Thursday, October 28, 2021

Election Special November 2nd, 2021: Peter Steinbrueck Our Port Of Seattle Ally And Tweedle-Dee/Tweedle-Dum For Mayor? & Will Someone From Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab) Please Fly To The Philippines? & New York City's Infamous "Taxi King" Is Dead

OMG! It's Seattle Election Season Again!

Elections are important even though many pretend otherwise, and while it probably doesn't matter who is elected the new Seattle mayor, given that zero plus zero always equaling zero, Port of Seattle Commission Position Number 4 is of especial importance given Stienbrueck's vocal and written support for the downtrodden cabbies working Sea-Tac International Airport.  Oppositely, his opponent, Toshiko Grace Hasegawa's chief policy agenda and focus is instead one of blame, pointing fingers at Steinbrueck and the entire sitting Port Commission for not anticipating container traffic flow issues, somehow forgetting that it is a problem shared by every shipping port worldwide since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A vote for Hasegawa is a vote for an Upper-Middle Class theorist who, minus any real governing experience, knows she can do better than anyone else.  

And why does she believe this?  Because, in her mind, she is an anointed, special, superior "god-yes" appointed savior of everything in the world, the Port of Seattle just one more small step toward her predestined celestial seat upon Mount Olympus, shoving Hera aside and taking her rightful throne next to Zeus Almighty.  If you don't support that, then vote for Peter Steinbrueck, negating Hasegawa's righteous thunderbolts crashing upon everyone's heads, divine punishment for the unworthy, and should I say it, the unwashed. 

Mix and Match, Harrell and Gonzalez Both the Same---Two Stumblebums Minus a Moral Brain

Lewis Carroll would like this mayoral battle, hence the Alice reference, two Pin-the Tail-Upon-the Donkey candidates hoping to poke Seattle's collective buttock into believing that "I, not you, Me" can work new miracles upon Seattle's governmental fabric, weaving new magical garments for all its citizens, everyone flying away to a new Never-Never Land where junkies will never again break your car window and Seattle drivers will eternally foreswear never to road-rage again down local avenues and byways, everyone suddenly having a snug and safe home, Bruce Harrell doing his best Xi Jinping imitation while M. Lorena Gonzalez shouts, "Look at Me, I'm Hillary Rodham Clinton!"

If I did't know already, I know why I am now registered to vote way down in southwest New Mexico's Grant County where rattlesnakes bite only when confusing right from wrong, which isn't very often. 

Would Someone Please Fly Across the Blue Pacific and Teach These Folks Their Taxi ABC's?

Look, I know the Cebu-based call-center is attempting, given their limited knowledge, to do their best dispatching a taxi fleet 8,000 miles away but it is clear they are not yet ready for graduation, prematurely issued their taxi diplomas.  Taxi is a language and they don't speak it.  Taxi is a science and they don't know how to boil water.  Taxi is a skilled profession and dispatch is still leaning how to tie its shoes.  Passengers call and ask, "how long will it be?" and Cebu guesses, "well , we really don't know, does 40 minutes sound okay to you?"  And then the cab arrives in five minutes, it's "where did you come from?'  

Twenty minutes to midnight last Sunday, three Zone 160 (Magnolia) fares suddenly popped up on the screen, no warning, no info, and what was it? it was a late docking Alaskan fishing vessel unloading a crew eager to get home.  But dispatch didn't name the boat then floating dockside at Pier 91, not knowing you need to tell security where you are going, because most often there are 4-6 ships all simultaneously disembarking their crews.  I went to Bremerton, which was wonderful, but not so wonderful is the never-ending amateur hour that is pretending to be a professional taxi dispatch call-center.  That is why someone from Puget Sound Dispatch needs to travel to the Philippines and provide the necessary instruction required.  Their lack of taxi literacy is needlessly punishing our passengers, diminishing customer service.  And all I am saying and have been saying over the past weeks and months is true and accurate.  And PSD knows it as well as I do, you can bet on it.

And as I keep telling all those City and County licensing officials, it is really all your fault, allowing the associations to do anything they want minus real accountability.  As the silly saying goes, "when the cat is away, the mice will play," and this has been occurring for decades, long before Yellow dispatch was transferred overseas, also explaining why it was so easy for Uber to push taxi into the financial ditch back in 2014.  We should require professionalism from everyone involved----dispatch, PSD administration, owner operators, City & County taxi licensing--- getting our taxi house in order before 2022 arrives.  So don't get mad at me, your anger misplaced.  Instead, facilitate change now, everyone, now!  Let us be completely honest.  Let us be real.  Our customers deserve better.  Can there be any argument? 

