Saturday, February 23, 2019

Rumblings At Sea-Tac & WA ST DOL Excess & Sotted Addressing

The legacy of Seattle Yellow's Sea-Tac failure continues to resonate, with the Port of Seattle struggling post-Yellow to understand how to best integrate taxi services in the Uber/Lyft era.  To that end, a meeting scheduled for last Thursday, and now rescheduled for this upcoming Thursday, February 28th, 2019, will be discussing the viability of opening Sea-Tac to all qualified King County taxis.  Upon first examination, it seems like a more democratic approach to a constant complaint but further consideration brings up a obvious canard: Uber's Sea-Tac continued dominance means a much smaller taxi market, so by adding more vehicle volume you only diminish, not increase driver income.

In an email to Port of Seattle Commissioner Gregoire, I pointed out that the only way it can work is to reduce Uber/Lyft access at the airport.  Otherwise, adding more cabs making little sense, exacerbating an already injurious business climate into a kind of bureaucratic criminality, robbing from the poor to pay the rich.  I can only hope the Port Commission reverses itself, embracing fairness over avarice.  

As to eliminating all association control over Sea-Tac rider services, I wholeheartedly endorse that option, leaving oversight to the Port, a much better approach than personal enrichment epitomized by first Yellow, and now Eastside for Hire.  Remove unnecessary management and let the cabbies strive.  Though if, as during the bad, old days of Seattle's taxi deregulation experiment, wide-spread abuse happens, a reconsideration should occur.  But, as the saying goes, you never know, and maybe, just maybe, the local taxi community has grown wiser.  I know you laugh, but don't miracles occur daily?  Ask Pope Francis.  He'll tell you it's true!

The Auditor's Complaint

I was truly mystified until understanding what she deemed as my paper error:  the word Seattle omitted from "DBA Yellow Cab 1092, " saying it must be "DBA Seattle Yellow Cab."  Curious, I had a colleague show me his car's registration.  And wouldn't you know it, it said "DBA Yellow Cab _ _ _," making no mention of Seattle.   Given that we shared the same insurance agent, it is quite possible that Key has for years improperly entered the wrong words.  What is true or false I don't know but it does seem to be a trivial requirement, given it is clear where a given cab is licensed to work, be it Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, etc.  

I have been advised to ignore all threats because they are both empty and unenforceable, but still, I don't like being yelled at when I have done nothing intentionally to violate any City, County and State statues.  Monday I will make a further attempt to clarify what needs to be done because simply, government makes me paranoid.  

As a mere youth of 18, government told me they owned my body and could force me to kill people against my will.  With that as my leading example, I don't trust government, knowing it capable of literally anything.  Did you know, that if Trump's State of Emergency is sanctioned by the courts, he can freeze your bank account?  And you wonder why I am wary?!

No Coherency Whatsoever 

Very early Saturday morning, a DT Hotel bar gave me their problem, escorting the passenger, an extremely drunk South Korean man, to my cab.  Escorts always means I should be expecting trouble, and I got it, with the gentleman not knowing his complete address.  Speaking to his wife over the telephone didn't completely help either as she didn't know which city she resided in.  Finally, after much pouring over maps, and applying my 30 plus years of taxi madness, I figured out "that you are going to Bothell!"  And I mean Bothell in the middle of suburban nowhere.

Plotting out the route, I took him to the address on his driving license but unfortunately, it wasn't his real and actual address though thankfully, near by, his real abode existed. Thank God! his wife answered my knock and paid me.  All he could do is slur "Complaint, I want to make a complaint."  Nothing like appreciation for saving his butt! but hey, dealing with drunks like him ain't nothing new.

