora's Box threatening our very existence.

That many of us across the USA and other hemispheres and continents remain financially wounded is without question our shared reality.  But just as our situation can theoretically change to the negative, it can also change for the good of all, information our savior and weapon cutting through and pass opaque and blind bureaucracy and ultimately taking us to where we have never been---a united global constituency never refusing to be trod upon and discarded like so any many faceless ants beneath governmental feet---together saying no when others would have us participate in our own destruction.

Logically then we can't allow this which is why I present these two cautionary tales, saying beyond all doubt that we, and no one else, must be in control of our own destiny.  While always remaining open to cooperation and dialogue with local government, it is important that we, not them, create and form the rules and laws governing out industry.  This should not be an argument but set policy, our industry guiding ourselves down the taxi road.  How can it be any other way?

                                         The Port of Seattle Settles with Eastside-for-Hire

Two weeks ago Sea-Tac decided to give East-for-Hire 1.5 million over the life of their operational contract ending Autumn 2019.  This payment, made monthly through SP Plus Parking, the supervisory company situated upon the 3rd floor of the parking garage, brings to a close a fractious argument pitting ESFH against the Port of Seattle, Teamsters Local 117 and the majority of unhappy E-Cab drivers and owners serving Sea-Tac.

While ESFH sticks its "chest out," claiming it didn't give up exclusive rights to Sea-Tac, what the agreement appears to actually mean is that the old taxi pickup model is dead, with the Port Commission intending, if all the cards fall their way, to open Sea-Tac to all regional cabs regardless of association affiliation.  This could also signal an end to the flat-rate for-hire model, with all current licensees converted to old fashioned taxicabs.  With that conversion would be the combining of the now separate City of Seattle and King County license into one medallion or license plate, allowing everyone to legally work everywhere.  This idea has been talked about for a long time but since Sea-Tac is now doing the talking, I am great confident that Seattle and King County officials will give them what they want.

And besides, I know that all of the Port Commissioners and the Port staff are "sick and tired" of listening to the endless bickering between all sides, this argument going on for at least three years or more.  For all those crazy cabbies and flat-raters this is something they enjoy but to anyone else half-sane they recognize all that babble for what it truly is: dysfunctional behavior just for the hell of it, a deranged pastime to everyone save the participants.

Hopefully then, come September 2019, peace will prevail, and everyone will get to work the "Golden Goose" that is Sea-Tac International Airport, and just like all such fairy tales, everyone will live happy and contented ever after.  Amen!

         Washington State's Department of Labor & Industry Inability to Forgive and Forget

Yesterday, August 14th, 2018, L&I delivered yet another bill to Tacoma Yellow Cab, this time saying they owed $400,000 in past due fees.  When were these alleged underpayments made?  In the early 1990s, over twenty years ago. And just about three weeks ago, Tacoma Yellow Cab won its second judgment at the Board of Industrial Appeals, saying it didn't owe L&I anything.  So why does this saga continue, with Jerry Billings, the relentless L&I senior investigator still baying at the moon?  It's a good question, especially since Tacoma ownership changed in 2002, and with the State Legislature's invention in July 2015, removing all L&I requirements for taxi drivers.

The history here is L&I's insistence over the years that cabbies were not independent contractors but some version of employee.  Of course this is an argument heard most recently concerning discussions over Uber and Lyft driver status, something as of yet to be resolved.  But whenever a cabbie in the State of Washington had a serious accident, L&I would come to the hospital and ask the uninsured cabbie with who was he employed, with the answer being the same: the cab company in whatever city or town.

Having received that reply multiple times, L&I decided it must be true and began pressuring Tacoma Yellow and other companies to be paying per hour assessments.  In 1991 Tacoma Yellow strenuously objected, with L&I suing Tacoma and winning in 1992.  Yes, all this dates back to that period of time, L&I to this moment not backing down all these years later even though they have good legal reason to to so.  In July 2017, a judge ordered L&I to recalculate what was owed and threw out all charges of intentional misrepresentation, with a recent appeal validating that judgment.

