Wednesday, December 27, 2023

New Taxi Rules December 2023: Does This 10 % Rule Make Any Sense? & Is This The True Inside Story Concerning Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab) Operations?

Hello Cab Fans

Yes, welcome to the wacky world of taxicab regulation in Seattle and King County, where comedy isn't confined to television or stage but instead to an honest attempt by regulators to save the industry from itself.  Good luck with that, the major taxi players buffoons and charlatans running amok, intoxicated by their own rhetoric.  But the good people at the City of Seattle and King County continue to trudge forward, hoping beyond hope that commonsense will prevail.  Again, good luck, Mister Duck.  Quack, quack!  

I ofter you this quote taken from Section 40. C of the new ordinance passed last week by the outgoing (at least most of them) City of Seattle City Council.  How this makes any sense when the cabbies are paying a set dispatch fee instead of piecemeal revenue extracted from meter readings, is something I can't tell you.  You must read this for yourself and come to whatever judgement you may.  Whatever you do, do not read this drunk or stoned because your brain will soon be whirling round and round, and if you stand up, you will fall down to the ground!  What you are reading are lines 1333-1336 of a huge document.  God or the. Devil help us all!

"With the exception of any fees that are authorized in Section 41 of this ordinance, a transitional regional dispatch agency or a regional dispatch agency may only make a deduction on trips dispatched by the agency, and the maximum allowable amount of such deduction should be ten percent of the fare paid by the passenger."

Well, wasn't that fun?  Robot Speak, no longer in the 21st Century but proceeding hundreds of years in the future, Society and Culture run by computer generated speech.  Is any of this going to succeed, to work?  As a gambler might do, toss the dice and see what comes up. Las Vegas, here we come!

At the PSD Holiday Pizza Party,

management did not speak to me.  Again, this all may or may not be true but here is what I have been told.  The Puget Sound General Manager has received a gigantic raise. He might be making as much as $130.000 annually.  Staff are made to work 12 hour days, seven days a week, on salary that doesn't come close to the aforementioned figure.  And if you can''t stand it any more, doing the work of three or four people, quitting in frustration, your unemployment application will be fought "tooth and nail!"  Is this all idle rumor?  I wish someone would tell me.  

Thursday, December 21, 2023

"The Cabman's Wife" & What Did Seattle Yellow Cab Drivers Receive From Puget Sound Dispatch This Christmas Season?

Cab Drivers Marry and Have Wives? A Quote from the BBC History Magazine, November 2023 Issue, Taken from the article "Broadcast Views: Radio Times at 100" by David Hendy

"Complaints about a steady dumbing down were, though, exaggerated. Radio Times has always sought a mass-market appeal, with editorial teams of the 1920s and 30s encouraged to personify their target customer as "the cabman's wife."  Staff were told that this fictional every woman would buy Radio Times--but, as long as the writing avoided "being highbrow", she might read the rest of the magazine." 

I love this quote for many reasons other than being very funny.  I like it that United Kingdom cabbies and their wives (and families) in the first half of the 20th C exemplified the typical working-class British laborer.  No Shakespeare for them, only Punch and the sporting news.  Most don't know that I almost started driving cab when I moved back to Seattle in 1982.  Unemployment was 12 percent and I scrambled to find work.  I ended working a bunch of hospital psychiatric shifts and driving Metro buses but if my wife hadn't vetoed my cab driving after hearing about the 12 hour shifts, we would have been set.  

As I have mentioned, within months of my cab beginnings in September 1987, veteran cabbies had nicknamed me "the vacuum cleaner" for my innate ability to scoop up the fares.  As for "lowbrow" taxi  spouses, my now ex-wife spoke fluent French, studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris, and got her French  Language BA from the University of Washington.  In addition, as a young teenager, she studied ballet in France with Maria Tallchief, one of dance history's most famous dancers. Anyone know the name George Balanchine? 

And that famous (or infamous) personage of these pages, "she-who-can't-be-named", has an official IQ of 150, studied in the UK and graduated from that prestigious private university, Rochester, in New York State.  She entered college at age 16.  As I always say, my IQ is minus 150, or is it minus 300?  Sorry, I can't calculate that low!

Today, at least in London, England, UK, those famous "Black Car" cabbies are part of an exclusive professional class, making 6 figure earnings and living a very comfortable middle-class life, thank you very much.  If I was a London cabbie, I would have long ago petitioned whatever local UK colleges to make the gaining of "the knowledge" into a Bachelor of Arts or Sciences degree in Urban Transportation, making cabbies further eligible for Graduate studies.  I wonder what their wives do read?   I bet it's the Financial Times and not the Daily Mirror or The Sun tabloids. 

By the way, if there is a better magazine than BBC History, I don't know about it.  I subscribe to a number of both print and online magazines and newspapers but its only BBC History that I read cover to cover.  If I keep reading it, someday maybe, just maybe my IQ will finally rise into the plus range.  God, ya never know!  And oh, back in San Francisco, 1979-82, I was a magazine editor, poetry it was.  I like magazines. 

                                                                      My brain is simple

                                                                      As large as a teenager's pimple

                                                                      Dylan Thomas I am not

                                                                      Not interested in that kind of

                                                                      Lyrical rot!

Cheap Pizza

Sorry everyone but I remember the Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts that Yellow Cab (the BYG co-op) used to provide for everyone.  Thanksgiving was always at a local restaurant, Christmas at the lot.  Today though, at PSD's Holiday party, the drivers were provided the worst of cheap pizza, Domino's.   I estimate they spent between $100-150.00 for the pizza.  I have also estimated that the current Yellow fleet paid PSD roughly three million dollars in dispatch fees this year.  And to show their appreciation for everyone's hard work, they got pizza.  Not even good pizza.  Do they know the definition of immorality?  

Somewhat laughable, speaking to a driver later, he said "at least it didn't come from 7-11."  Gallows humor is what that is.  Instead of hanging the drivers, they get to gag on stale pizza.  Saves the cost of buying the rope, building the platform, paying the hangman, etc. 

Drug Run

On the morning of what is now my 70th birthday, I dreamt I was back in a damn cab servicing a RT drug run.  I'm in these folks apartment when I am told, as usual, some kind of delay.  They pay me the exact meter, $8.00.  Then a five dollar tip. That was nice.  Must have known it was my birthday.  How wonderful it wasn't, being back in the cab, sleeping or not!

Friday, December 15, 2023

My Letter To The Seattle Municipal Court & Not A Pretty PSD Picture & Nine Not A Good Number For Cruise Robotaxis & Uber Sued In Brooklyn, New York Over Alleged 2018 Rape

Dear Municipal Court,

If volition has anything to do with this, I am innocent.  Never for a moment did I know I was in violation.  What warning sign?  I saw no sign though I was looking.  I also thought that on Sundays you could use 3rd Avenue, even for a block but no, Seattle Customer Service tells me.  Instead, for at least the past two years. no cars whatsoever at any time allowed on 3rd Avenue before Virginia.  Is that true?  There are signs on 3rd saying otherwise.

What is true, what is not, what is up, what is down?  Though I know the City of Seattle rules state that a driver is given one warning, and one warning only covering all the intersection/bus lane cameras throughout the city, I ask, how is that fair and just, let alone logical?  I know the court only enforces laws, not writing them but how does the current formulation of these bus lane rules make any sense?  To me they do not.  This is not the first time I have felt victimized by this ordinance.  Hopefully it is my last.

Thank you.


On my return from my wonderful trip, I found a notice waiting for me from the City of Seattle, stating I had, for shame, drove in a bus lane  at 3rd & James in an successful attempt to avoid post-Seahawk game traffic.  This is my written (typed) response to the judge who will review my mitigation request.  The Court's reality is that it has no interest in seeing you in person, delaying the inevitable.  Once the citation is issued, you are "dead meat" unless you were not the individual behind the wheel.  Then you are not liable.  Otherwise, the best you can usually hope for is a reduction in the $75.00 fine.  

My letter, repeated as written, is a bit cheeky because I am beyond caring, knowing this kind of enforcement is a joke.  I've gotten a few of these, and each time there wasn't a bus within a mile of me.  Obviously then I wasn't impeding anyone.  All this is merely more stupidity generated by Dumbbell Seattle, an inherent idiocy now Seattle's official credo and motto.  If that isn't true, then what is it, "Intelligence Upon Demand?"

I just read in last Sunday's edition of the Seattle Times Pacific NW Magazine that the current Mayor wants to put a streetcar line down the middle of 1st Avenue.  Talk about impeding traffic!  Can we please issue "His Dishonor" a ticket?  For what violation, you ask?  Why for being a complete _______!   I'll let your imagination soar, allowing you to fill in the blank.  Don't worry, you won't hurt Bruce's feelings.  He's a millionaire, sitting high above commonplace chaff.  Why should he care?  Now that's a good question. 

Puget Sound Dispatch Rumors and Allegations 

It seems like there is internal turmoil at PSD (Seattle Yellow Cab).  Before I put anything in print, I will try to get Amin Shifow (PSD's GM) and Lema's (Now the sole owner?) daughter Marta to tell me what is true or not.  I'll see what they will verify or not.  I keep requesting from the City and County regulators that they "please, please, please!" regulate associations just as they regulate drivers.  I have always gotten the response that there is nothing they can do to control association behavior.  Do I believe that?  I do not. 

