Sunday, May 30, 2021

Terror In The Taxi Night---When Your Cab Never Arrives & Amtrak Restarts Regular Schedule & Ghost Rides By Yellow Wraiths & Wooden Ships And Desert Flowers

Will Your Cab Ever  Arrive?  No One Knows for Sure

Imagine you are very hungry and step into a restaurant expecting fast and reasonable service but the opposite occurs, and instead find yourself waiting.  After seated by the hostess, you watch waitstaff continually passing your table, and worse, serving customers arriving after you.  Finally, in frustration, you ask, "What in the world is going on?" and are told that the staff are independent contractors and can decide which table to serve or not.  If you are seated in part of the eatery the waiters don't like or don't think you are a big tipper, you are flat out of luck.  And it is also a matter of time of hour and day, since most of the staff prefer working the lunch rush, dinner customers like you having to wait longer than normal.  "Does that mean," you ask, "that eventually my order will be taken and my meal served?'  "No, not at all, " the hostess cheerfully replies, "you might sit here all night without eating.  That's just the way it is. Try McDonald's or Taco Bell, they're quicker."  

And, using that analogy, this is exactly the situation facing Seattle Yellow Cab customers when they call for a cab, this especially true upon a Saturday or Sunday night and you live in South King County or Seattle's West Seattle neighborhood.  If your cab does arrive, it probably means you have been waiting 45 to 90 minutes, and what can you do about it?  Nothing.  There is nothing you can do because Yellow currently has less than 160 working cabs, with the majority working weekday daylight shifts, usually quitting by 8:00 PM, all this translating into a kind of "dead zone" until 5:00 or 6:00 the following morning.  And adding to a customer's dilemma is that Yellow is truly the only functional cab company operating, meaning you must call Yellow or no one else because those transportation fast food alternatives, Uber and Lyft, have recently become indigestible, charging up the yin-yang for their services.  

Another issue impacting service is the tendency of many drivers to cling like barnacles to a pier to zones and areas that potentially deliver lucrative account fares, rejecting any and all fares from adjacent zones.  What this of course means is that customers are kept waiting, and too often recently, not receiving a cab at all.  And does anyone truly care if you missed an important medical appointment?  Only if you ask, and since there is essentially no one available to voice your concerns, you now have your answer.

The background history of all this relates to decades of both industry and regulatory indifference, a "behind-a-scenes" failure to understand its workforce and how a pervasive lack of comprehensive training produces the kind of cabbie generally devoid of necessary and primary skills, leaving individuals forever ignorant of what it means to be a taxi driver.  By adding Uber and Lyft to the mix, the City of Seattle and King County have enabled an unprofessional workforce to flourish---invasive species crowding out the native professionals, Scotch Broom overtaking the transportation landscape.   

What it boils down to is that any customer thinking, that by merely requesting a cab, a cab will soon arrive, will and can be sorely disappointed, missing medical appointments and  not making it to work on time.  Ask Stephanie in Skyway or Mike in Tukwila.  They would tell you all about it, if questioned, about how unreliable Yellow Cab is becoming and how the poor service is personally impactful, making them either late or merely facing the inconvenience of waiting nearly two hours for a cab.  This is the too often  reality facing Stephanie and Mike and others like them, a reality beyond denial.  

Is it acceptable?  Of course it isn't. When will it change?  As I too often say, I don't know, I can't tell you, the situation is what it is, like a fierce wind buffeting you on a chilly day, you just bear with it, hoping for some relief that the weather will somehow transform into a sunny day.  Until then, bundle up and wish for better days and clearer skies.  

Since May 24th, 2021, More Amtrak Trains

All aboard, folks, Amtrak is now returning to more normal scheduling, with the Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle and Portland) and the Coast Starlight (Seattle to Los Angeles) resuming daily trains.   Also a second Amtrak Cascades (Seattle to Eugene)  RT train is now scheduled.  1,200 furloughed employees are returning to work.  Hurrah! See ya down at King Street Station!