 NYC "Taxi King" Dead at Age 50

Gene Freidman (Evgeny Alender Freidman) died on Sunday, October 24th, 2021, from a heart attack, a former New York City taxi baron who ruled the taxi roost until the 2014 Uber revolution toppled taxi from atop the transportation monopoly that controlled most of NYC's then for-hire industry, medallion prices (valuations) falling by 80%.  Before that, beginning in 1996, at age 26, Freidman took over his father's taxi garage handling 60 cabs, expanding that to 900 cabs, with him personally owning 250 medallions.  What got him extremely rich was his 2006 scheme to manipulate medallions value by overpaying for 54 medallions offered by the City of New York that year, paying $477,666 for each of the 54 medallions, helping create an inflationary price escalation that eventually had the over 13, 587 taxi medallions worth a startling 1.3 million dollars each.  Freidman's initial purchases was facilitated by the Progressive Credit Union, who was more than glad to assist in something that would make everyone involved extremely wealthy.  At one point, Freidman held $525 million in assets, owning a 4000 square foot Park Avenue townhouse, a country estate in Bridgehampton, New York, two villas on the French Rivera while driving around NYC in a $400,000 Ferrari, no taxi cab for him. 

A quote from the Tuesday, October 26th, 2021 NY Times obituary written by Sam Roberts says everything about about Mister Freidman, "I'd go to an auction, I'd run up the price of a medallion, then I'd run to my bankers and say, "Look how high the medallions priced!  Let me borrow against my portfolio. And they let me do that!"

But Freidman wasn't content only doing that, in 2017 finding himself charged with first degree taxi fraud for his failure to forward the 50 cents surcharge required on each taxi trip that is allocated to the MTA, bilking that New York transit agency out of $5,000,000 dollars.  He was granted probation after ratting on his famous medallion business partner, Michael Cohen, he of President Trump fame.

While saying he was a broken man, his continued privileged lifestyle said otherwise, Freidman accused of transferring over $60 million dollars in trust accounts located in Belize, Nevis and the Cook Islands. I am sure he will be buried beneath a nice tombstone, a grave perhaps to be visited by the many now impoverished cabbies who believed that a medallion was indeed worth over a million dollars,  stomping upon the taxi thief's final resting place.  At least I hope they do, pouring the brightest of bright red animal blood over his headstone, blood on his hands, blood forever now staining his head and soul.


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Saturday Night Ride Escorted By King County Taxi Official: Beneficial Receiving The Inside Story & New York City Cab Driver Hunger Strike Begins October 20th, 2021

 Local government indifference to the taxi industry was shattered Saturday night when a King County taxi (for-hire) licensing official came along for an over five-hour long ride-along.  Jumping in about 7:00 PM, he endured the terrible passenger-side front seat until past midnight, telling him I was just getting revenge for all the abusive years we have faced from the City of Seattle and King County, though the truth being told, 1092 has travelled over 450,000 miles, meaning nothing could be in perfect condition after that many rough and tumble miles.  My goal was to provide a completely unvarnished view of real taxi, real Seattle taxi as I know and hate it, and those five hours provided a fair representation of what I and my taxi colleagues experience and suffer through, displaying through the misery the good money made and professional customer service offered and completed.  

Only two bells (fares) in, he said he saw my values at work, first turning down two passengers at Husky Stadium to faithfully check out the bell at University Hospital, and after finding no one there, rushing back and picking up the same couple standing out on the west side of Montlake Boulevard.  After dropping them off, and back to the stadium we picked up two more guys, taking them to a downtown hotel, with one handing me a twenty and a hundred dollar bill for a $16.00 ride, but quickly making him aware of his error, as this kind of mistake commonplace in the rush to vacate the cab.  Those interactions prompted his observation of who I am, which led me to recount my CO (1-0) exemption Selective Service story and how the trust granted me by my Eastern Colorado draft board way back in November 1972 remains alive and active in my now 67 year old heart, something also explaining my lifetime activism and advocacy for those not getting a fair-shake from life's circumstances. 