GM Cruise in a Spin

It was just announced that nine top Cruise executives have been sacked, along with 900 Cruise employees  laid off by General Motors, Cruise's parent company.  It appears that the aftermath of the October 2nd, 2023 San Francisco accident continues to reverberate throughout the company.  Cruise is facing a potential fine of 1.5 million dollars due to its lack of initial transparency, having concealed a video of the incident.   It angered both State and Federal regulators.  This all appears to be a classic example of a company getting "too big for its britches," thinking they are above rules of law and common decency.  

What is glaringly obvious is that the technology involved is still developing, and for Cruise to say that wasn't true, was a lie, or a best, a half-truth.  Using another idiom, Cruise got caught "with their pants down," truly an embarrassing position.  How Cruise's problems affects Waymo and other similar companies remains to be seen.  I am sure they are paying close attention to the regulatory and media fallout currently pummeling Cruise.  Ultimately this will be a positive going forward, ensuring safety not profit their first enduring focus.  Not a bad outcome from an avoidable tragedy. 

The Sorry Subject Plaguing Uber

Sexual assault and Uber is nothing new to these pages.  I have reported much about this terrible reality  connected to Uber: too often their male drivers sexually assault their female passengers.  In the years of 2017 and 2018, there were 6000 sexual assaults allegedly committed by Uber drivers.  In the years embracing 2019 and 2020, there were 4000 reported sexual assaults.  Regular readers might remember that in Santa Clara County, California, Uber was actively requesting that any woman who had been sexually assaulted first contact, not the police but Uber.  Same in Seattle.  Don't call the police.  Call Uber, your friend and protector.  That Uber helped pass a 2022 Washington State Law removing fingerprinting requirements as part of its background checking protocol should worry every woman entering an Uber minus an escort or gun.  Does Uber truly care about your safely?  Doubtful is the obvious answer. 

The Brooklyn woman who claims she was raped in 2018 by her Uber driver duly reported the assault to the NYPD.  A rape kit was used, and yes, they found conclusively that her claim was true.  That it took five years to gain Uber's attention says everything about their priorities.  If anyone doubts that, Uber lawyers fought to remove the term "sexual assault" from a collective 100 victim lawsuit currently active in California courts.  Uber's priority has been, and remains, making money regardless of consequences.  Destroy the American Cab industry?  That's good and fine.  First lower your rates, then later, after your customers are hooked, gouge them for every possible penny?  Perfectly okay.  Welcome to the Uber Industrial Complex!  Never forget.  They love you!

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Back To All Taxi Related Subjects---Cruise Robotaxi Service Now in Trouble & Zem Departs Seattle Yellow Cab

 Will General Motor's Cruise Robotaxis Become Only A Bad Memory?

Does anyone doubt that national and international corporate arrogance is a serious issue, endangering all of us when, for them, accountability is a mere afterthought, something that can be ignored or simply paid to go away?  The examples are many but last month, after Cruise failed to fully divulge the details of an October 2nd, 2023 accident involving one of their autonomous vehicles, California regulators suspended their ability to operate.  

On October 2nd, a jaywalker in San Francisco entered an intersection and was struck by a normally operated vehicle.  Upon striking the woman, the driver fled but unfortunately, the vehicle behind her, a Cruise robotaxi, subsequently ran over the fallen pedestrian, dragging her for a distance of at least twenty feet, causing extensive injuries.  

Making the matter worse, Cruise was less than candid concerning their involvement, unleashing a fire storm of criticism.  This is when Cruise was told to stop operating.  Having no choice, the optics terrible, Cruise suspended its service nationwide, with no clear date when it would resume.  All this led to the November 19th resignation of Kyle Vogt, the Cruise CEO.  Further heightening tensions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened its own investigation concerning the overall safety of autonomous vehicles. All this is certainly unwelcome news for industry proponents.

As many might remember, City of San Francisco officials were adamantly opposed to Cruise and Waymo operating in their city without further review, screaming out loud that the technology was still unproven,  constituting a threat to city residents.   Not a good way to be proven correct after being ignored for months on end by State of California regulators.  

Thankfully, it seems the pedestrian will survive her near fatal mishap. Whether Cruise will survive is another question entirely.  General Motors had already funneled 8.2 billion dollars into the project. GM must be glad the woman survived the accident, a death only provoking further outrage.  And concerning the victim, when will everyone learn that walking in front of moving cars is a very bad idea?   Must everyone require a seeing eye dog?  Woof Woof! I believe is the correct answer.

Is Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab) Self-Destructing? 

What is going on internally with Seattle's largest remaining taxicab association/company?  First, a few months ago, Tina, their fiercely loyal dispatch manager, was dismissed for reasons never revealed.  Now I hear that Zem (Bershabet Yilma) quit PSD in frustration over the direction it is taking.  For those who don't know, Zem was a "calming force," the "glue" keeping a fractured company from scattering into the taxi wind.  Zem was a rarity in the taxi industry, infusing a natural wisdom not usually seen.  Her unexplained departure is an ominous warning.  Seattle requires a functional taxi company.  Can PSD/Yellow survive now that she is gone?  

City/County taxicab regulators should be alarmed.  With all of their recent actions designed to assist and enable industry survival, this can only be deflating, exposing PSD's real vulnerability.   Someone must quickly ask PSD this question: "Do you know what you are doing?"  

From my 35 plus year taxi perspective, it is an essential question.  Ten, twenty years ago, industry incompetence could be safely ignored.  Times have obviously changed.  Foolishness is no longer tenable, the once BYG taxi co-op (Yellow) having barely survived Frank Dogwilla's managerial arrogance that was directly fueled by David Friend's operational interference.  Will Zem's absence prove fatal to the tattered remains that is PSD?  Perhaps.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Travelogue Part Two: Georgia And Armenia

European Asia Minor 

Since I was ten years old, I have been a reader of maps, scouring atlases, fascinated by the discovery of countries new to me, wondering whether I would reach any of those distant lands.   The Vatican, Bhutan, Hungary, Ecuador and many others were part of my early geographical vocabulary.  Nearly 60 years later I have managed to visit 48 countries and territories, and still counting.  An essay I wrote during this most recent trip is about me being a reader, not only of books but of everything around me, reading the local cultural vocabulary in the faces, buildings and countryside I find in my new environment and surroundings.  

I am often asked, since I only speak English, do I have trouble communicating in all these  foreign lands?  My response always is an empathic no, no problem, everyone and and everything speaking to me in language I understand, that of life itself in all its nuanced variety.  I have discovered that making an effort to reach out to someone often results in the most basic of comprehensions.  After all, we are all human animals, linked together whether we can admit it or not.  Hello, I say, and 99 percent of the time, Hello is the response back.  For years I've wanted to say hello to the countries in Asia Minor.  In no surprise to me, the response was "Welcome, glad to see you."

Tbilisi, Georgia

I needed an inexpensive location to base my travels, and Georgia certainly more than met my expectations.  A loaf of fresh bread was 35 cents.  A kilo (2 1/2 pounds) of fresh green beans for 45 cents.  Handmade wool mittens for $4.00.  The apartment I had for 27 days was $17.00 per day.  The Metro fare was 45 cents.  Most importantly, and the primary reason I choose Tbilisi, was the cost of local thermal baths, four dollars to soak in the hottest and strongest mineral water I have ever immersed myself in.  What an amazing experience that was, 15 minutes and I was limp.  I'll never forget that water.

Wanting to see more of the country, I travelled north to Lagodeski and hiked in the South Caucasus mountains.  On my last full day, I took a minivan ride to Josef Stalin's home town of Gori, where I toured his museum.  I returned to Tbilisi via a train, unknowingly buying a last-class ticket and finding myself in a crammed train compartment shoulder to shoulder with the locals, stacks of boxes and suitcases occupying the aisle.  That was a wonderful surprise.  Stepping out into the corridor, I watched Georgia past by, sheep herds and low mountains outside the window.  

I realize I would be amiss by not mentioning the stray dogs that are everywhere in Tbilisi.  Rather than treated as a nuisance, the dogs are a kind of canine royalty, comical as people carefully make way for sleeping hounds lounging on busy sidewalks.  Getting out of my cab at the airport, in the main entrance was a happy dog dreaming away, no one disturbing his slumber.  Remarkable.  In Seattle, there would be an uproar, with the pooch carted way to the local pound.  Not in Tbilisi, everyone bowing in acquiescence  to Queen and King Bowser. 

Not Enough Time in Armenia

Regrettable that I didn't take more time visiting Yerevan and the country of Armenia.  I felt immediately comfortable in Yerevan, more cosmopolitan than the giant tourist trap that is Tbilisi.  I thoroughly enjoyed my two quick days.  On my last evening there, I sat on the edge of Republic Square, enjoying the busy urban scene as the sun closed down upon a mid-autumn day.  That moment, a few minutes of utter contentment, was maybe the highlight of my entire trip.  I had finally found a city new to me I really liked, and unfortunately, I had to leave.  Will I ever return?  I have no idea.  

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Travelogue Part One---UK, France, Germany, Bulgaria, And By Accident, Greece

I will make both parts one and two brief.  The previous five "catch up" posts focused upon cabs, which has been the blog's primary narrative these past 12 years, so it is unfair to you my readers to concentrate on irrelevant subjects.  What I will do is outline some highlights as an enticement to perhaps encourage interest, incentivizing your own urge to get out and explore.  

