Friday, December 27, 2019

Are We Happy Now?---A Year-End Seattle Taxi Report & Former Uber CEO Resigns From Uber Board & Be Sure You Use Your Turn Signals In Washington State

Ah yes, another year's conclusion of taxi fun and games, and am I now insane?  The answer is probably yes, but life goes on, and so do the endless taxi miles taking me where I don't, and you don't, want to go.  But go I do, and all my fellow crazed cabbies, so do you as the decade ends, leaving us where, where can we be?

I suppose we can call the 21st Centuries second decade the Uber Decade and be quite correct, we never in the taxi industry having before faced such rapacious, unscrupulous competitors, all made possible of course by foolish, dimwitted municipal administrators and regulators not understanding they were bargaining with the Devil Incarnate itself impersonating as Upper-Middle-Class Gentility. Yes, we can all laugh at their stupidity but the truth is, it happened in large part due to their hatred of us, we the so-called "evil taxi empire."

Why their hatred?  Call it discrimination personified, viewing us as less than them---taxi untouchables (dalits) not worthy of respect or consideration, all of us thieves, rapists, murderers.  Ain't it funny that Uber's 2018 American reports displays clearly just who the criminals are?

Yes, while the tables have been slightly turned in our favor, we remain at a great disadvantage, Uber's tsunami still engulfing the taxi industry, sweeping away our business in their tidal wake.  No fun at all.

Are we happy as the third decade approaches?  No, I don't think so but we are still breathing, aren't we?

Or is the grave beckoning?

The Jump is Nearly Complete

As I mentioned last week, the former Uber CEO, having nearly completed the selling off of all his Uber stock, has now resigned from the Uber governing board, meaning he will no longer be connected in any form whatsoever with Uber.  Funny?  Of course it is, as he laughs all the way to the bank with his three-billion in ill-gotten gains. What else can I say?  Nothing is the answer.

When Driving in Washington State, Use your Turn Signals, or Else!

This week the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that under all conditions, drivers must use their turn signals or they will be held accountable by the long arm of the law. What this means, that even though you are in a turn-only lane, you must signal or you can be ticketed.

Ain't that nice, legal sugar and spice

or is it lice

provided by the judicial mice?

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Visiting The Local Magistrate: Seattle Mandates You Pay $80.00 Regardless of Anything

Fines, tickets etc are one unfortunate part of taxi life.  It is going to happen despite your best efforts to avoid the bureaucratic thumb attempting to snuff you out.  Thursday afternoon saw me visiting a local court magistrate in a vain attempt to mitigate a Red Light Camera ticket received at the south-bound intersection of 6th Avenue crossing James Street.  I knew I would have to pay for my transgression but how much was the issue. And this after I thought I knew the location of every intersection camera in the city.  How did I miss the signage?  I can't really tell you other than I have no excuse whatsoever.  Driving taxi is a war, and to not pay attention every second is potentially fatal. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my everyday reality.

The judge herself was great, friendly, and having seen my situation thousands of times, voiced even before I could say it, the fact that I was probably rushing a passenger to an appointment, something completely accurate.  She apologized when announcing that the City of Seattle would only allow her to reduce the fine to $80.00, mandated not by her but by the powers dictating her authority. Given the madness I encounter daily upon the streets I don't blame anyone for trying to control what is truly insane driving behavior exhibited by the masses.  And with the City of Seattle planning even more red light and school cameras, I am sure the good judge will be busy past commonsense.  

The only personal positive I can take from the experience is the great public art to be found in Seattle's municipal buildings, some great Eastern Washington photographs and one very interesting large oil painting making the moment slightly less painful.

A Rat Jumping Ship?

Has Uber hit its last fatal financial iceberg?  From recent actions demonstrated by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, the Uber sailing forecast appears to be doomed, Kalanick having already sold off 90% of his company stock, $2.5 billion dollars worth, and will soon be divesting the remaining 10% of his Uber holdings.  Since June of this year, Uber stock has lost 43% of its original value.  The question is, when will Uber's corporate investors join Kalanick in getting out before going down with the sinking ship?  The new year, 2020, should tell us much concerning Uber's future.  Maybe, just maybe, 2020 will be Uber's setting sun, an unsavory company receiving its just desserts.