Yellow Cabbies cut their own throats

In the most recent Puget Sound Dispatch newsletter, it was reported that some drivers have given in to temptation and pretended to serve no-show account trips, PSD calling them "ghost rides."  What many drivers appear not to understand is that the MTI computer dispatch system allows tracking of all of their movements and transactions.  It the new surveillance state, like the People's Republic of China or some deranged Santa Claus watching whether you are naughty or nice.  Understand, guys, it is simple theft and you are breaking the law.  Stop, dumbbells, stop!  Stupid is as stupid does! 

Enjoying Eastern Washington Desert Flowers and a Song from my teenage years

Wednesday and Thursday I drove to my favorite desert paradise, the Quincy Lakes (the Quincy Game Range), walking the trails and dipping into Cup Lake, all the while taking in the splendid array of blooming wild flowers---yellow, blue, red, purple and white petals brightening the sagebrush green and brown.  It is a particularly lush spring, rushing water everywhere, including waterfalls.  Wonderful, and a big full moon beaming through a misty sky.  And the beavers are busy, building a dam on little Cascade Lake.

On the radio, I heard an old favorite song, "Wooden Ships," and savored the lyrics speaking of a more hopeful time:

"Wooden ships upon the water, very free and easy

Easy, you know, the way it's supposed to be

Talkin' about free and easy"

The version I heard was performed by Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Jefferson Airplane also recorded it about the same time.

Yeah, time for more desert flowers in our hair!  About taxi we don't care!  And we jump in the water minus swimsuits and underwear!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Taxi Is & Lest We Forget---US Coronavirus Reality & Name Of Senator Murkowski's Bill & West Seattle Freeway Bridge News & Poem

Taxi Is 

Taxi is pulling up, holding onto the pants of a handicapped passenger dealing with no balance and cerebral palsy.

Taxi is screaming at the fool alcoholic who opened a can of beer in the cab, creating a puddle on the floor board, then throwing his debit card at him, "get out! get out!"

Taxi is following a passenger down a long hallway to her apartment, carrying her small desk. 

Taxi is driving twenty miles to pick up a passenger knowing if I don't, she'll be waiting how long? for a cab.  

Taxi is not charging the blind passenger his $3.50 fare form the Safeway around the corner and helping him to the door while carrying his bags.

Taxi is remaining cool, not losing my temper when the oddly aggressive passenger commented he was picking up upon my "sexual vibe."

Taxi is avoiding the SUV who just ran the red light, not for a moment hesitating. Thank goodness I did. 

Taxi is losing my temper when the passenger had me take the wrong Everett exit, routing me unnecessarily into heavy traffic.  

Taxi is having to go around the long way once again when picking up a waiting customer in West Seattle because those GOD DAMN idiots running Seattle's Department of Transportation (SDOT) won't let taxis use the lower West Seattle bridge 24/7. 

Taxi is picking up at Muckleshoot Bingo and understanding full well that my passenger sitting there in the backseat is completely nuts, meaning anything I might say to her would and could be totally misconstrued. 

Taxi is taking the child for an hour long, $99.00 ride from West Seattle back to nearly Black Diamond when there is an elementary school blocks from her home. 

Taxi is taking a regular customer's many bags of recycling and garbage out to the containers in the alley.

Taxi is picking up a guy very early Sunday morning after getting his car towed for driving 105 MPH on I-90 with a suspended driver's license.  He wasn't too concerned, having earlier won $1200.00 at a casino.

All these examples are recent, from the last two weeks, describing what it is to be driving taxi as it is minus excuse and embellishment.  Ready to join our "Alice in Wonderland/Through the Windshield" reality? 

USA COVID-19 Infections and Deaths

Per Tuesday, May 18th, 2021, 33,020,300 Americans are known to have contracted the virus.  586,700 Americans have died.  To put this into some kind of usable perspective, more Americans have died than the entire population of the State of Wyoming, which currently is 569,013.  I keep giving outs lots of masks, meaning too many passengers enter the cab not wearing a mask.  Do people ever truly learn the lessons provided and taught by Nature and Mother Earth?  No seems to be the obvious answer.  Wear your masks.  Get vaccinated.  Stop being suicidal.  And stupid. 