As many might have guessed, my one addiction is travel, making me feel alive and more aware of life around me.  By my father's yearly moves across our great nation, and Canada too,  I was introduced to the wonder of new surroundings, learning a kind of stability in constant motion.  No doubt that was one of the sustaining attractions of driving taxi, moving quickly from place to place, me in my taxicab spaceship exploring known and new universes, and should I say it, alien life forms?  No, I didn't make it to Uranus this time around but countries like Georgia and Armenia were new to me, making for proper consolation prizes. Travel is like opening a door and entering to whatever surprise awaits you, you a modern Alice walking through a mirror.

London, England

London is immense, a city with many faces like Paris, New York, Chicago, Mexico City, taking many visits to completely appreciate its unique personality.  This most recent visit, first three days, then five upon my return, had me staying in Walthamstow, a wonderfully multicultural neighbor bubbling with an exuberance created by the ten of thousands of people actively celebrating the happy opportunity that living in the UK offers them.  Walthamstow is an ongoing carnival.  Entry is free.  And walking the streets a quick adventure.  I highly recommend it.  Don't miss the William Morris Museum.  Once there, you will understand.

The Gare Nord, Paris---"Lahore, Lahore"

If I were to live in London, it would be in Walthamstow.  In Paris, where I once lived in the autumn of 1984, and provided the opportunity, I would return for a much longer stay, and my first neighborhood of choice would be that crammed area of East Indian, African, Pakistani and native French surrounding the Gare Nord or North train station.  It is a wild place in constant motion---people, taxis, scooters all milling around.  I find it delightful, life at breakneck speed.  And its where my favorite restaurant in all of Paris resides, the dive eatery named after the Pakistani city of Lahore, for double emphasis, the "Lahore, Lahore." 

The place is cheap, one of the few places in Paris where you can get a complete meal for 8 Euro.  Upon entering, what you see behind the plate-glass counter are steam trays filled with many kinds of chicken and vegetable dishes along with rice and potatoes.  It's all very tasty, and you can mop up the sauces with their freshly made flat bread.  Don't be alarmed by the mostly male, slightly rough-looking diners trooping in for lunch and supper.  Just like you, they're hungry, only interested in a good meal.  Service is usually very fast.  Most often my food is in front of me in 5-10 minutes.  If I have a complaint, its that they don't have hot tea to wash it all down.  The place is completely unpretentious.  Be real and enjoy a few minutes in Pakistan.  Makes me want to go to Lahore and see the city for myself.  And knowing myself, there is a good chance I will make it there. 

The address is 158 rue du Fraubourg Denis, 10th arrondissement.  I also found the address listed as 7 rue Jarry but there is only one "Lahore, Lahore."  How could there be more than one?

Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie

If you only have a few minutes to look around the city of Berlin, get off at the Metro stop for "Check Point Charlie," an US Army Guard Shack on the once boundary of East/ West Berlin.  The former border crossing is now a historical site.  

When walking in Berlin, the "ghosts" of the Cold War are everywhere.  Look and you shall see that what has changed but not, especially in what was formally communist East Berlin.  A book I highly recommend is "Beyond the Wall: East Germany---1949-1990," by Katja Hoyer.   I visited the Deutsches Historisches Museum and found their special exhibit very interesting,  "Roads Not Taken (Oder: Es hatte auch anders kommen konnen)", featuring much information about that era.  Having just finished reading Hoyer's book, it provided insights not included in the exhibit.  

Sofia: Take the Free City Tour

I regret not staying longer than thee days in that great city and country.  I plan on returning.  My best decision during my stay was taking the free tour conducted by city natives.  I took the English language tour but they offer a number of languages for all interested tourists.  By doing that tour, in about 1 1/2 hours, you will gain very real insight into a city and culture.  Their website:  I was hoping beyond hope to somehow bump into Anton, a Bulgarian Yellow Cab driver who sold his home in West Seattle and moved back home.  Alas, no Anton.  Too bad, I really liked the guy. 

An Unexpected Day in Athens

The quick version of a sad story is that Aegean Airlines did not provide enough time for me to make my connecting flight to Tbilisi, leaving me stranded for 24 hours.  Maybe because I was in a bad mood but I did not enjoy my brief stay in that most interesting of cities, Athens.  Previous visits were back in 1991 and 1999.  This day was hot and crowded with tourists.  I ate some organic olives.  I had a good lunch.  I met a scammer who promised me freshly squeezed orange juice.  I was bored.  I walked back to a main city square and took an express bus back to the airport.  But I did mail some postcards so hopefully someone enjoyed the Greek postage stamps. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Taxis In Yerevan, Armenia

3 Cab Rides in Yerevan

It was not a good beginning.  I stepped out from the minivan from Tbilisi, and immediately a Yerevan cabbie was there to greet me.  Other than having wanting to reach the hotel I had booked through Priceline, I wasn't quite sure where I first wanted to go.  His desperation overtook commonsense, not interested in losing his quarry.  After visiting the W.C., once again there he was, and needing a cab I decided he was good as any, which probably was true.  He was willing to take Georgian money, which made for me an easier transition.  

As near as I could tell, my hotel's location bordered Republic Square, which is the heart and soul of Yerevan.  I did provide my hotel's address but the fool instead dropped me off in front of the Marriott.  Paying 17 Lari, I was glad to be rid of him.  At least I knew the Marriott would have both an ATM and English-speaking staff.  The staff was wonderful, providing me with a map and instructions on how to get to my hotel.  How close was I?  About 3/4 of a mile.  I enjoyed the walk. Yerevan reminded me of Paris, which from my perspective, is a big plus.

My second and third cab rides came on the day I was heading back to Tbilisi.  My goal that day, after an early lunch, was first to visit the Museum of the Armenian Genocide, then back to the bus station for my 5:00 PM departure.  I found a cab in the town center, and this time the driver was a professional, no arguments, providing him with a good tip.  Noticing some sitting cabs outside of the museum, I felt I would have no trouble getting one once I finished my visit.   

That turned out to be true.  After my nearly two full days in the city, I was beginning to have a rough understanding of what was where, and knew the bus station was close by.  That didn't stop my third cabbie from demanding far more than I gave him, his aggression alienating. 

Cab grade?   From such a small sample size, the Yerevan cabbies rate either a D plus or a C minus.  At least in early November, there were more cabs than customers, always a bad combination for the hungry cabbie, indigestion the result.  It's a bad idea, giving your passengers a monetary stomach ache. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Taxis In Georgia (The Country)

 The guidebook warned about the Tbilisi cab driver: make sure you negotiate the correct fare from the airport.  I remembered this as cabbies, spotting a obvious foreigner in the terminal, attacked with their solicitations.  Telling them to quit following me, I got my cab into Tbilisi from the official cab kiosk located near the terminal exit.  Advertising one and two zone fares (50 & 70 Lari or GEL---$18.52 and $25.93); and once they understood where I was going, off we went.  The driver was a real professional, driving an airport-based cab, getting me to my Airbnb apartment ($17.00 per night) within 15 minutes, there being minimal traffic at 4:30 in the morning.  It is more or less 10 miles from the airport to the town center.  

All the taxis in Georgia, near as I could tell, ran on flat-rates minus a meter.  Of course, this leads to abuse, one fare for the locals, another for the tourists. In Sofia, I appreciated that the taxis were metered.  In Tbilisi, you were at the driver's whim and mercy, meaning that you the foreign visitor was guaranteed a higher rate no matter how much you argued, explaining why I only took three cabs total during my 27 day stay in Georgia's capitol city.  Overall, Georgia would be considered a "poor" country, with many beggars in. the streets.  This reality creates the kind of desperation leading to the kind of minor criminality too many cabbies around the world are known for.  It is certainly true in Tbilisi.  

My second cab ride took me from Freedom Square (once Lenin Square) to the Azerbaijan Embassy.  He wanted 20 but he got 15 Lari.  My third and final Tbilisi cab ride was to the airport, finding a most agreeable fellow, who got me there at about 5:30 AM for my 7:30 AM flight heading to Istanbul, then London.  Speaking some English, he was full of questions about the USA.  He was one of the better cabbies I encountered in all the various countries I visited.  He got 100 Lari for his friendly demeanor.  In Georgia, that's a lot of money.  My minivan fare from Tbilisi to Yerevan, Armenia, a distance of 169 miles, was 50 Lari.  

My remaining cab ride was in the small town of Lagodekhi, where I had gone to hike in the South Caucasus Mountains.  Turns out, my destination, a hotel located at the entrance of a huge national park, was merely one kilometer down the road.  Multiple cabbies couldn't comprehend where I needed to go.  Finally, I found a cabbie who did understand, getting me there in five minutes.  The fare was 5 lari.  I gave him 10. 

My overall rating for the Georgia/Tbilisi cabbies is a solid C, earning an average grade, especially considering the economic conditions they are subjected to.  Watching the tourists toss around the kind of money they can only dream about must drive them crazy.  Having had many millionaires in my taxi, I understand the feeling.  Though once married to a millionaire's daughter, I understand the resentment, anguish and whatever other dire emotions the cabbie experiences.  Life is a kind of living hell when you know you have no real alternatives, finding yourself, in very real terms, trapped, with no escape possible. As I have said, welcome to taxi, an occupation better avoided.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Sofia And Athens Taxi Cabs: Watch Out For Those Greeks

Sofia, Bulgaria was the fourth city I visited, Berlin instead, being the third.  Since I had no occasion to take a cab there, I will postpone describing my visit to a later post.  My Berlin Airbnb placement was located about 150 feet from the subway station, providing easy and quick access to wherever I wanted to go.  I can say that my very first cab ride in Europe occurred in early April, 1982 in Dusseldorf, West Germany, my wife and I taking a taxi from the airport to our hotel.  It was my very first time in Europe, the start of an amazing five-week long honeymoon.  That trip gave me a good taste of the continent, traveling, as we did, to Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, ultimately returning back to Dusseldorf and our flight back to San Francisco.  What kind of car was that first taxi ride?  A Mercedes.  During our ten days in Madrid, we were propelled around that wonderful city in much smaller Seat taxis, a kind of Spanish Fiat. 