But with yesterday's action, it appears L&I remains determined to punish Tacoma Yellow regardless of the logic involved.  Tacoma Yellow continues to operate but remains limited, at the moment dispatching approximately 17 cabs.   Can someone in Olympia tell all interested parties why they remain insistent upon "squeezing blood out of the Tacoma taxi turnip?"

It should be time to just let it go, or more precisely, if they can't, sue the original owners and hold them liable if they must.  I swear that even the Roman Catholic Church is more forgiving, never forcing the penitent to plead for absolution for the same sin over and over again.  This isn't justice but a misdirected Calvinist retribution against an innocent party.  Stop already, will you, mistaking government codification for a new bureaucratic religion.  If a point needed to be made, surely it has been made, and in spades! 

DDS Update: There isn't one

Turns out that DDS was being less than frank, by one not telling us that their system was only 3G (computer speed), and perhaps worse, not pointing out a contractual provision stating that they, and they alone would own OUR customer information.  That they don't think this is some kind of invasion of customer privacy says everything about their stance.  PSD is considering other vendors.  Of course everyone will be told what is going on before any decisions are made unlike past instances, drivers and owners remaining in the informational loop.

Killer of 2 Cabbies Executed Yesterday by the State of Nebraska 

In August 1979, five days apart, Carey Dean Moore murdered in cold blood two Omaha cabbies, shooting Safeway Cab driver Revel Van Ness, age 47 and the father of ten children, three times in the back.  On August 27th, he shot another cabbie also aged 47, Happy Cab operator Maynard Helgeland three times in the head, Helgeland leaving three children behind.  Moore got $140.00 from the first robbery and zero from the second.  Both of the cabbies were Korean War Veterans, surviving that bloody fight but failing to survive driving cab in a mid-sized American city.  Moore's twin brother witnessed the execution.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Hooker And The 100 Dollar Bill & DDS Upate

If I am not really interested in working I should never answer a call because, once committed, I never know what is going to happen and how demanding the passenger will be, along with just how many minutes and hours will be involved.  That I did this last Tuesday evening was to my deep regret because, how in the world did I know that at least one resident living in and around Seattle's Alki Point utilizes prostitutes but that was certainly the case then as the nice sounding woman turned out to be a hooker going, as she said, to the Sea-Tac Park & Ride.

I knew something "wasn't right" when she talked about swimming in the river running along Admiral Way because there isn't one, telling her she must be referring to the Duwamish River flowing upon the east side of Marginal Way SW, a river she might want to avoid given it remains on the EPA Superfund Cleanup list.  Her response told me she didn't know where she was, and minutes later, confirming she also didn't know where she was going.

And unfortunately what was normal suddenly transposed into the abnormal as she began panicking about my routing, prompting a quick U-turn onto State Route 599, taking us either to Pacific Highway South or I-5 southbound. Having already once announced we were detouring elsewhere, she again abruptly changed her agenda, this time saying we were now heading to Tacoma and Pacific Avenue, altering the entire scenario, the $40.00 ride now $140.00 and counting.

Telling her that a large deposit was now required she began yelling and cursing and waving 3 one-hundred bills at me, "I have the money, I have the money!" but the only problem being, she wouldn't give me one of them.  Every cabbie perhaps on the planet have been through this, knowing full well that the insane customer showing you the money doesn't at all guarantee you will be getting it save a wrestling match in the backseat, game players being just that---playing serious games no cabbie is interested in participating in on any level.

Telling her the ride was over, she then gave me a twenty which didn't fully cover the current meter amount as I exited onto International Boulevard and dropped her off at the Tukwila Light-rail station, saying she could catch a bus from there.  Thinking that was the end of it, I was glad to be rid of her and having 20 bucks for all my trouble and pain and lasting irritation.

But no, much later the fool texted me to ask if she had left a hundred in the cab.  Thinking it highly unlikely I lifted the backseat up, and amazingly, there it was.  Her third text to me said "Never mind" but nonetheless I called both her and dispatch, telling everyone that I would get it back to her once I came back from an overnight hiking jaunt scheduled for early Wednesday morning.  And all this after not charging her for what she fully owed me.  My personal policy has been, and remains, once I tell a passenger to go, I'm not interested in the money, my sole priority being to get the person out of the cab, like now, pronto, get out and stay out!