Get Ready to Cruise

The House of Representatives passed Murkowski's "Alaska Tourism Restoration Act" today.  Carnival, Holland America and Princess Cruise Lines have now announced sailings beginning July 25th.  All I can hope for is that Pier 90/91 has a more professional crew directing traffic this year, not looking forward to the usual mindless chaos passing for rule and order.     

West Seattle High Bridge Repair

Instead of replacement, the damaged West Seattle freeway bridge connecting the northernmost West Seattle neighborhoods to State Route 99 and I-5, is being repaired, with the expected reopening occurring about this time next year---May, June, July---or something like that.  How long the repair will hold is anyone's guess.  

Another guess is whether SDOT has learned its lesson and will now limit weight loads upon the bridge.  One important factor causing cracks in the supporting beams was WDOT/SDOT routing of heavily passenger laden buses to only one side of the east-bound lanes, causing undue stress to that section of the bridge.  

As I keep saying, Seattle is a poorly governed, managed city.  The reason why is many but when collectively, you, number one, say nothing is wrong, and number two, compounding that by shutting down the brain and closing the eyes, this kind of thing will keep repeating.  Mayor Durkan, for instance, keeps denying that she called the occupied Seattle Capital Hill park a new "Summer of Love," denial a useful tool when disinterested in reality and fact.   

Tweedledee, Tweedledum, who is the Mayor, who is the Bum?  

What is true? what is not? but nothing changing or altering Seattle's swift kick in the municipal butt to anyone giving a damn, or not having the brain the size of a can of spam. 

Poem: "The Witness

I told everyone what I saw and no one believed me.

I repeated again and again "it's true, it's true" but to no effect, no response.

Worse, it becoming clear it was now "my agenda," what occurring not history at all,

only an overactive imagination fabricating a woeful tale authored solely by me, 

me suddenly the perpetrator, no longer a witness to avoidable tragedy 

but merely a convicted criminal led blindfolded to the gibbet.   

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Alaska Cruise Season Potentially Restarting Sometime July This Year & Uber Hiding Billions In Overseas Profits Held In Dutch Shell Companies

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski at Work

Did you know that foreign-flagged ships cannot sail directly between two United States ports?   Well neither did I, explaining the mystery why cruise ships plying between Seattle and Alaska made stopovers in Canada upon their voyages north and south.  The reason this is immediately important is Canada's COVID-19 cruise ship ban, extending into early 2022, essentially killed the 2021 Alaska cruise ship season until now, meaning a new US Senate bill sponsored by Murkowski will pause this arcane requirement, allowing the tourist-laden ships to navigate Puget Sound and Pacific coastal inland waters.  The bill, passing Thursday, is now heading to the House of Representatives, and after passage, to Biden's awaited signature.   Who knows, maybe soon the law will change permanently, and ships registered in Panama, Holland, Bermuda and the Bahamas will proceed forward minus the bureaucratic piracy commandeered by the United States. 

And why is this important to Seattle's taxi industry?  The nearly one billion dollars the cruise industry brings to Seattle's collective economy, filling our cabs with tourists, tourists and more tourists. Who doesn't like easy money?  Us cabbies certainly do, which is why we should salute the senior senator from Alaska for doing what is sensible, allowing the cruise season to begin.  Thank you, Senator Murkowski, thank you very much. 

And always, despite what the CDC has said, wear your masks.

Not So Very Nice Uber

The Business Insider headline this week read, in an article written by Tyler Sonnemaker:

"'Champions League of avoidance,' Uber used 50 Dutch shell companies to dodge taxes on nearly $6 billion in revenue, report says."

The article reports that in 2019, Uber claimed, for tax purposes, $4.5 billion in overseas operating losses.  The reality is quite different, as that same year it had an foreign operating revenue of $5.8 billion.  As many past  reports concerning Uber behavior have made clear, lying just comes natural to Uber, honesty happening only when appearing before some kind of US Congressional committee.