I swear I have never been more challenged locating an address.  It was sheer hell and the $78.00 I got barely worth the effort.  Do you know how many variations of 178th SE exist in the greater King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties?  I do, and can I please forget? 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Snow Day Fare & An Essay: Three Nights Walking In The Snow & WA ST Business License Confusion & Uber 4th Quarterly Loss: $842 Million

Over a nearly 11 day span, Seattle and most of the entire state of Washington was severely impacted by record and near record snowfall.  At certain moments, business soared, creating real money-making opportunities for the more fearless cabbie.  During the second Monday's snowfall, I got a $110.00 fare from Ballard Swedish Hospital, taking me to the City of Tacoma, a ride of approximately 30 miles due south of Seattle.

In my ever ongoing quest to describe taxi as I experience it, I present a mundane fare made noteworthy by inclement weather, representing taxi reality as it really is.  That this kind of early 21st Century history goes unnoticed is reason enough to tell you about it, to record what otherwise will go unseen and unremembered.

If I could be so lucky, I can only hope that hundreds of years from now, someone will both read this and gain understanding of what this particular period of America was like, comparing it to their own current lifestyle and culture.  In short, I hope anyone in the future will see this as a fragment of a distant past era now made real for them in the year 2318 or later, taking this as a hello, not as a solitary goodbye from a long, dead representative cabbie.

Ride Into The Snow Monday February 11, 2019

Sunday evening and Monday morning Seattle was hit by 4-6 inches of fresh, very wet snow.  Knowing it could be a good day, I set out hoping for the best.  After two short fares, I hit taxi pay dirt, a HopeLink account fare taking the passenger from Ballard to an address in Tacoma, giving me nearly $110.00 for the ride.  Given the weather, she had been waiting since 10:00 AM and I was belled in at about 11:30 AM.  Happy to see the cab, this after a 30-day hospital stay, we packed all her belongings into the trunk and off we went, with me knowing that as we proceeded further south, the more likely I would be driving straight into a raging storm.

Deciding to route myself south through downtown to I-5 southbound, it took me about ten minutes to reach the Jame Street entrance ramp, entering onto a wet but snow-free roadway.  Keeping my speed at 60 MPH, I marveled as other drivers sped by, knowing they hadn't learned their lesson concerning snow and ice and how you can be surprised when you least expect it.   And sure enough, upon reaching Southcenter, parallel to Sea-Tac, snow greeted us, telling me I should expect the worse, and about Federal Way, I found out just how bad it would be.  My passenger, being from Alaska, talked about winter and bears entering the house, her mother's screams telling the momma bear and her three cubs it was time to leave.

By the time I reached the Tacoma Dome, snow was briskly falling, huge flakes inundating the freeway, visibility poor and only growing more limited as I neared my exit.  Heading toward an address on South Yakima Street, I was now in "winter wonderland," thick, heavy wet snow coating the streets, making it difficult but not totally impossible to move forward.

Stopping across the street from the required address, and dodging traffic, I assisted in carrying everything to the house.  Someone came out onto the porch, saying she would help but she was only wearing slippers.  I saw that. Whatever else she said I ignored, having to quickly move and get out of harm's way and back down the roadway.  Wishing my passenger the best, I was out of there, mildly slipping and sliding back onto to I-5 northbound.

Greeted with more snow, I made it north minus much of anything until I accepted a fare waiting at the VA Hospital.  Now that fare became more complicated because Seattle's sky had broken loose, translating into a rough ride back to Renton.

Later, when a roadway combination of compact ice and snow plus rain plus a further coating of snow made driving potentially lethal, I stopped early, ate some great Chinese dumplings, and got the hell out of there, snow outpacing the road crews, parking 1092 behind the Broadview Library and walking down the hill.  Fares were now everywhere but I couldn't care.  I understood what awaited if I continued.  It was time to stop.  A friend later told me an errant driver slammed into his cab.  Yes it was time to stop.


Essay: Three Nights Walking in the Snow


Snowing had stopped.  For once, the city was quiet.  No one but myself walking the residential streets, first north on Palatine then down 127th, proceeding south on 8th NW.  Everything, houses, trees, lawns, streets glistening white in the dark.  Beautiful!  Glad to have it all to myself, feeling a solitary peace.  It was wonderful.  Alone!