The night moved quickly, fare after fare machine-gun style rat-a-tat-tat, as we went to and from the stadium and downtown again and again, 1092 the only visible cab working a 70,000 plus stadium crowd, seeing only one other cab, and that was after the game was long over.  He in turn kept my interest by relating his most recent effort toward creating a standard to mesh with a consortium of dispatch companies, including MTI, that nationally would link all local cab companies to a international, worldwide public transportation network.  It is quite an endeavor, something favored since noticing that cabs have been previously excluded, suggesting perhaps a kind of widespread bias against taxi both here in Seattle and elsewhere.  He said, that until about two years ago, the City of Seattle expressed some reticence concerning our local industry, taking some persuasion getting them to the negotiating table.  Is anyone surprised by this news?  I am not.  But given our sometimes history, minor criminality spicing our taxi stew, it isn't all surprising that we have, upon occasion, been colored black, or darker shades of grey---the demon's heart not red but Yellow.

One story getting my attention was how quickly, back in 2014, did King County have to adapt to the flood of TNC (Uber, Lyft) licensees unleashed by the Seattle City Council and Mayor Murray, Seattle not caring how prepared King County was, or not, to successfully license all these new for-hire drivers.  My ears perked-up because I have never trusted the process that poured over 28,000 new TNC operators into our work and business environment, and here I was, receiving confirmation that something "smelled bad," and I have been holding my nose ever since the debacle that was 2014.   Anyway, it certainly wasn't his fault, and over the past couple of years it has been clear to me that this official is different, someone not taking kindly to all us cabbies being stepped on.  Hurray for that.

For my part, I was able to show him how inefficient the Philippines dispatch/call center can be, those faraway folks having little clue how to dispatch during a big event like the Husky football game, further underlining my point that, too often, the passengers either wait too long, or occurring too often, receiving no cab at all.  I also repeated my mantra that the local taxi associations require more, not less, regulation.  At this point, neither Seattle nor King County hold much jurisdiction over association behavior, and as I kept telling him, I hope that change comes soon but don't your breath as you are tempting self-affixation---suffocation at the hands of bureaucratic entanglement and red tape . 

He even saw me get tried, making a simple run from downtown to White Center more complicated than it needed to be.  Our time together ended after picking up a passenger from the University Medical Center ER, an ex-Lyft driver from the State of Massachusetts going up to N. 120th & Roosevelt N.  After that, back to the Northgate Park & Ride, where I shook hands with the "gentleman and taxi scholar" and said goodbye, glad the insight travelled in both directions, east and west, up and down.

Followup to My Recent NYC Cabbie Feature

Tomorrow, upon a full moon, dozens of NYC taxi medallion owners will be going upon a hunger strike in a desperate effort to get substantial debt relief from the City of New York, that very same government entity who lied to them about the financial glories attached to medallion ownership.  This effort is led by the NYC Taxi Drivers Alliance, guided by its president, Bhairavi Desai.  

Earlier this year, New York government offered a total debt relief package worth over 65 million dollars, with individuals receiving up to $29,000 in compensation and up to $200,000 in debt forgiveness but the majority of the cabbies owe $400,00 to 800,000 or more to the medallion banks.  This is why they are willing to starve themselves because they are already going hungry, facing the daily prospect of working long hours only to pay the interest on their loans.  They are already dying so why not formalize the process, is their thinking. 

Good luck!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Vaccination Mandate For Seattle Yellow Taxicab Drivers & New Hopelink Computer Software Issues & Almost Time To Welcome Back Our Canadian Brethren & When The Cabbie Can't Do Anything Correctly

A New Directive from Puget Sound Dispatch (Yellow Cab): Be Vaccinated by October 15th

Yes, that is the message sent to all of us drivers.  By October 15th, 2021, you must show proof that you have received one of the three COVID-19 vaccines (I have the Johnson & Johnson) or you are bounced off all account fares.  Last week, you might recall, I recommended that all Yellow cabbies transporting COVID-19 positive passengers be previously vaccinated, removing the potential danger faced by non-vaccinated drivers.   This directive takes that one step further by applying this limitation to all variety of account fares, stating that if you are not vaccinated, you will no longer be eligible to serve account-based customers.  My only disagreement is the obvious elimination of free choice; instead, thinking an option of applying for religious and medical exemptions be made available, something appearing to be acceptable both societal and nationwide but evidently, not at PSD.   Other than the date, where everywhere else the deadline is October 18th, I agree that for everyone's safety, you should receive a coronavirus vaccination of your choice unless you qualify for an exemption.  The one positive for our customers will be that non-account passengers will receive a quicker pick-up.  The negative, unfortunately, with fewer qualified drivers available, this new mandate will translate into slower pick-up rates for our account customers.  Guess you can't have everything, and in this case, you certainly won't.  