My flight to Sofia from Berlin arrived in the early evening, and of course, not knowing the city, I opted for a cab from the airport to my Airbnb apartment located near the Sofia Opera House.  My driver, a taxi novice of two years, was very nice, helpful to the point that, parking, endangered his cab on a busy street, and assisted me in finding my very confusing address.  Having the option to pay in either Bulgarian Lev or Euros, I flipped him a 20 Euro note for his trouble and kindness.  He was a good cabbie, not having worked long enough to create bad habits.  I liked him.

Sofia, it appears, is a "taxi" city, as the majority of the cabs were usually occupied, and not by tourists but by locals.  As opposed to Tbilisi, Georgia, where the cabbies were too dependent upon tourists for their money, Sofia cabbies served their fellow Bulgarians, making for a happier work force.  Those Georgian cabbies were a trifle surly, their contentment dictated by dumbbell, "over paying" tourists.  Who wants five Lari (GEL) when instead they could get 20 Lari for a two-minute long  ride?  

My other two Sofia cab rides involved me getting to and back from a local "natural area" located on the edge of the city.  The first cabbie quoted me 14 Lev but it turned into a 40 Lev ride as we went up and up upon a curvy wooded road leading to the local mountain serving as Sofia's semi-wild playground.  I didn't mind the extra charge, the ride turning into the unexpected.  It was the getting back that worried me.  

After trekking in the deciduous forest up and around some steep pathways, I realized I needed a cab but having no ability to call one, I began walking back toward the city.  Eventually, a bus came by, taking me somewhere into the city, where, after some walking, I found two cabs sitting next to a coffee shop.  The first driver wasn't interested in taking me but the guy behind him did, though somewhat reluctantly.  He was reasonable, very professional, realizing their reluctance was the difficulty with routing, my destination neither straightforward nor direct.  I know all about that, as too often in Seattle, going west to east slow going, taking up too much time for too little gain.  Regardless, this Sofia driver got me home, surprising him with a good tip.  As I have said, I know the language, whether spoken or not.  Taxi can be a pain-in-the ass, whether in Seattle or Sofia, its all the same, making the long suffering cabbie completely INSANE!

 The next day, getting back to the airport, I took the Metro.  It was cheap and direct, avoiding a final cab.  Overall I grade the Sofia cabbies a solid B.  Above yet a little below, as Chubby Checker sang in his"Limbo  Rock," ditty: "How low can you go?"

Damn Athens Cabbies 

Those Greeks!  They are a wild, feral crew.  Back in 1987, there were a bunch of these hooligans operating cabs in Seattle.  Nice bunch of taxi snakes.  Having the misfortune on October 20th of Aegean Airlines leaving me marooned in Athens for 24 hours, I had the displeasure of yet another introduction.  It did not go well.  

 More detail later  on why I got stuck in Athens but it all boiled down to Aegean not allowing enough time for me to reach my connecting flight to Tbilisi, Georgia.  To say the least, I do not recommend flying on Aegean, if it can be avoided.  

So this is the situation I found myself in.  I missed my flight and now it was 1:00 AM in the morning, my next flight now scheduled for 23 hours later.  The only airport connected hotel was $350.00.  I wasn't going to pay that.  Cheaper hotels, I were told, were located in DT Athens.  There was a 5 Euro Express Bus, which I did take but first I wanted to see if I could locate a friendly cabbie.  Personally, more times than I remember,  I've had passengers walk up to my taxi, asking if I could help them find a cheap motel room.  It is a task I know well.  And going up to the airport taxi line, that's what I asked.  

What I found out is that, minus any considerations of helping a stranded fellow cabbie, it was all about the sweet money, honey.  Yes, they would help alright, for the equivalent of nearly 80 dollars taking me DT.  Yes, passengers were coming to the cabs, and yes, you have to service the ready customer but it was clear there was little to no empathy forthcoming from these guys.  There was no disguising it.  They were taxi assholes and didn't care who knew it.  I know the type too well, Seattle, especially back in the late 80s, early 90s, having many such examples.  

Taking the bus in to what was termed the "town square," I found a lineup of cabs parked, waiting post 2:00 AM.  In fact, there were cabs sitting everywhere, with little to no business at hand.  Walking up to the lead cab, "Sure, he knew of a cheap hotel, only 1 1/2 (a mile) kilometers away."  And his charge?  20 euros.  That is, nearly $22.00 to go one mile.  Not going along with that bullshit, I found a hotel room for 76 euros, including breakfast, a mere 75 feet from that "generous" cabbie. 

Now I have taken a cab in Athens but that was back in 1999 when me and a friend were flying back to Istanbul, Turkey.  That cabbie was fine other than being a trifle late for our pickup, causing some minor anxiety.  

What is my in general assessment of the Athens cab scene?  Better to walk or take a bus, the Athens cabbie "money thirsty," and better avoided.  Athens that day was "wall to wall" tourists, meaning the Athens cabbie knew where his "bread was buttered," readily taking advantage of the typical dumbbell tourist.  Instead of Athens, try the northern Greek island of Corfu.  I stayed there for 3 weeks back in 1991.  Wonderful place. Good food.  And across the separating sea,  you'll find Albania. 


Saturday, November 25, 2023

Limited Exposure To The World of Parian Taxi

I love taxis but when traveling I do what I can to avoid using a cab due to the sometimes high expense, local transportation options like buses and subways making far better economic sense.  During my most recent time in Paris this past October, I took what can only be called "car service cabs" to and from the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.  That I even took a cab the 3.5 (about 2 miles)  kilometers to my hotel was caused by screw ups I will describe in a later post.  Otherwise, an hotel shuttle would have gotten me to where I needed to be.  The best I can say is that the short ride cost me 20 Euros ($21.88) coming from the airport, with a 30 Euros ($32.85) return.  A rate of over 10-15 dollars per mile is way too much, people taking advantage of airport passengers.  If you take a cab in Paris itself, and not the ripoff airport suburbs, the minimum fare is 7.30 Euro, with a starting rate of 2.60 Euro.  There were local buses but due to scheduling, I would have missed my early morning flight to Berlin. 

The last time I took a real Paris metered cab was in December 2019 when a Metro closure forced me to, there being no alternative. The driver, taking advantage of the situation, turned his cab into a kind of shuttle. He was reasonable and knew what he was doing, a competent cabbie.  Prior to that, it was way back in the autumn of 1984, when my wife and I were moving from her Summer student apartment to a temporary hotel.  That driver wasn't so nice, and of course, having never driven a cab to that point, was less experienced dealing with the unscrupulous cabbie.  

In the Paris, the Metro, the RER trains and the buses are both reliable and frequent, making them the best way to get around in the "City of Light."  Unless you are burdened with luggage, or crunched for time, avoid a cab.  Given how beautiful and interesting the city is, I found walking, especially with distances of 1-2 miles, the best form of transport. Use you feet and walk through history at every corner.  And when tired, take a break at a sidewalk cafe.  They are everywhere.  Drink an espresso or aperitif, enjoying where you are, any arrondissement a good place to be.  You're in Paris.  As Jonathan Richman sang, "Give Paris One More Chance," and you will be glad you did.

Next Post: Sofia and Athens cabs

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Back In Circulation: Taxi In Foreign Lands & Travel---The First In A Quick Series Of Seven Posts

Due to "on-the-road" sign in difficulties, I was unable to communicate in the greater blogger sphere empire but I am now back in Seattle-Land, my flight on Iceland Air from London getting into Seattle at 5:21 PM yesterday.  For those readers who are interested, over the next week to ten days, I will write a series of impressions concerning taxi in the UK and other countries where I used the services of our taxi brethren, or as in Greece, tried to.  

A very brief summation is that for many cabbies, the lesson of Uber's incursion passed them by, remaining the same assholes that allowed Uber and others to nearly destroy the then extant international taxi industry.  In other words, lessons have not been learned .  Sad but true but so blue, unfortunately, noting that nothing is new.  

After my posts concerning taxi, I will then write about my travel experiences in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia (the country) and Armenia.  I also had quick layovers in Poland, Turkey and Iceland, giving me a total of 10 countries.  I enjoyed the potato dumplings at the Warsaw airport. 

But taxi first, taxi forever the crazy endeavor. 

Mini-Cabs and "Black" Cabs in London, England, UK

There are two kinds of taxis in London, mini-cabs  which are essentially a kind of meter less, flat-rate car service taxicab, and the Black cabs. Mini-cabs are dispatched to the customer, minus street hailing. On this trip, I twice took a mini-cab ride from Walthamstow Central Underground/train station.  The first time I didn't know the location of my Airbnb room. The second ride was a week ago after my return from Tbilisi, Georgia, my bags heavier, and tired after a 2,200 mile flight.  Both drivers were professional but the first driver complained about "black" passengers, and how he avoided in picking them up.  