Slush!  A rise in temperature and rain creating a mucky surface.   This time I meet someone dodging deep puddles, then again by myself.  Thick ruts greet my steps. No problem.  It's fun having to think about it, avoiding this and that moist trap.  Once again I am enthralled by a singular and rare isolation from humanity.  Thank you!


The Seattle Times said we could expect the high 20's F.  And it was true, the evening cold and crisp, icing the streets and providing a clear sky.  There is the half moon illuminating the night.  Truly wonderful, stars and an unknown to me constellation saying hello.  Hello, I thought back, hello!  I hear you!  I truly hear you!

Does Anyone in State Government Know What They Are Doing?

It is ridiculous, giving me a hard time about what I am still not sure, saying my car/cab registration and insurance policy doesn't state what I am not sure, the  woman on the phone from the capital Olympia saying something about "avi's" and how I am not operating legally.  I later found out she was talking about the Sea-Tac Airport Fare Counting System and how I had to do what? to be legal.  But lady, my cab is single-plated (City of Seattle only), meaning I cannot legally work the airport without, 1) a King County plate, and 2) a Belled-In sticker.  But you folks did issue me my business license.  What the hell are you talking about? meaning I will have to figure this bullshit out, caused only by your agency because I only know what is required if you folks tell me and how could I possibly be intentionally avoiding something I now nothing about.

And yes I will figure this out, and I promise you I will also be talking to both the Governor's and Attorney General's office about all this, threatening someone while I am being completely cooperative.   If I am confused, what about all my immigrant colleagues who barely know up from down?  It is plainly embarrassing, having government bludgeon the innocent.  Not cool at all is what I can and will say.  Amazing!

And what a waste of my valuable time and breath.  Pathetic.

How is it possible that Uber is still operational? 

A NY Times 02/16/2019 article, reported by Kate Conger and Mike Isaac, says that Uber lost 842 million dollars in the last  quarter 2018, a whopping 88 percent loss increase compared to the same 2017 quarter.  How does this company survive?  As I have posted before, is Uber a Ponzi Scheme?  Is anyone paying attention?  Are people, specifically investors, stupid?  Ha Ha Ha is all I can say.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

I Have Been Restrained, Holding My Taxi Tongue Until Now

Criticism must have a purpose, otherwise it is a mindless rant filling the world with more unnecessary gibberish, something we clearly don't need.  With the advent of both traditional and social media, complaint, the pointing of fingers in this modern age is everywhere you turn--from radio, television, the Internet to the enraged driver blaring their car horn---the shouting filling the mind and ears.  I say this because errors at Yellow Cab dispatch are compounding at an inflationary rate, to where something must be said, not to disparate but to encourage change and improvement.  While Puget Sound Dispatch management has acknowledged the shortcomings, recognition of a problem achieves little unless it comes with both resolution and the resolve for adequate remedy. While it is said we will now have dispatch services wholly back in Seattle by June, what do we do in the meanwhile when the current  Las Vegas call center is strained to breaking, especially now during this prolonged stretch of unusually icy and snowy street conditions, dispatch mistakes potentially severely consequential, sending a cab to a wrong address resulting in valuable time lost or even an accident.  As one example will show, mistakes could even result in someone returning to prison.  As I keep repeating to PSD management, we need the correct information every single time minus error.  Anything less translates into the non-functional, something we can't accept.  But as this situation has remained acceptable for months, it says something is wrong, ranging from negligence  to dysfunction.  As I have also said many times, not only can we do better, we must do better, there being no other option.  Otherwise chaos, as usual, reigns supreme.

Not Understanding Seattle's Addressing System

Given what occurred to me late Monday night, it's clear that the Las Vegas based call center has not been adequately trained in the in-and-outs and the how-and-whys of the City of Seattle's street addressing matrix.  Something all important is knowing the East-West and North-South boundary streets and how they govern the street and avenue directional indicators: East, Northeast, West, Northwest, Southwest and South.  It's a logical system but you have to know the basics, a kind of Seattle addressing literacy to read and interpret the information.  But when you don't, and it seems, relying solely upon "Google mapping" as your solitary source, bad things happen.  Again, I am not saying that the call-takers are incompetent.  Far from it but they obviously are suffering from a lack of training.  Who is responsible for that?  Puget Sound Dispatch and no one else.