But to be clear, backing PSD's overall stance are the latest COVID-19 statistics, grim as they are stark.  Current USA total cases are 44,681 million. Total American deaths are now 719,000 out of a total October 13, 2021 USA population of 333,484,850.  Total State of Washington cases stand at 689,484, with 8,152 dead.  King County total cases currently are at 156, 822, with 1,905 confirmed deaths.  All this says that if you are working with the public as we cabbies are, it makes complete sense to be vaccinated against COVID-19.  Currently, the national daily death toll is just under 2000.   

Hopelink Software Ills

From all reports, Hopelink's transition to new dispatching software has both account passengers and PSD psychically tearing out their hair, as addressing and scheduling issues have plagued the new system for about the last three weeks.  One example is the new software program insisting that the address for Kasier Permanente (old Group Health) is 125 16th Avenue instead of the actual 125 16th Avenue East.  For those unfamiliar with Seattle streets, the incorrect address places the hospital over a mile away from its actual and real location.  On Tuesday I got a screwed up Hopelink call that had the passenger located almost 2 miles from where he was actually waiting, Harborview Hospital, on First Hill, when I was in Zone 180, the "Westlake."   This kind of mistake is making few people happy but given Hopelink's cavalier history of taking no responsibility for anything, will they now admit there is a problem here of their own making?  Stay tuned.

Biden Says to Canada, "Com' on in!"

Finally, beginning sometime early November, our Northern neighbors will be allowed entry into the USA upon proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.  This new order also applies to our friends residing in sunny Mexico.  The only catch for Mexican citizens is that most of them have been vaccinated with non-WHO approved vaccines, primarily Russia's Sputnik V and China's CanSino vaccine but those who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine are considered to be fully vaccinated and fully eligible for entry.  The State of Washington will be glad to have all those crazy Canucks back, attending Seahawk games and of course, riding in Yellow Cabs.  One important suggestion for my fellow cabbies is, like me, obtain a USA passport card just in case you find a Canadian needing to get back up to the Far North.   Fares to Vancouver do happen.  I got one way back in 1989 upon a Christmas Eve night.   A good trip to be sure. 

Warning to All Cabbies: Displaying Any Emotion is a Cardinal Sin

I had the oddest interaction on Monday when belled in to pick up a passenger at a local hospital, something I have done thousands of times.  This time the elderly woman was escorted by a nursing assistant, whom I immediately noticed, appeared to be in some kind of dazed state of mind.  Taking charge, I got the passenger to the curb and out of the wheelchair and to the cab. While doing this, she handed me two purses. I placed them on the back seat, and while helping her into the cab, one fell over, the contents emptying onto the rear floorboard.  This is when I noticed that the NA had fixed me with a "hard" stare.  Odd but there you have it.  

Once having the passenger partway in the cab, she said she couldn't straighten her leg, something very common with older folks getting into the cab. Turning around, there was that same fixed stare, prompting me to say, "Here, you do this," that is, assist the lady into the cab.  In almost every similar circumstance, that what the escort does but this time around he asks the passenger if she still wants to ride with me.  She then says no, along with questioning, "Are you drunk?"  Have you been smoking (marijuana)?"  Assisting her up, I notice that the NA is just standing there, prompting me to maneuver the wheelchair so she can sit down.   And what does he do?  He leans into the cab to see if anything remained on the floorboard, this after I had clearly put everything back in place.      

What this kind of situation tells me is something I already know, that a cabbie's credibility is instantly questioned, and worse, your behavior criminalized, you are now drunk, stoned and who knows what else. God help me and all other cabbies if we take offense concerning odd or strange or inappropriate behavior directed our way, somehow everyone quickly embracing the validity of caste, with the cabbie now the untouchable, the godless dalit.  And all I was doing was assisting the woman into the cab.  Should she instead of been placed in a wheelchair van?  Perhaps but first a real attempt should have been made instead of making the woman wait once again for transport home.  Sunday night, a passenger at the same hospital waited 2 hours before I turned up.  It is not good nor fair to make these elderly customers wait and wait for the cab.  It's not appropriate, it's not moral.