The hike and overnight at Lake Talapus in the Alpine Lake Wilderness was wonderful, sleeping away, away from the maddening crowds, listening to owls and other birds talk in the tranquil night.  But knowing I would have to deal with the situation Thursday morning didn't make me happy, knowing she was at best unpredictable, and worst, completely out-of-her-mind.

Finding new texts on my telephone, along with the fact that she was leaving messages with both dispatch and Yellow's Superintendent office, I called her to give her a more-or less ETA.  Problem was she never told me where she was and it wasn't West Seattle where I originally found her but somewhere near the airport.

Suffice to say she wasted yet more of my time, finally all this nonsense coming an end by meeting me in  a car in Chinatown driven by either a current "John" or her pimp, then very reluctantly giving me five dollars for my great honesty and effort.   And this time I got a really good look at her with "Oh my God!" my response, the woman trouble times ten and a hectoring addict hen, and certainly no ones friend!  Why anyone would pay to have sex with this individual is a mystery that I will let someone other than myself attempt to solve and decipher.  Crazy, crazy, and I repeat, crazy, insane etc.

As I keep saying, "Ain't taxi fun?" No!

DDS Update

PSD/Yellow is still negotiating the contract, meaning the changeover and installation WILL NOT be completed before the new school run season begins in September.   One email today told me they planned to do 40-50 cabs at a time.  All this is getting me to think that Puget Sound Dispatch is writing all of us a prescription for disaster and that perhaps it would be better if we waited until next year to complete the changeover to DDS.  I personally will need some reassurance that squeezing all these changes into the autumn months will not once again result into the boondoggle that we all experienced 4 years ago.  We do not need that to occur again. No, not at all.

You're mean!

I can't imagine how many grocery runs I've done since 1987 but this one last Sunday at the Ballard Safeway deserves commentary because when I attempted to load the two bags in the cab she screamed "Don't touch my bags!" followed by tears and saying how mean I was for trying to complete a very routine pickup.  What was her issue?  Schizophrenia near as I can tell.  While I have empathy her response sacred me because what would she say or do next?  Since I didn't know I had to drive away, leaving her to negotiate with the next cabbie.  Good luck!

Tacoma Yellow Cab Kaput!

I was astonished to find out that the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry had forced the closure of Tacoma Yellow.  Longtime readers know I have mentioned that battle in the past but it appears that L&I won the day by killing Yellow.   I hope to feature the full story next week.

Kudos to the City and County Concerning Medallion Renewal

As opposed to just notifying the associations, like Seattle did when it came time to inspect and calibrate our taxi meters, this time I received an email detailing dates and times for all owner appointments.  Thank you, Seattle and King County, for the good communication.  It is appreciated.

Magnolia Marina Fiefdom 

Located on the south side of Magnolia bluff, the Palisades Restaurant and the Magnolia Boat Marina have long been a commonplace taxi pickup and drop off, personally working there over a thousand times, and not once until this past weekend have I ever encountered any interference.  Certainly I have noticed the small guard shack located on the public street but since it was never occupied I gave it little thought other than it seemed rather out of place.  But this past Saturday night some woman attempted to stop me as I drove on West Marina Place toward a pickup at the restaurant.  Later, on Sunday morning, I stopped and looked at all the street signage and saw nothing indicating W. Marina Place was anything but a public street.  In most cases there will be posted signs indicating you are entering a private street but there are no such signs anywhere, and in my 30 cab year experience, there never have been.

Asking the kids working the Palisades valet, they said the marina was private but knew nothing concerning the streets themselves.  Upon leaving this same woman tired to stop me but I kept on going, little amused by what I saw as some kind of self-styled vigilantism attempting to achieve what I had no idea.  If I ever have a spare moment I am going to ask the City of Seattle  about what they know or don't about legal public access on W. Marina Place.  I am curious concerning the ultimate answer of who is in charge, the City of Seattle or a bunch of upper-middle class folks floating around in 500 thousand dollar boats.  All I can say is that they better watch out because I am tempted to save up all my pennies and buy a second-hand submarine.  Up periscope!