Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Five Taxicabs Total To Serve The Entire 2,307 Square Miles That Is King County, Washington

Late Saturday night, early Sunday morning Yellow Cab had, including me, a total of five cabs working to serve numerous rapid-fire bells (taxicab requests) originating from all over Seattle and King County.  In a futile effort to serve everyone, I worked through the night, not getting to bed until past 7:30 in the morning.  Already dead-tired, a last fare from downtown took me out to the countryside outside of Marysville, an over $100.00 cab ride.  That I drove most of the way though a fierce rainstorm only added to my misery.  I did enjoy the breaking dawn, stepping out to breath the new morning air, new light kissing the trees and sky. 

Why I know there were only five cabs working is because, curious, I called dispatch for the figure, and was told we had five cabs working a service area that could be the largest in the United States.  Yes, potentially the largest, because, as stated in the title, King County's total land (and water mass) is 2,307 square miles, or 5,980 square kilometers.  That it isn't possible for five cabs to serve such a large area is obvious but that's what has been happening weekend and after weekend night since the pandemic hit, a handful of taxis attempting the impossible, trying to serve all of the callers in a timely fashion. 

To put this in some kind of understandable perspective, I am listing land areas of some selected countries and American states to illustrate  how difficult a task we all faced during those often harrowing hours.  The European country of Liechtenstein is comprised of 61.78 square miles. Nearby Luxembourg is 998 square miles.  That Caribbean island, Barbados is 166.4 square miles.  And using two states as a measure, Rhode Island is 1, 214 square miles, while Delaware is a trifle larger than King County, with a total square mile area of 2, 489. 

 I ask you this.  Do you think these countries and states would only utilize five cabs to serve all their citizens and visitors during the nighttime hours?  I would say clearly not, so why in the world is Seattle Yellow Cab attempting what isn't possible to do or achieve? 

As I have repeated often in these pages, isn't that a good question when pondering head-scratching decisions made by those dictating taxi reality.  And you can believe that if I wasn't bringing up this issue  now, yelling out loud to gain everyone's attention, nothing, and I mean nothing would be done to address it, no one truly caring that passengers are waiting too long for their cab.   One customer I met started calling at 2:00 AM before I finally arrived at 5:00 AM, his persistence finally paying off.  Is this absolute nonsense?  Of course it is.  What would you think if it happened to you, what would be your response?

Some might respond that this issue is nothing new, problems with "passenger or bell coverage" commonplace and historical, but since the demise of the Yellow Cab (BYG Co-op), coverage issues have only worsened minus any step toward remedy.  Before the Uber/Lyft onslaught, Yellow had over 500 cabs providing 24/7 coverage, their "4 to 4"  day and night shifts guaranteeing you a cab where ever you might be calling from. 

Now with a paltry more or less 130 cabs working, with most of them operated by "single owners," zone coverage has dropped precipitously, most often due to drivers going home after 6-8:00 PM, especially Saturday and Sunday, leaving the Seattle and County poorly served until about 6:00 AM the following day.  But as I keep saying, since Yellow has traditionally been a 24 hour service company, people keep calling, expecting their cab to arrive just like they did ten years ago, most city-zones being 10-15 minute service areas.  And given that people will keep calling Yellow at all times of the day and night, is there a solution to the current lack of zone coverage during the "witching hours" of the now vacated weekend nights?

I say there is, and it's extremely simple, and it's merely providing a shift subsidy or credit to those willing to work the late weekend hours, say the period between 10:00 PM and 3:00 AM, a five hour-long slot now usually devoid of cabs.  Make the subsidy minimal, deducting $5.00 per worked hour from the owner's weekly dispatch fee during the already stated five-hour slot, adding up to a total reduction of $50.00 over the two-day period.  

I strongly feel there should be no objection to this kind of subsidy because it is the association's legal obligation to provide coverage for the company's customers, everyone hopefully remembering that Yellow (Puget Sound Dispatch) and the other taxi associations are regulated and licensed transportation companies, translating into quickly dispatching a cab to any person requesting one.  When the associations fail to do this, they are in violation of their licensing agreement and thus subject to penalty and even revocation of their business license. 

That the City and County cab regulators have been asleep at the taxi wheel is more than obvious, failing to protect the customer public from poorly performing associations.  This kind of governmental malfeasance clearly needs to end and end now.  It is time for City and County regulators to loudly state to everyone involved: the single owners, the associations, the dispatch companies that you must do what you are licensed to do---pick up the passengers, damn it, and quit making excuses. 

Now that I have brought this important issue to everyone's attention, what will all of you do to make sure passengers will longer wait one to two to three hours for the cab to arrive?   Making people wait for long periods in the cold and rain is not just immoral, it's criminal.  

I can only hope that in the next few weeks I will be able to report a substantial uptick in late weekend cab coverage.  As I said, it needs to happen and it needs to happen now.  No excuses! 



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