 The Black taxicabs are the famous cabs driven by "the Knowledge" cabbies, cabs that are as synonymous with London as fish & chips and banger sausages.  For those who are unfamiliar, "the Knowledge" is the requirement that all potential Black Cab drivers know "every street" in greater London.  It of course makes for a very professional work force.

I talked to one such Black Cab owner/driver near where I was staying in Walthamstow.  When approaching a cabbie, all I need to do is identify myself as the true 35 plus year veteran cabbie I am, and instantly, we have a rapport and understanding, "taxi" a dialect we both speak.  

He was a 23 year taxi driver veteran, and found him hand washing his cab.  He drives more or less 12 hour shift five days a week.  The per mile rate is 3 British pounds, translating to $4.00 USA.  His life is now easier since the COVID pandemic, and the subsequent falloff in business resulting in a London fleet reduction from 24,000 to 16,000 Black Cabs.  His insurance is far cheaper than for Seattle taxis, being 1400 Pound sterling annually.  In US dollars that's $1, 745.75.  When I quit, my insurance rate was just over $5000.00.  

But the cost of cabs are much more, the type of car being strictly regulated.  His new replacement vehicle, slated for 3 years from now, will cost him 70,000 Pounds, or put another way, $87,735.90.  For comparison, my last Ford Crown Victoria cost me $3,500.00, and I put over 350,000 miles on the car.  When discussing hours worked, he added that he takes time off to play golf and run, making sense as the only way to survive taxi is get away from it as far as you can. Otherwise, you're a "dead man" driving.  That's all our shared reality.

Next post: Paris cabs

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Doug Silva The "Taxi" Lawyer----He's The Best & The Communists Were Going To Kidnap This Cabbie & Off To The UK And The Continent

 All Hail Doug Silva, Seattle Taxi's Hero and Savior

A taxi buddy emailed me that the attorney Doug Silva had won yet another case for him, this time getting rid of a speeding ticket issued by WSP (Washington State Patrol).  I believe I have mentioned Doug in the past but his speciality, defeating traffic tickets, is something me and others have appreciated over the past three decades.  He is a wizard, and worth every penny spent his way.  There was a point in time when local cops were intentionally targeting cabbies, and but for Doug, too many of us would have been put out of business permanently, all those tickets guaranteeing we were off the road for the next five years.  

I have many favorite Doug Silva stories, although the top tale for me stems from my last moving violation ticket from at least 7 or more years ago.  A very unpleasant Seattle cop had issued me a ticket for nothing whatsoever.   Knowing it was complete bullshit, I hired Doug but I made the big error of not appearing with him.  If I had, I would have told the judge "I certainly did not confess to this violation!" because that is exactly what the dishonest cop wrote to the court.  Since I wasn't there, I was found guilty.  What did Doug do in response?  He paid my fine!  Truly beyond the call of duty but a great example of how seriously he takes his cases.  More than a lawyer, he was a kind of friend, Doug understanding all too well what the cops were up to.  

More than angry, I wrote a letter to the then Seattle Chief of Police.  He wrote me back but to this day I have never opened the letter, unhappy to the point that no words can right the wrong done to me.  That cop was crazy.  His actions making no sense but when you have all the power, and a gun to back it up, this kind of stuff sometimes happens.  It wasn't Doug's fault.  He was blindsided. 

Here is Doug Silva's contact info:

206-772-2225       FAX 206-772-0355

8404 83rd Ave SW, Suite H, Lakewood, WA 98498

Office hours M-F: 8:30 AM-4:30 PM

No, Steve, You Were Not Going to be Kidnapped in Spain by Communists in 1972

I have a neighbor who once drove cab, and like so many cabbies of an era, he holds outlandish conceptions of what life is like, and unfortunately, existing in their own concocted fantasy world.  Before trying his hand at cab driving, for years he was a ship builder, and had the good luck of constructing Trident-Class submarines.  

Amazing to me, he reported that he and others were taken along on trial runs to Spain and Scotland.  What I found incredibly funny is that he told me that when the boat docked in Rota, Spain, none of the worker crew were allowed to visit the city.  Why?  Because communist thugs were lurking nearby, waiting to kidnap him.  

I asked him if he knew anything about General Francisco Franco, the Fascist Dictator who ruled Spain from 1939 to November 20th, 1975?   Of course he didn't and he didn't care, going on to say they also docked at Dundee, Scotland, which held the same warning: the communists were out to get him.  I said, "But Steve, that is the UK." which prompted his repeated shouts, "It was the Cold War! the Cold War!   After that, I just gave up.   Why even mention George Orwell's classic book about the Spanish Civil War?   There was no point.  

Speaking of the United Kingdom

I will be flying to London on October 3rd.  From there to other destinations.  If I encounter any taxi stories I will relate them.  

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

My Last (And I Mean It) Protracted Conversation With A Seattle/King County Taxi Regulator---Perceived Wrongdoings And Other Issues & Who WantsTo Be Treated Like This? & The PediCab Experience & Wild Little Park In Seattle & Quick Seattle Street Quiz: Where Is This Intersection?

 I Am Done Talking

Last Monday I had a nearly 1 1/2 hour telephone conversation with a local taxi regulator, someone who sincerely believes he has the best interests of the industry at heart.  But there is one thing I do know for sure.  As nice as he is, he's too far removed from taxi, having never driven a cab, to fully comprehend it.  I know that he and other City of Seattle and King County regulators will deny this, but  sorry folks, my 35 plus years in the business tells me otherwise.  I have mentioned this before in the past but Doctors regulate Doctors, Engineers regulate Engineers simply because no one else truly understands their field of work and study.  Since taxi driving is misunderstood, and not appreciated for the industrial science it is, government has decided it isn't necessary to involve drivers and owners who know what is best for the industry.  

Concerning the new pending ordinances, making it worse is government's insistence on consulting political entities like Teamsters Local 117, listening to those who, while well-meaning, are clueless to the reality and needs of taxi owner/operators.  Local 117 for instance has convinced the Seattle Mayor that it is a great idea to cap all association/dispatch company revenue at 10%, even though no one can operate at that level of funding.  

As many know, I am not a great fan of how Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab) is run but putting a false cap on their revenue stream will only result in their demise.  15 to 17% is a more realistic operational expectation.  More than once I have been asked by owner/operators to create a new taxicab association but it can't be financed "out-of-thin-air."  There must be a viable revenue stream.  Otherwise, PSD and any other potential association simply will not exist.  Then what will the drivers do?  They will drive for Uber, that's what they will do.  

Getting back to last Monday's conversation, we talked about the high cost of insurance and how it impacts taxi drivers.  He reminded me that Uber pays for the insurance when the drivers are in "real service mode," with a passenger on board, meaning their insurance costs more-or-less matches what the taxi industry pays.  

But for Seattle Uber drivers, that cost never personally impacts them.  While yes, Uber takes 25-40 % of each fare but when the driver is taking home $30-50.00 per hour, he/she doesn't care, Uber can earn what they want as long as money rolls in for the driver.  Do I have to repeat it again, that the Seattle cabbie must first earn $18,000 before they make a dime?  

One of my biggest disagreements last Monday centered upon the proposal that all complaints will be handed directly through the City and County, this while not allowing the driver to immediately challenge the allegation.  What this kind of process does is hold the driver hostage to whatever has been said about him or her.  I know all about these kinds of allegations because, over the course of 35 plus years I have been falsely accused of theft, of physical abuse, sexual abuse and other improprieties, none of which happened. 

I never have forgotten the complaint filed by a HopeLink passenger because I didn't take Montlake Blvd northbound to NE 65th, the allegation taking over a month to resolve.  One part of this is, since the fare was a flat-rate, the passenger was not negatively impacted by my chosen route.  And why did I decide to take 15th NE instead of Montlake?  Because that stretch of Montlake was closed in both directions due to CONSTRUCTION.  Though I told the passenger that, he still complained.  Welcome to taxi as it really is, which is why no one other than cabbies themselves should be making rules governing their industry. 

Anyway, I am bowing out of any further involvement.  I have had enough of the never ending nonsense.  It is driving me insane.  Enough. 

Calling me "Dad"

I realize I don't even want to describe all the details of foolishness regarding a simple ride from the Viewridge neighborhood to Ballard.  Somehow, our ages came up in conversation, and finding out I was merely one year older he was, the male customer became strangely mocking, twice saying, "Okay Dad! Goodbye Dad!"  Was it because he looked years older than me?  Or that his hair had gone completely white?  Who knows but his underlying aggression was uncalled for.  This is how drivers are treated.  Ain't it fun?

Pedicab Drivers Making $$$

Sunday, a pedicab driver walked up to my car and said, "I read your blog."  Turns out he once drove for Orange Taxi.  We got to talking, with him telling me that during the Cruise Ship season, he is sometimes making $500.00 a day.  His general average on Seahawk football days is over $300.00.  I asked how all that pedaling impacted him?  His quick answer was "I now have an electric bike."   Good for him.  Given that winter is coming, he's thinking of driving a cab again.  I advised to try the airport.  That's where he will find a cab to drive and nowhere else.  As we all know, the business has changed, and not for the good. 

