Sunday, December 26, 2021

End of Year Report: Taxi As It Is In Seattle, Washington Late December 2021

 How Could There Only Be Three Yellow Cabs Working at 7:00 PM Christmas Night?

The True State of Seattle Taxi 2021

2021, as most of us realize, was a chaotic year due to the various waves of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the nation and world, disrupting normal and accepted routines, everything either upside down or teetering upon the proverbial cliff's edge.   While business was good throughout the year 2021 at Seattle Yellow Cab, it was more beneficial for the drivers than our customers, who sadly, often suffered through long waits or not having their taxi not arrive at all, forcing them to find an alternate way home or to important doctor appointments.  

While individual decisions made by Yellow (Puget Sound Dispatch) and other associations contributed to, and impacted various levels of customer service, the real source and issue is the regulatory stance taken by the City of Seattle and King County: we have nothing to do with it.  Shocking but its their true position, something repeated over and over, the statement being that the licensing of the drivers and their vehicles is their primary concern and very little else. Yes, it is true they pretend to be concerned about driver behavior but when it comes to guaranteeing there are actual cabs upon city and county streets meeting customer demand, the City and County is doing nothing,  and I mean absolutely zero to address this lack of cabs and reasonable service over a twenty-four hour day.  

Yesterday, Christmas night, a regular customer texted to tell me that dispatch told her Yellow had a total of 3 cabs working at about 7:00 PM, and I was one of them.  Yes, three cabs total to serve an area nearly the size of the state of Rhode Island.  And soon thereafter, there were only two because I quit after dropping off a passenger who had been waiting 1 1/2 hours at the Northwest Hospital Emergency Room.  And the reality is that nothing will be done to change or alter this kind of catastrophic scenario from repeating itself today, tomorrow and next year, illustrating perfectly what Seattle taxi is like as the year ends: a stumbling drunk slipping and falling upon their head, lying prostrate in the late December snow drifting over his/her shoes.  

The sorry answer is that all of this was, and is completely avoidable.  If the City and County had begun working with the associations over 24/7 passenger coverage, there would be plenty of cabs working around the clock, assuring that when a customer requests a taxi, that cab will show up in a timely manner.  I have used this example before but imagine if you entered a restaurant, and once placing your order,  never to be served your meal.  Your response would be outrage and rightfully so, having the expectation that since they let you in the door, your order would soon be placed on the table. But the situation in Seattle and King County Taxi-land do not meet these basic expectations.  Request a cab and the waiting game begins.  When will my cab arrive?  Ever?  Never?

Who knows but one fact is certain, the bureaucrats sitting in those downtown office towers have no idea, and though they will deny it, hold no real concern (or any concept) that are you waiting on the corner in the snow, the wind blowing, the temperature 20 degrees F. and five, ten, twenty minutes later still no cab in sight.  This is Seattle Taxi 2021.  

And what will happen in 2022?   I think it will be more of the same, and now you know, minus all doubt, who you can blame.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Greetings Once More, Once Again From Arcata: Vladimir Putin The Saint Petersburg Cabbie Turned President Of Russia & Carrizo Plain---A National Monument New To Me & 310 Votes

Highway 58 West of Bakersfield

After a daylong drive from a newly discovered national monument to Arcata, I arrived to my almost birthday dinner of organic roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and steamed beets.  A nice greeting after plying California's roadways, finding roadway and routes new to me.  I can especially recommend CA Sate Route 58 west of Interstate 5, a sometime winding road taking you through some beautiful high desert landscapes.  There are also some incredible desert hills outside of Taft on Route 166, the view especially spectacular while proceeding up a mountainside near the turnoff for the Carrizo Plain National Monument.  While enjoying the view I retrieved two tossed beer bottles, mindless trash tossed by the mindless. Also in this general area were ugly reminders that oil production was once the ruling and crowned KING--- passing vast fields filled with giant oil derrick pumps working away, their up and down motion siphoning oil fueling today's carbon obsessed nation.  My late brother-in-law John was an oil field "mud engineer," someone who kept deep drilling holes thousands of feet into the ground open, explaining why John and my sister JoAnn lived first in Bakersfield, then Tehachapti.  And if you ever have the time, explore this part of California, seeing real parts of the state not presented in Disneyland or Hollywood, waving hello to all those alert raptors sitting on road signs peering for mice and kangaroo rats. 