I was belled into a Zone 240 address, 1 _ _ 22nd Avenue.  Notice there is no directional attached to the address.  That's because it is a north-south avenue located between Denny Way, the north boundary and Yesler Way, the south boundary.  Unfortunately, the actual address was 1 _ _ 22nd Avenue East, placing it two blocks north of Denny, and in Zone 200.  The address dispatched me to was 18 blocks to the south.

What made this mistake potentially catastrophic is that the fare was called in by a prisoner-release counselor/caseworker who was trying to get his reluctant client back to her work-release facility.  That if I had been at the proper address all would have been fine but once not finding me where I was expected, she never came back out.  I know this because dispatch convinced me to drive to the correct address, this after telling me both addresses were one and the same.  Why did the call-taker say this?  Because "google mapping" told him, that's why.

I also told the call-taker it was inappropriate for me to act as the go-between client and caseworker, as the desperate counselor kept requesting that "I work with him," assuring me he had given dispatch the right address.  Doesn't anyone but me understand about legal liability, about making me responsible for getting this State of Washington ward back to where she belongs?

All this took a good half hour, begetting nothing but frustration as I sat for five minutes, calling again and again in a fruitless effort to reach the client.  And what ultimately happened to her I don't know but as I suggested, the consequences might have been dire for her which is why I say once more, "get it fight the first time, please!"

Do I think anything will change?  No, I do not.

In Addition, a Mechanical Glitch 

Another issue is what happens when Yellow is busy and the "BID" alert keeps ringing like a deranged bell, repeating to a point that it knocks out the sound, meaning you will no longer hear the alert telling you when a dispatched call is offered.  What happens is that you miss the call unless you are staring at the screen.  The problem is clear.  George, the father of this system, is not a cabbie, causing him not to be aware in total of what he was creating.  Typical is all I can say, not understanding the day to day impact of decisions made.  And who is ultimately hurt by this?  Why of course all us cabbies paying the dispatch fee!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Once Again On Why & How The American Taxi Industry Lost The Transportation Battle

The ex-Las Vegas, Nevada cabbie was only in my taxi for a few minutes but, as he recounted his three Vegas years, I knew he, and others like him, were to blame for our current business malaise, this guy a "taxi poster child" for everything wrong and nothing right in our shared past.  How, you might ask, could one solitary individual be responsible for our collective demise?  How much damage can one cabbie do?

And the answer is, quite a bit when your entire attitude is complete permission to do anything you damn well please---from double and triple loading at the Las Vegas airport, selling booze out of your car, to running a "couple of girls on the side."  In short, he was a free-form, unbridled, total bandido cabbie taking wild Las Vegas by the hand, saying "This is my playground and I make the rules, no one else.  Neither do I have to abide by standards and regulations, they don't apply to me in any way shape or measure, morality an outdated concept followed only by whimpering fools.  I am in complete command!"  In other words, long, short or abbreviated, he was beyond argument, a commonplace criminal.

After qualifying for his "sheriff's card," he became a card dealer translating into just another kind of hustle, making big tips and having a good time.  As I said, I wish he was unusual but he's not, having seen thousands like him over the years, be they Greek, Iranian, Russian, or like this guy, a native born American.

Is he a bad guy?  Well, it depends upon your definition.  He gave me $13.00 for a $7.00 fare so at least he felt some camaraderie meaning he had some redeeming qualities lurking inside him.

So call him a free-spirit, call him a free-lancer but also call him what he also is, a disgusting, reprehensible crook, taking our industry down the gutter to perdition, joining his fellow devils at the sulphurous, burning gates of hell.