The Only Thing Keeping Me Alive

As I am getting too old (age 67) for this taxi nonsense, I am finding the only remedy keeping me going are epsom/mineral salt baths, sometimes taking one in the morning and one at night, the evening bath often induing sleep.  Am I afraid of drowning?  No, more than happy to drift away embraced by fragrant hot water.  

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

NYC Cabbie Medallion Crisis & INNOVIZ Technologies---Full Page NY Times Ad & City Of Seattle Towing Away The Poor & PSD Driver Behavior Review Committee & No, I Don't Want to Be Yellow's General Manager

Too Much Owed by NYC Cabbies

Once again, the fiasco that is the overvaluation of New York City's taxi medallions is in the news, as a new effort to undo the damage done by New York City government and medallion financial loan companies takes hold, with a proposal stating that all of the outstanding, egregious loans be reduced to an "across the board figure" of $145,000 per medallion.  Even that sounds like too much but when you understand that medallion values were artificially inflated by up to over one million dollars per medallion, it was simple economics leading to the many loan defaults across NYC's taxi community.  Many owners have outstanding debt loads of $500-800 thousand dollars, with loan payments of over $4000.00 per month.  This of course is unsustainable for anyone.  And all of this is made worse by the reality that the NYC government promoted it, making impossible promises of great riches to immigrant drivers new to America, not thinking that they would be lied to in the great, old USA but misled they were, and now they are in dire straits, with little option save death, something a number of drivers have decided upon, killing themselves.  One can only hope that this new effort to reduce the debt burden will succeed, and as the pandemic ends, NYC's taxi industry will see a new and robust revival.  Here in Seattle, medallion value once reached $245,000 but as I told everyone, that was pure fantasy.  What are they worth today?  One thousand dollars.  Maybe.

Big NY Times Ad by Israeli LiDAR Company

On the back page of the NY Times Business section, Friday, October 1st, 2021 paper edition, is a full page ad populated by NYC's famous Yellow Cabs, something grabbing my attention and curiosity, making me wonder, who the heck is INNOVIZ Technologies and why are they spending big money for this advertisement?  The text is as follows:

                                                                     Human error

                                                                     causes over

                                                                      20 million

                                                                     car accidents

                                                                       each year.

                                                                       And you're

                                                                     worried about

                                                                        cars driving


            Innoviz's LiDAR Technology see sthe world in ways humans simply can't.

                                  Check out $INVZ on the Nasdaq or

                                    INNOVIZ TECHNOLOGIES        Autonomous driving

                                                                                            is safer driving

I'll let you imagine all those Yellow Cabs whizzing down Manhattan's streets.  LiDAR stands for "light detecting and ranging," which is some kind of laser technology.  INNOVIZ, a small company based in Israel, is trying to drum up investor money. They have 320 employees.  The have one big time customer, having joined BMW with developing its BMWiNext Series.  What do I think about all of this?  Teach people how to really drive a car, education the key, not handing out driving licenses to the unprepared. 

She Was So Upset

A last fare yesterday was this poor, older African-American woman who had her car towed away by the City of Seattle.  Why?  Something to do with her license plate.  Now it was going to cost her $300.00 to rescue her car from Lincoln Towing at 122nd & Aurora North.  When the meter hit $10.00, I told her that was enough, and she began crying, my very human gesture recognizing her distress causing tears, she thanking me.  If you don't think systemic racism doesn't exist, dye your skin black and get back to me after one month.  That should do it.  

Bad Cabbie Review Committee

Yellow Cab/Puget Sound Dispatch has expressed interest in my idea of bringing misbehaving cabbies before a hearing conducted by their peers.  We are just entering the planning stages.  I think this can be a much better answer than firing drivers even though they might deserve it.  Let's give them the opportunity to reform and see what happens.  I think, after listening to reason, a driver's behavior will change, transforming the guy into a new and improved cabbie.  It is worth the effort because a good cabbie is a critical human asset not to be wasted or thrown away but someone to be valued and retained.  

Too Late for Me

I had to laugh out loud when a leading member of the local Sikh community said that my name had been mentioned as someone they would like to see  running Yellow, replacing the current General Manager.  I laughed, saying I am trying to get out of taxi, not deeper to where there is no escape.  At one point, yes, I would have been interested but now, no way, no way.  And besides, I said, David Friend doesn't like me, my operating style abhorrent to him and others. As I keep yelling silently, "LET ME OUT OF THIS INSANE ASLYUM!"  And that's how I really feel. Enough already.