Putin the Taxicab Driver 

Last week, Vladimir Putin revealed the hitherto surprising unknown personal history that in the late 1990s, while the new post-Soviet Union Russia was struggling to find its way to a new future, Putin, still the KGB employed (Committee for State Security) Colonel, moonlighted as a cabbie in Saint Petersburg (Leningrad).  It was hard times for the future Russian leader but just as he maneuvered the streets of the city, Putin was also working in the national government where, with contacts made, propelled himself and his friends to great wealth and political power.  

Cynics might say that driving cab made perfect sense for someone like Putin, one type of criminal activity leading to another, cabbies historically tarred with a malignant brush---all of us one step away from a jail cell.  But taking a more positive view, you could instead say that Putin's ascension to the pinnacle of leadership of a great and powerful nation proves just how capable your average cabbie is, and how underrated they are.   

University College London is currently studying a group of volunteer London cabbies in a comprehensive brain study due to their larger than normal hippocampus part of the brain, attempting to understand whether their intensive street knowledge of greater London can assist in finding cures for neurological maladies like Alzheimer's.  And Philip Glass, the now famous American Classical composer, drove taxi in NYC until he hit the big time sometime in his mid-30s, the rhythm of the big city streets music to his minimalist ears.  

I am sure there are many more examples but the point is made: we cabbies aren't just a bunch of stumblebums.  If folks keep insulting cabbies, you better watch out or Putin will fire one of those hypersonic missiles he keeps bragging about and blast you to smithereens.  Be forewarned! 

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Embracing Silence in a Noisy World

It wasn't until I looked at a California map Saturday morning did I notice there was this very large national monument piece of land directly west of where I was in my Bakersfield motel room.  It seemed close, and given my exhausted state, closer far better than miles away.  Proceeding west upon the Rosedale Highway (W-Bound SR 58) I left McDonalds/Taco Bell franchise-land behind and found myself in farming and orchard territory, driving until I passed under I-5 when suddenly I was alone, not much around but sagebrush and open country.  Coming to the intersection of SR 33 & 58, I turned south and finding my way, like I said, through "oil pump station land," and on to Taft, California where I mailed a letter (2:30 PM pickup).   From there, I soon picked up SR 166 and the turn to the monument.  

Again, I had no real idea what I was about to find.  High desert, yes I knew that but nothing beyond the hope of discovering a land and area special to know and be in, hoping to wrap myself in the gift that surprise delivers if only you try to find it somewhere, anywhere upon this planet.  Stopping at the sign stating I was now entered the Carrizo Plain National Monument, I saw that it was jointly managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Nature Conservancy, which I saw as something very positive, foretelling that I had made a good choice---nature's splendor and grandeur.

What I found myself in was a extremely broad valley formed by two mountain ranges, Temblor to the northeast and Calientes to the southwest, an area considered to be California's last great native grassland, and there I was, driving right smack down the middle of its 250,000 acres.  And making it all the better, there was almost no one there, seeing a total of 12 people during an entire day.  Pretty amazing when you think it's only a two hour drive from Los Angeles and nearly four million people packed in amongst all those freeways.  Was I happy?  Yes!

Later, with perhaps two hours of real daylight left, I found a campground nestled in the hills about 2 miles off the road.  Putting my "Big Five" sleeping bag down, I went for a walk and sat upon a hillside watching the full moon rise and the sun set.  Here is a haiku poem (5/7/5) I composed while sitting there.

                                                          Birthday Moon Over The Temblors

                                                               December full moon

                                                               rising amidst a pink glow

                                                               caressing parched hills

And that is exactly how it was, the longest in duration full moon of 2021 rising above the mountains and desert floor, along with a rapid dispersal of pink pastel daylight.  I spent a cold night looking up at the clearest sky, the full moon a bright lamp in the sky, with the Big Dipper directly above me poring bliss down from the near heavens. 

A Mere 310 Votes Cancelled the Recall

Sawant fended off her recall by the slimmest of margins but now she is calling it her great vindication.   I am right in calling her another version of Donald Trump.  Reality?  There is only one reality.  Hers!