North Beach Natural Area

Near the intersection of 24th NW & NW 90th, you will find this small greenbelt transformed into a local park.  What is amazing is that in the midst of all of the surrounding houses, it is a wild place where your shoes will get muddy.  Suddenly, the trail takes you into a kind of wilderness.  Try it out.  It's on the west side of 24th NW.  Look for the nearby school. 

Okay, Taxi Whizzes! Where is the Intersection of NW Culbertson Drive & Sherwood Road NW?

If anyone knows this right off the taxi bat, please leave me a comment.  Seattle has many hidden streets and this locale is one that is new to me.  How did I find it?  In the past, I have talked about favorite city parks, and Llandover Woods, located at NW 145th & 3rd NW, is somewhere I have been walking for years now.  But what I haven't done until recently was walk directly west out of the park, ending up on what is Sherwood Road NW.  It is bordered to the north by a greenbelt extending nearly to the Puget Sound.  By continuing to walk, the street bends a bit southwest, taking you to the above mentioned intersection.  Right off Sherwood is a ten-foot long trail taking you to a creek.  It is special.  Stop and park your cab in the parking lot off of 3rd NW and begin walking.  Stretch those taxi legs!  And you will be glad you did.  

Sunday, September 17, 2023

More About Taxi: Special Finance And Housing Committee Meeting, Seattle City Council, Thursday September 14th, 2023 & WAT Owner Out Of Business For Three Months & A Good Example Why Uber Is Killing Taxi

 The Changes that I Have Told you were on the Taxi Horizon Are Coming

Or maybe not.  First, soon there will be a similar meeting held at the King County Council, where they will attempt to match the bureaucratic language in somewhat competing yet cooperative ordinances.  Another part of that "maybe not" comment is that it appears that ordinances will not be effective until March 31st, 2025, or March 31st, 2026 at the earliest.  

Why such a long timeline I can't tell you but how can a 2-3 year lag-time or delay be reasonable?  Much can happen, and for the taxicab industry, it could be the death knell for our local cab industry.  If anyone is entirely honest, they know it's true, with only one truly operational taxi association, PSD/Yellow; and of course that motley crew working the Sea-Tac airport.  The entire document numbers just over one-hundred pages, much of it repetitive language other than for a few highlights, which I will briefly describe.  

The meeting itself had only two council members in actual physical attendance, Teresa Mosqueda, who led the meeting, and a very silent Sara Nelson sitting in the far left corner of the council chambers. Everyone else, including council staff members, appeared over Zoom video, science fiction now 21st Century reality.  

In the audience sat perhaps 30-40 cabbies.  A total of 12 people spoke, including myself, in 2-minute long slots.  Amin, the PSD general manager, arrived a bit let but was allowed to testify.  Most were there to support the new ordinance provision limiting association revenue from drivers to 10% of gross fare revenue.  If that stays as written, it probably means the end to Seattle taxi associations as they have been known, 10% a starvation diet leading to the cab cemetery.  

My two minutes spoke to the economic disparity between TNC and taxicab reality, repeating my now manta that the Seattle cabbie has to earn $18,000 in a given year before making a dime for themselves.  I also said, that if new training is going to be required, it should also be mandatory for Uber and Lyft, with training problems designed by people like me.  I know you and everyone else have had enough of our taxi lives directed by those who have never labored beneath the toplight.   Do these well-meaning folks at the City and County really believe there will be a functional taxi industry to regulate in 2026?  I can only laugh.

The following are the ordinances dictating your future, providing only the initial ordinance numbers along with some introductory text.  In CB 120652, I will not include all the code numbers because, without the text, they will be meaningless.

CB 120652     AN ORDINANCE relating to taxicabs and for-hire vehicles; repealing or deleting            provisions intended to no longer be in effect in separating the taxicab and transportation transportation company industries; conforming to changes in state law; adding a new section 6.310.101 to the Seattle Municipal code and sections...............

CB 120653   AN ORDINANCE relating to taxicabs and for-hire vehicles; separating and amending taxicab and for-hire industry regulations; adding a new chapter 6.311 to the Seattle Municipal Code; and amending Sections 11.14.235 and 15.17.005 of the Seattle Municipal Code.  

CB 120656  AN ORDINANCE relating to the Department of Finance and Administrative Services; authorizing the Director of Finance and Administrative Services or designee to execute an inter-local agreement with King County to regulate for-hire transportation.  

To get the full text sent to you, contact the Chair at 206-684-8808 or email to request what should have been sent to every taxi and TNC licensee in Seattle and KC.  My taxi for-hire driver's license is still current.  I never received anything.  How did I find out about the meeting?  Through a contact.  

Perhaps one of the more compelling provisions offered by these changes would be the making of regional medallions, replacing the now separate City and County plates.  This would also allow current City/County dual-plated cabs to magically become two "regionally-plated" cabs.  Another is the transformation of flat rate for hire vehicles into taxicabs.  

Years ago, like 15-17 years ago, the Seattle taxi industry were begging for more medallions.  Now that the industry is nearly dead, with insurance rates 4-6 thousand dollars higher than for TNC operation, Seattle and King County is proposing expanding the number of taxis.  Isn't that nonsensical, underlining the regulatory mismanagement we have seen now for decades?  Yes, nonsensical appears to be the correct assessment. 

WAT Van Operator Dead in the Taxi Water

At the meeting, I sat next to my old taxi colleague, D.T.  He had some alarming news.  Someone had crashed into his van, destroying it.  In the interval, waiting for the other driver's insurance to come through, he sits, unable to work.  I asked if his van was covered by personal collision insurance?  He said no, that he couldn't obtain coverage.  Odd story.  I advised him to forget about taxi and drive Uber.  No overhead and easy money.  Why not?  There is absolutely no GOOD personal financial incentive to continue driving a taxi.  As I keep saying, Uber and Lyft won the transportation wars.  Taxicab drivers are the walking wounded.  

Beyonce Uber Surge Magic

I worked Uber Thursday night, anticipating making some money because of the silliness associated with the Beyonce concert located at Lumen Field (the Seahawk stadium).   No business until 11:30 PM, then suddenly it was BOOM!, Uber ride requests exploding, and due to Uber's infamous fare price surging, I instantly was making BIG money.  

What happened in my two hours post-concert was unusual, something I haven't experienced other than when working a long-distance fare.  I made $120.00 per hour for two connective hours.  Do the simple addition and that's $240.00 for two hours work.  

In my 35-plus years driving taxi, under normal fare circumstances, that never happened before.  Plenty of $50.00 hours connectively but not like this.  Is Uber stealing from its customers?  Obviously they are.  Another element included in these new taxi ordinances are smart meters allowing for a similar type of price gouging.  Isn't that nice, taxi as immoral as Uber.  

I will remind you of that well know saying,"laughing all the way to the bank."  But is all this actually funny?  No, it isn't.   No "Ha Ha Ha" this time around.  

Friday, September 8, 2023

Driving Taxi Is A Terrible Existence & Brief iCabbi Update---Do Not Wonder Why Uber Won The Battle & Is King County Picking On Eastside-For-Hire?

The Body Say It All: Driving Taxi Ain't No Fun

I should have written this last Sunday after working the first University of Washington Husky college football game of the season.  Of course I was driving an Uber shift but my body doesn't care what I call it because its complaint is the same: why are you doing this to me?  Yes, I made money, and as I have repeatedly said, I have always made good money driving taxi, and now Uber.  Of course, when I was 10-20 years younger, the negative effects of dumbbell passengers, idiot drivers, a gasoline-polluted workplace, along with working 12-22 hour-long shifts didn't impact as it does now.  But the overall compelling taxi reality is everyone is treated little better than a Dalit, more commonly known as an untouchable.  And it at times I wished I was, in another sense, truly "untouchable," having endured poking, grabbing and an in general molestation that was and remains unacceptable. Do I believe that all my years driving beneath the toplight was justifiable?  No, is my simple response. And my body wholeheartedly agrees. 

A 50/50 Split 

Talking to someone who knows, I was told half of the drivers appreciate the new iCabbi system, embracing its money-making features, with the other 50 % not so happy.  Why?  Because its preventing them from cheating, as many drivers registered false no-shows and other shenanigans designed to thwart the system, ripping off their fellow cabbies.  Why, surprise, surprise, many will have to actually be honest, even though it's against their criminal nature.  What these taxi clowns never understood is their behavior opened up the door to Uber and Lyft.  Who killed the American taxicab industry?  We did.

King County and Eastside-for-Hire: An Ensuing Argument

For the past few years,  King County Regulators have been on Eastside-for-Hire's butt, claiming they owe the County money, that they haven't filed proper paperwork, etc.  The reality, as I wrote a few days ago to the one KC Taxi/TNC/ For-hire regulator I know well, is that, since the COVID-19 pandemic, Eastside exists in name only beyond any other pretense.  The reason is simple.  The vast majority of the Eastside owner/operators stopped paying their association dues months if not years ago, creating the empty shell that is Eastside.  Still, despite this, many Eastside drivers continue to work Sea-Tac Airport as if they are legal entities, which they are not, riding free and easy due to King County and the Port of Seattle's indifference.   

This is what I recommended to the KC official, outlining one of three choices.  One, insist that they pay all their back association dues to Eastside.  Two, if not wanting to do that, they must join another association.  Or three, if they don't take one of these two steps, their medallions will be suspended.  

Of course, this will get everyone's immediate attention.  No more playing games with minor criminals.  Also, ending the various attacks directed at Eastside.  In other words, suddenly, everyone might start to become more serious, understanding there would be consequences to their behavior.  How novel a concept!