In a 2015 Fortune Magazine, written by Brian O'Keefe and Marty Jones, it's described how, in May 2015, six years ago, Uber created something called Uber International C.V., using that financial entity as a means of shifting ownership of several of its foreign subsidiaries, thus shielding all of its "outside of the United States" income from US tax collectors.   What the Fortune article tells us is that Uber's tax evasion maneuvering have been well known for a long period, Uber allowed to gobble away all that money like a big, green money-making crocodile hungry for more, more, more.  

Not nice but Uber has never been nice.  Before the then Sally Clark-led Seattle City Council capitulated to Uber, Uber had been operating in Seattle illegally for over a year, Uber thumbing its dirty, snotty nose at every regulator in sight.  That Uber continues to say "screw you" should not be surprising, Uber being what it is, not very nice.  

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sweetest Irony: Ain't That Funny? Taxis In Seattle Now Cheaper Than Uber And Lyft & "Get Sick And Die," She Shouted & US Labor Department Withdraws Trump Era "Independent Contractor" Rule & Hey! Amazon, What Are You Doing? & Road-Rage Deluxe & Small Typos---Big Consequences

HaHa Uber, the Joke's on U

As the saying goes, turnabout is fair play but it's shocking that the very scoundrels who nearly destroyed Seattle's taxi industry by lowballing fares, are now more expensive than us cabbies, evidenced by all these previously faithful ride-share passenger rats abandoning Uber and Lyft's sinking ship.  And as I have mentioned in previous posts, we Seattle cabbies can thank our dysfunctional City Council for forcing Uber and Lyft rates up into the stratosphere, their misguided efforts taking away the very reason they were initially successful.   God knows what the City Council will do next once they understand the damage done to those they loved and coddled and tucked nightly into feather beds, whispering reassuring prayers to their bereaved gig economy children. 

A recent example of this new disparity came last Saturday night when the passenger going from  North 44th & Stone Way North to 2nd West and West Galer told me Lyft quoted her $25.00 for the relative short journey.  My meter rate to her apartment building?  $9.80.  Now that is enough to get any customer's attention, and it has, meaning a once dead love affair un-expectantly blossoming green rose petals before my jaded eyes.  And just last night, a passenger went from north Ballard to Montlake Terrace. My meter? $31.00 Uber quote?  $45.00.  Picking her up on the rebound, my meter read $28.60, the route back slightly shorter.  Each time she gave me a ten dollar tip. Thank you very much!

Now if we only had more cabs working to cover all the bells, it would be a perfect world.  Sunday night, when business flew at an insane pace, there was YC 8 _ _ standing outside his cab at 12th & East Jefferson gabbing away with friends.  I wanted to ______! him, I really did but I was too busy attending to all those waiting passengers in the taxi night.  Our current total is 150 cabs, with a cap of 160.  I think it's obvious we will need more than that if our business continues to grow, which seems to be true, as summer and a post-pandemic boom approaches, tourists and others seeking quick transportation. 

She wants me to die

Coming back from a fare to Maple Valley,  I took a Federal Way call, wanting to help out.  Upon my first call to the passenger, she said, since Yellow had kept her waiting for over an hour, she would call me back, deciding if she could make her appointment.  Not hearing from her, I called again and got this screaming "Get sick and die! Get sick and die!" proving she was upset Yellow had failed her and now it was all my fault.  As I will always say, when someone calls for a cab, they expect it to arrive, and when it doesn't, they are not happy.  More and more this kind of failure is happening regardless of day and night and time of day.  Can we do better?  I don't know.  At one point last night we had 25 fares waiting.  How many cabs were working?  Whatever the number, clearly not enough to adequately cover the calls, once again translating into hour-long waits and numerous no-shows.

Tossing Trump out of the TNC window

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said,  "By withdrawing the Independent Contractor Rule, we will help preserve essential worker rights and stop the erosion of worker protections that would have occurred had the rule gone into effect."  