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Greetings From Two Airports: How The WA State Department of L&I And Uber/Lyft Seriously Damaged A BYG (Yellow Taxi) Medallion Partner & Dogwilla---Another Bad Memory

Hello from Sea-Tac

5:40 AM on a December Tuesday morning, and wish I was asleep as I am tired as hell but here I am. once again heading south to Bakersfield and Tehachapti, this time to bury my second oldest sister, JoAnne, who departed our shared world September 28th, exactly a week after my visit to see her and say goodbye.  Lots to do but come Saturday, my birthday, in JoAnne's 2014 Kia Optima,  I will begin my journey northward, stopping in Arcata to see the ever famous and infamous "she-who-can't-be-named," or as she just told me over the telephone, "call me the Humboldt (County) Harpy." Today my layover is in San Francisco, which is where, I am guessing, I will finish composing and editing what you are reading.  Am I coherent?  Maybe.

This Past Weekend, in my Cab, I transported B., An Innocent Victim Bludgeoned by Uber, the City of Seattle and King County and the State of Washington 

I hadn't seen him in a while but B. is someone I have known for years from his involvement in the BYG Yellow Cab Co-op, and later, in Tacoma's ill fated Yellow Taxi Association.   Saturday I was taking him to a rental car agency, and while catching up the days, found out that he was now driving cab three days a week at the airport.  What a shock because this is someone who once owned 12 cabs and also an important part of company/association management, including, unfortunately, Tacoma's Yellow operation.  So what happened, how did this sad fate embrace him?  

It is a story you have heard before but this time it's far more personal, a name, an individual now attached to the twofold tragedy that was the nationwide municipal welcoming of Uber and Lyft; and simultaneously, Washington State's Department of Labor & Industry's misguided attack upon independent taxicab operators.  Like a boxer cornered in a ring, B. was hit repeatedly, left, right, to the gut, with a final uppercut to the chin knocking him out.  Part of the issue is that his BYG colleagues put him in the ring against the raging bull that was Jerry Billings, a L&I enforcement agent who took "no quarter," a religious crusader out for taxi blood.  

Most know the Uber/Lyft story, that how back in 2012 they invaded cities across the country, ignoring rules and laws, telling everyone, screw you! we are here to stay!" and suddenly, all the cities, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco included, began capitulating, having quickly understood there was money to be made licensing and taxing these interlopers, bringing us to where we are now.  BYG, like so many other taxi companies and associations, collapsed, and B.'s once tiny empire evaporated, his 12 medallions now worthless.  In the end, he gave them away, receiving nothing for something that was once worth a total of $3 million dollars.  Crazy, huh!? 

The L&I story was as bad or worse, with B. allowing himself to become the face of Tacoma Yellow and the target of Jerry Billings' wrath.  What Billings wanted was millions in back fees he said Tacoma owed L&I.  The argument continued for over a year, forcing Tacoma Yellow and B. into financial turmoil, and Tacoma Yellow's bankruptcy.  I don't remember all the details concerning B.'s issues but he was hit hard minus any real protection.  

And there you have it,  B. once again driving beneath the toplight.  Damn! was I sorry to hear it!

Dogwilla, former BYG general manager, was not a Nice Guy

Before I get to Frank, I gotta tell you I found some real food here at the SF airport: shrimp dumplings and chicken and steamed rice. Wonderful.

I mention the late Mr. Dogwilla because B. told me that in addition to his $80,000 annual salary, he received cash commissions for what I don't want to think about.  Some longtime readers might remember the scandal at Sea-Tac where $5 million dollars due to the Port of Seattle somehow disappeared, with Yellow losing the airport service contract because of it.  Frank always claimed to embrace law and order when dealing with us cabbies but for himself he might have had other priorities, and I for one think strongly that could have been true. 

No Exile for Sawant

Sorry to say, it looks like she will retain her position by couple hundred votes.  Yikes!