And all those former loyal Uber customers might find themselves riding in a taxi. I would like that, and I am sure, you would too.

A Reader Asks a Question

When was Uber formed?  The answer is 2009, with the original idea for the company forming in 2007 & 2008.

Dealing with Drunks: Just tell them goodbye

Late last night, two inebriated fellows, wanted to go a local MacDonald's.  That they didn't know where one was didn't stop them from angrily bossing me around.  I immediately told them then to get out or I was calling the police, having done nothing wrong expect perhaps letting them into the cab, not interested in their unnecessary abuse. That is how you deal with unruly drunks.  There is no other way.

These guys were high-caste Indians from India.  Have you been following what has been happening recently in India?  In my case, India's bad behavior was transferred to my cab, and I am neither Muslim or from Kashmir.  No, I do want Indian citizenship.

Again, treated once again as a taxi dalit. Boring!

Friday, December 13, 2019

After Uber Is Again Banned In London, Uber CEO Khosrowshahi Says London's Decision Is "Just Wrong!"

In late November, the City of London once again stripped Uber of its license to operate, having taken a similar action back in 2007.  While Uber continues to operate in London while appealing the decision, how can Uber truly protest after it was found that many customers, while trustfully using their app, were provided at least 14,000 unauthorized rides by unregistered drivers, drivers minus unverified driver licenses and not carrying any kind of insurance coverage.  What this translates into is, that in the case of at least a minimum of 14,000 rides, Uber did not know who was driving their customers, and worse, provided those rides with no protective insurance whatsoever.  Most often, it appears, this all occurring with the complicity and cooperation of fully registered Uber drivers  actively assisting in defrauding the Uber app, allowing friends and family and complete strangers to drive their cars or use their identities, most often for personal profit.  I see a number of important questions springing from this kind of behavior.

1) Given this is criminal behavior, what kind of screening process, if any, did Uber utilize when signing up these people to drive for them?

2)  Did the City of London, like the City of Seattle, relinquish all screening and regulatory control to Uber, thus allowing Uber to sidestep normal regulatory process and procedures?

3)  Will the City of London hold Uber drivers transferring their app to someone else legally responsible?

4) If the City of London does re-certify Uber, do they intend to retain oversight just as they now oversee all London Black-car taxicab licensing and behavior?

5) Will the City of London require Uber to pay damages to the thousands of customers who unknowingly rode and paid for fraudulent service?

Why it might seem odd for someone in the USA to pose these questions for City of London/ Police Department authorities, I do this solely to encourage everyone to put Uber's behavior in the proper perspective---that it is outrageous for something on this scale to occur without far reaching consequences for Uber, and not only in the United Kingdom but everywhere it operates.  When will Uber's egregious behavior end, with how many more unauthorized rides, rapes and murders to their unworthy credit?

Why I know it's difficult to stop or modify government behavior, why does the same need apply to corporations like Uber, where accountability at best isn't worth the paper its written on, and company CEOs can act like they are the wronged party?  I believe it is time, past time, to make Uber an example and permanently shut them down in London and across the globe, sending the firm message that their kind of arrogance is not acceptable. Other, far more responsible companies will come in to fill the gap, and perhaps taxi will once again be recognized for the honorable industry it is, hearkening a new era for a falsely maligned cab industry.

Yes, one might call this an idle hope but justice does sometimes occur.  I suggest contacting who you may and telling them Uber must be held accountable.  It will only take a few minutes. And I am sure your God of whatever definition you have concerning metaphysical influence, will bless you for it, an unexpected bonus to your busy day, God too an interested party to madness sanctioned as sanity.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Quoting Troy West, Uber Chief Legal Officer: "What It Says Is That Uber Is A Reflection Of The Society It Serves."