Thursday, August 31, 2023

Bad News For Seattle Cabbies: The Queen Anne Bartell's Drugstore Is Closing & Two Perspectives On New iCabbi Dispatch System & 252 Robotaxi Crashes In San Francisco Bay Area & Robotaxis Coming To A Local Street Near You

 Seattle's Last 24 Hour Pharmacy is Closing

Back in the late 1980s, there was only one 24 hour pharmacy open when your prescription need to be filled at 3 in the morning.  Located near the intersection of 26th and East Cherry, in the center of a then Cocaine Crack-era war zone, it was always an adventure getting your prescription filled.  I know this because I was driving for Farwest Taxi, making it a popular run in the early morning hours.  The usual pharmacist on duty matched the territory, a somewhat quirky individual who made the mundane somehow surreal.  

Later, quite thankfully, at least two other drugstores began offering 24 hour services but alas, no more, as the Uptown/Queen Anne Bartell's is closing its doors permanently on September 10th, 2023.  No longer will cabbies be rushing passengers there to fill an emergency prescription.  Where will you have to go instead?  Issaquah.  A better fare but one certainly not making an already ill passenger very happy.  Seattle, once a 24-hour city back in 1973 upon my arrival in that distant January, is closing down.  Does anyone truly care?   At least at City Hall, I am doubtful that they do.

iCabbi One and Two

One friend, an over 40 year taxi veteran, hates it, finds it confusing, and not quickly understanding all its "helpful" features.

Another friend, half the age of my aforementioned colleague, has more readily transitioned from the old MTI to the new iCabbi dispatch.  Clearly there are more initial steps regarding iCabbi but once learned, it should be superior to anything the industry has previously utilized.  iCabbi is very similar to the Uber app.  Hopefully soon, all the Seattle Yellow cabbies will have mastered the system, and suddenly, their beaming smiles will light up any cloudy Seattle taxi day.


There are three robotaxi companies operating in SF and area. Zoox has been involved in 42 crashes.  Waymo, 110.  GM Cruise, 64.  All these since Jan 1, 2022, for a total of 252.  Safer?  Maybe not.

Run for Your Lives: The Great Robotaxi Invasion is Attacking Seattle

Yes, taxi boys and girls, Cruise and Waymo robotaxis will soon be visiting Seattle streets.  Look for one DT soon.  Won't it be fun, new technology beneath the not always shining Seattle sun?


Monday, August 21, 2023

Elder Abuse?--"-What Are Ya Doing? Ya Old Geezer" & San Francisco Robotaxi Service Expansion Already In Trouble & Killer Arrested And Charged & Saudi Border Guards Kill Hundreds Of Ethiopian Migrants

I Have Been Called Many Names 

When driving a cab, and now Uber, part of the experience is finding yourself treated like public property, many finding permission to say and do anything they want to the inanimate object that so happens to be a living and breathing human being.  Am I ever surprised by such crazed behavior?  Well, this past Saturday night, after finding myself stuck in post-football game traffic game on 1st Avenue South, I realized there was a way out, and while attempting to pierce a line of cars blocking my way to an open driveway, a young female voice rang out, calling me an old geezer.  

Admittedly  I am getting somewhat "long in the tooth" as it's sometimes said, though most never guess I am five months away from my 70th birthday.  Most commonly I am called "you faggot" but this time it was a different moniker.  As I said, abuse is something I'm familiar with.  What if a passenger says they love me?  I wouldn't like that either.  One might say, "with you, no one can win."  And you know, I cannot disagree. 

Kind of Funny

It didn't take long for something bad to occur after GM Cruise and Waymo were given permission to operate their robotaxi services throughout the City of San Francisco minus any time of day limitations. Last Thursday night a Cruise robocab was hit by a fire truck on the way to an emergency call.  The solo passenger was injured and taken to a local hospital, this being one of two collisions happening that night.  And another Cruise car drove into a construction site, suddenly mired in wet cement. 

Due to these incidents, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) intervened, ordering GM Cruise to reduce their operational fleet by half, translating to 50 daylight cars and 150 night vehicles.  Per my prediction made last week, the first fatality will shut down the San Francisco robotaxi experiment permanently.  

Cruise's explanation as to why the fire truck accident occurred wasn't convincing, saying a tall building blocked essential communication to their vehicle.  And they want to operate in a city filled with giant office buildings?   What will be their next excuse?  

Neiana M. Allen-Bailey Charged with First Degree Murder

The 18-year-old woman who murdered Lyft driver Amare Geda, was officially charged and held on $2 million dollar bail.  There is surveillance video of Allen-Bailey fatally shooting Geda.   

Murder and Mayhem on the Saudi Arabian/Yemen Northern border 

The human rights agency, Human Rights Watch, has just released a special report entitled, "They Fired On Us Like Rain," detailing a series of attacks by Saudi troops on unarmed Ethiopian migrants attempting to enter Saudi Arabia from Yemen.  Using machine gun and mortar fire, they have mowed down men, women and children, killing hundreds of defenseless victims.  Saudi Arabian authorities claim to know nothing about the murders.  That is not believable.  

The next time you see an Ethiopian cabbie or TNC driver, know they are here in the USA for real reasons, their country the past three decades experiencing a series of internal and external conflicts.  Currently, nearly 20 million Ethiopians are facing hunger and starvation.  And now this tragedy.  Tip your driver generously.  They could very well be sending money back to family members.  Do what you can.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Greetings From San Francisco: He Has Had Enough!---Longtime Seattle/King County Yellow Taxi Cabbie Quits And Moves To Rural California & Bullshit Uber Driver Deactivations & Robotaxi Service Expansion Approved For San Francisco & Longtime Seattle Cabbie And TNC Driver Murdered At 1st South And Walker---GoFundMe Page & Seattle Mariner's Baseball Attendance Up

Not Flowers, Only Taxi Receipts in my Hair

Writing from the not-unpleasant confines of my 16th & Valencia (Mission District) hotel room.  I am here in the Bay Area meeting with my longtime writing comrade Jake, fine-tuning the pages of my newest book, "To Age 13."  He is helping me install some software that speeds up the editing.  I am dead serious about this book getting the publishing deal it well deserves.  That's why I am here, along with visiting the De Young, eating Chinese dumplings and Mission District burritos.  I love San Francisco.  I hate Seattle. 

He Grew Tired of Killing Himself for $5000.00 a Month

As I have always said, there's money to be made, lots of money driving a taxi in Seattle and King County but the hours and expenses associated with driving a cab are a killer, prompting a taxi buddy, after his leased cab was totaled by an errant driver, to hightail it to northern California east of Redding.  Part of the issue was, after a more stable (and cheaper) housing situation disappeared, he found himself in a $ 2000.00-a-month Sea-Tac motel room.  And with a $500.00 weekly taxi lease, along with the high cost of gasoline, all the money he was making was flushed down the proverbial toilet, never allowing him to get ahead, never saving some of that hard-gained money.  The car required an over $10,000 repair, which the owner simply couldn't afford to repair or replace.  

Now my friend is living outside of a small town renowned for its magnificent waterfall.  Last time I spoke to him he was applying for a job at an auto parts store.  Sounds like a good match, having spent the majority of his adult life driving a car.  He certainly knows about repairs, and in his case, repairing himself from the many damaging years driving a cab.  I too know all about that subject, finding myself as only another dented body in life's wrecking yard.  Who wants to be there?

Racial Bias Found in Uber Driver Deactivations 

A University of Washington study found patterns of racial discrimination when Uber deactivated operators from their platform, a problem affecting thousands of drivers, a simple unsubstantiated complaint often resulting in serious consequences.   In Seattle, a ten-year Uber veteran was deactivated last September after dealing with two drunk passengers first vomiting in his car, then attacking him once he pulled over, all the blame falling upon him.  It was only this month that he has been reactivated, costing him many months in lost wages.  Luckily for him, a new WA State law creating a TNC driver resource center assisted him and others in dealing with an opaque Uber bureaucracy.  For Uber drivers in other states, watch out is the best anyone can say, Uber is not always your best friend.

Robotaxis on the Loose

On August 10th, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), in a 3-1 vote, gave approval to GM Cruise and Waymo to expand their operations 24/7 in the city of San Francisco, removing all previous restrictions.   One of the claims made by Cruise and Waymo is that their service will save lives but all passengers must first sign a waiver exempting the companies from liability if the robotaxi kills them in an accident.  On the very next day after the CPUC decision, ten Cruise robotaxis stalled all in a row, blocking a narrow street.  

This is my prediction. Within the next year, passenger or passengers will die in a robotaxi due to some kind of malfunction, setting off lawsuits and the cancellation of the service.  And I won't be surprised if the CPUC itself is sued.  As one might rightfully say, the responsibility is all theirs.

Amare Geda GoFundMe site

Last Tuesday, a longtime taxi/TNC driver was murdered at the corner of 1st South and South Walker at 3:30 AM.  The suspect, an 18-year-old woman, was later arrested and is being held under a $2 million bail.  She stole his car, driving it for 3. days.  A Go Fund Me page has been set up for him.  I urge everyone who can donate to assist his widow and three children.


A Winning Team Helps

2023 Mariner's attendance is up this year, so far averaging over 30,000 fans, an average of just over two thousand from last year's totals.   More fans equal more money for everyone picking them up.  Go team!