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sawant On The Brink & The City Of San Francisco Gets Away With Taxi Murder & Why A Taxi Driver Bill Of Rights Is Needed

Kshama Sawant Betrayed Seattle Cabbies

As I write this, on Pearl Harbor Day, the ballots are pouring in for this special recall election targeting Kshama Sawant, District 3 Seattle Council-member.  Today, in the Seattle Times, it is reported that the votes are coming in at a projected rate of 50% of eligible voters.  If I was still registered in the State of Washington, I would be voting yes, toss the silly person out onto the streets.  I will confess I once voted for her but now certainly regret that.  I see her as a more minor version of Donald Trump, someone who decides that existing rules do not apply to them, that whatever Sawant wants, Sawant gets.   Right, Left, Up or Down, Too Many Politicians are Simply Clowns!

I first encountered her at the Teamsters Hall in Tukwila, where on the podium, she promised to "work and assist" the local cab drivers.  Turns out she was lying, because in 2014 I personally watched her cast a vote to void the City Council bill capping Uber and Lyft, thus opening the floodgates, and one short year later, 28,000 of the monsters were roaming the streets, not 500 as had been agreed to. 

Sawant is a fraud. I believed her once but no more. Stonewall Jackson, that Country & Western singer once very popular, died on Saturday.  In 1959, he had his biggest hit, "Waterloo," crooning:

"Waterloo, Waterloo

When will you meet your Waterloo?

Every puppy has its day

Everybody has to pay

Everybody has to meet his Waterloo."

The song topped the charts for five weeks.  Like dear old Napoleon, I can only hope that today, Sawant also meets her Waterloo.  Or moves to Belgium. The country has good chocolate. 

November 8th 2021 Court Ruling Leaves the City of San Francisco with Bloody Hands

Back in 2010, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) opened a transferable medallion sale for $250,000 each, with the loans made through the San Francisco Federal Credit Union. 700 medallions were sold.  The City of San Francisco made $64 million from these sells.  But then, beginning in 2012, only two years later, Uber and Lyft came knocking, and San Francisco said "welcome, come on in," a move that quickly undermined the taxi industry, resulting in a massive medallion foreclosure by the credit union, losing a minimum of $28 million dollars.  From all this, the SFMTA was sued.  A jury ruled in their favor. The SFMTA is now happy, saying, that's right, we didn't do anything wrong.  Yeah right, nothing at all!  Watch out for those juries!

Taxi business is now slowly returning to the "City By the Bay" but that doesn't mean medallion values will ever reach again their former value.  The City of San Francisco said it is now trying to help rebuild the taxi industry after destroying it.  Isn't that "Liberal" of them?

A Taxi Bill of Rights

A local ally of the taxi industry is beginning to draw up what she sees as a State of Washington Bill of Rights for all State of Washington cabbies.  This is a good idea because taxi associations hold too much power over their independent contractors.  It is clear to me that all complaints and concerns over drivers actions and behavior should be overseen by the regulatory authorities and no one else.  This would provide the drivers needed protection from retaliatory actions from associations while providing real accountability when the driver warrants it.  I have been asked for ideas, and time permitting, they are coming.



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Why Does The City Of Seattle Think It Needs To Control Your Every Movement? & Out-Of-Control Hopelink: Spending Over 175 Thousand Dollars Over Seven Years Transporting One Individual & Certainly All Wet: New Seattle September to November Rainfall Record & An Endorsement I Can Accept

 It All Started in the 1970s with all those Damn Traffic Circles

The popular mythology applied to the City of Seattle is that it is "free and easy," where anything goes, a new Pacific Northwest "Amsterdam" of liberal and progressive manners and styles, but nothing in reality could be further from the truth, Seattle as stern as any Scandinavian Lutheran minster blasting his congregationalists, shaking his finger on a chilly and rainy Sunday morning, reminding them that SIN is your daily thought and Satan's SULPHUROUS home will certainly be your final destination.  No further proof of that is required after Seattle's November announcement that more traffic cameras will soon be installed upon city streets, the City quite prepared to pilfer your pocketbook if not knock you in the head like they did in the good old "Police Days" when Seattle cops beat you up just because they could, and why not, because you requested the beating, didn't you?  For further reference, see "On the Take: From Petty Crooks to Presidents," by Bill Chambliss, Indiana University Press, 1978.

Yes, for decades, and now today in December 2021, Seattle remains that taunting, admonishing Lutheran cleric scolding its citizenry, penalizing you for simply being human, a crime it seems you only have yourself to blame, having affronted all commonsense by allowing yourself to be born, and worse, to walk and drive upon Seattle's sacred streets. For shame!---for the message that the City of Seattle is delivering, and has delivered over the years, is STOP! you are going to STOP! there being no alternative to this governmental injunction.  