This quote is taken from a New York Times article written by Kate Conger reporting Uber's announcement verifying 3,045 sexual assaults for the year 2018, 92 % of the attacks originating with Uber operators assaulting their customers.  9 customers were murdered and 58 killed in automobile accidents.  While the total trip volume is high, over a billion rides provided, those still are shocking statistics generated by Uber.  Lyft too announced over 40 rapes occurring over their ride-share system.

Can you imagine the uproar if the American taxi industry made similar announcements, admitting to rape, murder and an in-general mayhem occurring in their cabs?  But here we have Troy West, the guy responsible for overseeing customer safety for Uber "ho-humming" these terrible incidents by more or less saying "what do you expect, we live in a violent society."

While it remains true that violence exists in America, one DOES NOT expect to be raped taking an Uber, Lyft or cab home from a concert or local tavern.  Do you  expect to be raped when shopping for apples at Safeway or shoes at Macy's?  Of course you don't, instinctively expecting a safe and sane shopping environment provided by responsible businesses.

To believe Troy West, that being raped is inevitable due to the society we live in, is to embrace the belief that anarchy and bedlam is our everyday norm, something that simply isn't true, West instead attempting to justify Uber's totally inexcusable behavior.  What his statement says to me is an admission that Uber is not in control of its own operations, and worse, never will be, our "insane society" making this kind of behavior a distorted, inescapable guarantee, that having our customers murdered and raped just part of our everyday business reality.

Unreal is all I can say.  And how and why Uber will continue to be accepted as a functional company is something I don't understand.  Even one rape is completely unacceptable but over 3000 boggles all credulity.  How can this be possible? 

And how can this keep happening day after week after month after year?  Government and its regulators must intercede before they too or someone they love are victimized by an unqualified ride-share (TNC) operator.  Just recently, an Uber driver in Lebanon was convicted of raping and killing a 30 year old female British diplomat, someone who was scheduled to return home to the UK the next day.  I mention this only to illustrate the true human costs of the lackadaisical regulatory approach taken by governments across the globe toward Uber and Lyft and other TNC companies.  To quote Pete Seeger, "When will they ever learn?"

Good question, isn't it?

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Car Is Everything & I Don't Want To Be Rated

My Ford Crown Victoria, YC Cab 1092, certainly has a smooth and steady suspension, that very apparent after my coffee cup survived a mile-long ride atop the car, only realizing it was there once upon entering Highway 99 southbound.  Quickly pulling over, I gratefully retrieved the errant cup, pleased it had survived the perilous journey.  I mention this because a well- maintained cab is everything to the cabbie.  Without it, we are literally nowhere whatsoever, stranded upon the roadside or worst. 

Currently I am averaging approximately 5000 rough and tumble taxi miles per month.  When I bought the car, the odometer read over 103,000 miles driven.  Now 1092 has over 253,000 miles and counting.  Two weeks ago the differential and axle required professional attention.  Saturday I had the oil changed and a light bulb replaced.  What's next I can't tell you but whatever is required I do it because there is no alternative.  The car is everything, something I know and won't forget.  More than once, poor cab association maintenance got me involved in accidents, telling me that kind of attitude is inexcusable, money their unfortunate bottom line. And yes, I have been paying attention, which is all I want or need to say, be it tomorrow or today.

I Don't Care How Many Stars You Think I Am

The headline story in last Friday's Wall Street Journal complained about the spread of false ratings over the Internet.  Yes, anyone can say anything, true or not, to influence a potential buyer in one direction or the other.  And even if the rating or comment is real, done by an actual consumer, opinion is too often subjective, often based upon bias not founded upon objectivity.

Personally then, I neither want or need to be rated by passengers as Yellow is currently doing, arbitrarily judging our performance.   I never requested this disservice. The only rating me or any other cabbie is interested in is framed by tipping, by the tips we receive.  My friend Ted, playing a customer one of his new songs, received a hundred dollar bill for a short ride, the guy reporting that "he was stoked!"  That is the kind of rating we want, meaning money, by far the best enduring compliment.

And thank you very much, I am sure.