What the Labor Department is rescinding are rules that made it more difficult for gig and contract workers to claim they are entitled to minimum and overtime protections, former President Trump not believing in the eight-hour work day unless there is time off for playing golf, Trump hitting the greens over 315 times during his time in office.  "We Like Eke" Eisenhower played golf 800 times during his 8 years occupying the upper reaches of American government.  Yes, the GOP motto for American laborers: you work while we play ( and get huge tax breaks, too!)

And funny yet sad, so many of Trump's most ardent supporters being folks barely making it financially, working their butts off only to earn an early grave.  For decades, "reading literacy" was considered foundational to opening people's minds to the obvious reality operating around them.  Guess that isn't true, given what most people say and do expressing the opposite, ignoring opportunities to open a book and understand, instead embracing fantasies perpetuated by fools and ciphers more than willing to imprison a follower's brain, removing any possibility for real and legitimate clarity. 

Amazon wants to control EVERYTHING

While was were all asleep, Jeff Bezos decided to take over the world, step by step simply by taking advantage of America's lust for material goods, Amazon a new Walmart ruling the internet Universe.  Not unlike the People's Republic of China's using all its profits selling to Western Democracies to fulfill its autocratic agenda,  Amazon uses its hundreds of billions to both buy and control what Americans eat ---Whole Foods---the news we read---The Washington Post---and now controlling the very people delivering Amazon packages, even mandating how they smell.  Farfetched but no, reality made manifest in all those blue Amazon vans patrolling America's urban and rural neighborhoods.  And surprisingly, all those vans owned and operated by small delivery companies, what Amazon calls "Delivery Service Partners" or "DSPs." 

Here is the contradiction Amazon wants you and me and everyone to accept.  While deciding to avoid the liability of operating a vast fleet of trucks and drivers, Amazon has encouraged the creation of over 1300 American and European sub-contractors to deliver all those billions of packages minus any personal legal or fiscal responsibility while simultaneously maintaining an iron-fisted control.  Be shocked as you read a quote from recent policies governing DSPs.

"Personal grooming must be maintained at an acceptable level, including but not limited to prevention of body odor, modest perfume/cologne, and clean teeth, face/ears, fingernails and hair."  

The DSPs are required to strictly adhere to Amazon's policies, policies that it can unilaterally change whenever it wants.  In other words, what applies today may not apply tomorrow, but regardless, you better jump to it whether you know what our rules are from day to day or not.  Amazon also tells its DSPs that they must have "employment at will" policies allowing management to fire workers for almost any reason or with no stated reason whatsoever.  Is this China or Russia in real, live Technicolor but plying the streets of America today?

Now the courts and the Biden administration are beginning to examine all this but that kind of legal change takes years, and in the meanwhile, Jeff Bezos will continue to rule like the KING he is.  Hail Caesar!

Road-Rage Seattle-style

Near the train station, all I did was pass a driver who had slowed to a crawl searching for a parking space.  This prompted his chasing me and attempting to ram my cab.  With this happening in clear view, I shouted for help to some nearby Seattle police, who appeared disinterested.  Finally, one started his motorcycle and drove up to the offending driver.  What he told him I can't tell you, as I got a call and left, having my time wasted over nothing whatsoever.  Madness Seattle-style.  And commonplace.

Our across the seas dispatch

Addressing errors are not innocent mistakes, as they can have consequences.  This week I got the Zone 285 address of 1650 14th Avenue South.  That didn't seem right but upon calling the passenger, he said it was.  Getting there, found that the 1600 block of 14th S. doesn't exist.  Calling the guy back, he was at 165 14th Avenue, about 1 1/2 miles away in Zone 240.  Where was he wanting to go?  A very important court date that couldn't be missed, the guy just recently released after 84 months in prison.  I now had 20 minutes to get him there.  I did.

I keep telling dispatch, please, correct addressing is completely necessary.  It isn't optional. And it never will be.

Also last week, I picked up a guy at 1760 4th Avenue South.  He shouted that "I had kept him waiting for a hour."  How did I do that?  Because dispatch had first put out the call as 1760 4th Avenue West.    

Please, dispatch, get it right the first time.