And all of us will be stopping in traffic as Seattle has the second highest ratio of car ownership (461,000 cars) per population (724,305) in the United States, Long Beach, California holding the top spot.  With a 2021 Seattle metro population of 3,461,000, it means there are cars and trucks and motorcycles everywhere during a twenty-four day, and Seattle's response has been, and will be, is to keep removing invaluable traffic lanes, thus creating clogged and congested streets for everyone's driving pleasure.  And who is to blame?  Why we are, of course.  Who else?

On November 15th, 2021, Seattle announced it would be installing a total of 8 new traffic enforcement cameras, stating that it would no longer tolerate drivers blocking intersections and illegally utilizing bus only lanes.  While on the face of it, all this seems sensible until you instead consider two important components, the first being Seattle's longterm plan of both removing and narrowing lanes by changing 4-lane roads down to two, as they did to 12th Ave East and 12th Ave back in the early 1990s; and second, converting many lanes in the downtown core to transit/bus only; these kinds of decisions making a tight transportation corridor even tighter, subjecting drivers to the VERY conditions Seattle will now be issuing tickets for.  A further factor to all this are the many bicycle lanes added throughout the city, taking over lanes that were previously car only.  While it seems that wishful thinking is operational here, geographic and population density reality says otherwise, that all along, this focus upon lane reduction was, and remains, a very bad idea.  

And when did all of this kind of thinking begin, this campaign to slow and stop Seattle's drivers?  Back in the 1970s is when the placing of traffic circles on residential streets began, and to this day, at $30,000 each, traffic circles continue popping up everywhere like mushrooms upon a rainy Autumn day.   By 2017 Seattle had built 1,200 of them throughout the city, and how many more since I don't want to know.  

Where else can you find a huge tree growing in the middle of a street?  Nowhere I hope but a few other American cities are also following Seattle's lead in constructing these confounding and unnecessary monuments to municipal stupidity.  Anyway, please note that beginning January 1, 2022, enforcement begins with, first, a warning ticket, and then thereafter for eternity, a $75.00 ticket.  And please remember, when trying to dodge these tickets, GOD is waiting for you, pen in hand, waiting to cite you one more time. 

Where the new cameras are:   Aurora N & Galer---Westlake N & Valley/Roy---4th & Battery---

5th Ave & Olive Way---3rd & Stewart---1st & Columbia---3rd & James---4th & S Jackson

Happy driving but don't honk that horn.  In Seattle, it's illegal.  Ha ha the joke's on you!

The $102.00 Hopelink Ride

My last ride Monday was a good one, a $102.00 Hopelink ride from Seattle to Kent, taking a gentleman home from kidney dialysis.  This happens round-trip three times a week.  Add it all up for a year and Hopelink spends more-or-less $25,000 per year despite there being many kidney centers within 15 minutes of his house.  The ride one way takes from 60 to 90 minutes depending on traffic.  He has been doing this for 7 years.  Add in the fact of potential car accidents and exposure to COVID-19, one might think all this is a bad idea.  Hoeplink, how does this make any sense?

And oh, another example, Hopelink transporting a fellow to his methadone clinic at least 3 days a week, if not more, RT from Vashon Island to 1700 Airport Way South and back.  The cost?  $187.00 one way.  The ferry ride is fun but Hopelink, what the hell are you doing?  But Vashon is a fun place to visit.

And another aside.  Given he lives on the south side of the island, and near the ferry terminal to Tacoma, why isn't he going to a Tacoma clinic?   Strange to me.

All this Rain is making me Insane

19 inches recorded for Sept-Nov. The November reporting is just short of 11 inches of rain for the month.  Bring an umbrella!  Or turn into a duck.  Or fish.  Or otter. 

Nice to Tell Me That

While at my favorite shop getting 1092 worked upon, a longtime Yellow driver came and up said, "I know you.  You are a good guy.  You have a good heart," saying this while motioning with his hand to his heart. Good to know some have been following and paying attention to my many years taxi industry advocacy.  Thanks much!  Screw money, his words the very best kind of payment!  I am richer for it.