Sunday, August 6, 2023

Uber In The News: For One Quarter They Show A Profit & Uber Surge Surprises CEO & New I-5 Northbound Third Lane At Seneca Street & New Colman Dock (Pier 52) Terminal Is Now Open & A Night Out With The South Sudanese Community & Seahawk Pre-Season Beginning This Upcoming Thursday & iCabbi Training Schedule In Current PSD Online Newsletter

Uber Making $$$ and Charging You the Customer more

For the first time since its inception in 2009, namely in 14 years, Uber has finally turned a quarterly profit, reporting it made $326 million from $9.23 billion posted revenue.  Good news for Uber but the bad news for Uber passengers is that rates have increased 50% from a year ago.  On the profit news, Uber's stocks declined in value.  Oh well, you can't make everyone happy.  Especially the greedy a-holes gambling on Wall Street. 

"Oh my god!" was Uber's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's response

Wired Magazine editor Steven Levy took a Manhattan Uber ride 2.9 miles long to meet up with the Uber CEO.  When asked to guess how much the ride cost, Khosrowshahi guessed $20.00.  Wrong.  The fare was $51.69.  But what I want know is, how much did the driver get?  Now that's important. 

Driving Northbound on I-5 Through DT Seattle Is Suddenly Easier

Something correct has finally occurred with local highway infrastructure, with the very recent opening of a third northbound lane I-5 at Seneca Street.  Drivers can now easily exit upon westbound Seneca without getting tangled up with those proceeding north.  It is a great improvement.  Bravo! 

New DT Ferry Terminal and Dock now open

In all my decades driving taxi, one destination above all stood out, having delivered more passengers to the Pier-52 Bainbridge Island/Bremerton ferry dock than any other transportation terminus.  More than Sea-Tac airport.  More than the King Street Amtrak train station.  More than the Greyhound Bus terminal.  How many times I've had to rush passengers down the road to avoid missing their ferry is beyond remembering.   Given that reality, I am pleased, that after four years of construction, the new ferry terminal is now ready for the hordes traveling across Elliot Bay.  I have yet to see what they have done to accommodate drop-offs and pick-ups but I will provide a report as soon as I see it for myself.   I am hopeful.

It Was Both Special and an Honor

Last night, Saturday August 5th, I attended a South Sudanese graduation party as the guest of my taxi buddy, James, originally from South Sudan.  Despite a late start, it was a great success, with the pot luck banquet especially delicious.  While enjoying stuffing myself with unfamiliar dishes, the highlight of the evening was a circular dance performed by the colorfully dressed older ladies, round and round they went commemorating the teenaged high school graduate.  Also special was a long prayer said before the meal began.  Truly a wonderful experience. 

The festive evening took me back to my two years (1964-66)  in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada, remembering the often warm hospitality I received from the native Cree, my friend Bobby's mother serving me piping hot bannock along with beaver, muskrat, moose and buffalo.  During our last months there, the Cree invited me and my father to participate in a "tea" dance, tramping thorough the snow in a circular procession, happy, similar to last night, to be included, not as an outsider but as a trusted friend.  I repeat, what an honor it was in 1966, and now, once again in 2023.  

Sporting Events are of the Utmost Importance for Making $$$

Yes, the Seahawk NFL season is coming up, with Thursday's first pre-season game of the year beginning at 7:00 PM.   Who is the opponent I neither know nor care but I will be there working the maddening crowds.  You too should make an appearance.  

Also, in less than a month from now, the University of Washington college football season begins with a home game on Saturday, September 2nd, at 12:55 PM.   The Husky Football stadium has a seating capacity of over 73,000, meaning it is always a good place to catch a fare during halftime and toward a game's conclusion.   Rah Rah, go Huskies!

Puget Sound Dispatch iCabbi Training this week

Don't miss it, the training beginning tomorrow morning.  The more you know about the new system, the more money you'll make.  Obvious but many do not immediately grasp what should be easy.  Check out the online schedule posted in the current PSD newsletter.  Good luck with the new system.    

Monday, July 31, 2023

Veteran San Francisco Cabbie Takes A Spin In A Robotaxi & NYC Cabbie Attacked And Beaten & Hey Seattle Cabbies: Remember That You Are Operating A Business

San Francisco Standard's Article and Video---"We Took a San Francisco Cabbie for a Driverless Car Ride.  He Had Opinions."

In a July 27th article by Han Li, Barry Taranto, a longtime "City-by-the Bay" cab driver and board member of the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance, took a ride in a robotaxi from Delores Park in the in the Mission District to Lands End in the Richmond neighborhood, essentially the oceanside end of Golden Gate Park.  The attached two minute video is worth watching, Mister Taranto providing nonstop commentary along the way.  Some of the positives to the autonomous cab, according to Taranto were "It doesn't have road rage." and "It's not cursing out other drivers," which I'm sure is true.  The ride is a hilarious moment in current taxi history.  Worth checking out.

New York City Cabbie Afzal Butt Makes a Poor Decision---He Got Out of his Cab

New York media was abuzz with the July 19th story that five people, three women and two men, attacked and unmercifully beat a Yellow cabbie on a Manhattan street.  Why all this happened was not explained.  Also not explained was why, since these folks were not his passengers, he got out of the cab to argue with them.  The cabbie was hit with both fists and shoes.  Two of the assailants were immediately arrested.  The three other suspects are being sought.   Again, lock the doors, stay in that cab.

Imagine Yourself as a Grocery Story, or a Coffee Shop

In other words, all of my fellow cabbie comrades need to finally recognize that they are legitimate business owners, incumbent upon them to understand what their obligations are 24/7.  Operating in a daze is not acceptable.  Why am I saying all this?   Because many driving Seattle Yellow cabs remain unaware how to deal with City licensing requirements, along with ignoring Puget Sound Dispatch when PSD wants to talk to them.  When will it ever end?

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Kinda Crazy---800 Blog Posts And Counting & More Than 15,000 Lyft Drivers Underpaid & Roadway Chaos Not Your Imagination----745 Dead On WA ST Highways & Streets in 2022 & Beavers And Owls

 This Is My 801st Posting

Last week was my 800th post, certainly a personal milestone, and perhaps a milestone in the history of cab driving, a subject not merely ignored but something not even considered, delegated to the cultural sewer, flushed directly down organized society's toilet.  Having begun over twelve years ago in 2011, my intention was to give voice not only to the overall experience that is taxi driving but also to a credible history, one that, too obviously to me, going unnoticed and unrecognized.  

Scrolling through all these weekly columns, I believe you will find what was once an invisible history now revealed, made available to anyone who might be interested, "RealSeattleTaxi" a minute examination of what it means to drive "beneath the toplight," highlighting both its terrors and glories.   Welcome, I say, to a world within a world I have intimately known since my innocent and very unintentional introduction to cab way back in September 1987.  Who wanted to be a cab driver?  Not me.  

Good or bad, up or down, taxi is an unique environment, truly a microscopic examination of a universal human behavior, cab driving then more than just mere transportation, in real terms a kind of mobile laboratory exploring all aspects of our shared existence.  Given that reality, much of what can be found in these many lines scribbled over the years both appalling and exhilarating, and ultimately, as I have found taxi to be, exhausting, not consoling nor restful.  

But I do assure you, everything published over these past years is the truth, and if the truth, as is said, setting you free, these assorted posts present you the reader an escape from the bondage of the ordinary to the freedom and bedlam that is, and always will be, taxi, life at its worst, and best.  Having written it myself, never a truer statement ever made, taxi down and dirty and certainly, rarely pretty.

Lyft Said It Was An Unintentional Mistake---RCW 49.46.300

The WA State Department of Labor and Industry found that Lyft underpaid 15,271 drivers by a quarter (1/4) of one cent for each minute and mile of their trips.  A Lyft self-audit determined that $193,000 (actual $192,991.30) was the amount owed and repaid to the drivers.  What does that amount to for each driver?  A more or less $12.00.   Let everyone head off to Starbuck's and get one of those overpriced coffees. Hurrah!

Yes, Madness Upon State of Washington Streets and Roads

Mayhem and chaos remain the prevailing theme these days upon Seattle and Washington streets.  Sunday night, a driver proceeding the wrong way down Fifth Avenue in downtown Seattle refused to stop and turn around, continuing forward despite common sense.  This kind of  idiocy illustrates why 745 people died in 2022 in car accidents in our Evergreen State.  A few days ago, six passengers were killed in Tacoma in a 2-car accident.  Those killed were 6 of 7 passengers riding in 2021 Kia Forte designed for only five passengers, yet another example of stupid irresponsible behavior, all the fatalities dumbbell kids.

Everyday I am witness to potentially fatal actions on local roadways.  When will it ever end?  According to some, when all of us are being driven around in robotic cars but if you believe that then back in 1968 you would have bought a used car from Richard Nixon, definitely not a good idea, not a trustworthy purchase.  But unbelievably 31,004,304 voted for the lemon that was Mister Nixon.  We can thank Nixon for the subcompact Henry Kissinger driving the USA to the car wreck that was the conclusion of the Vietnam War.

Can't Make it to the Mountains, Beavers and Owls are Waiting for you in Seattle

As I have encouraged everyone to get out into the wilderness, Seattle itself has a bit of the wild to entertain you, last week coming across two beavers chewing branches in Carkeek Park ( located off of 117th & NW 3rd), and three big Great Horned Owls roosting in Llandover Woods, 143rd and NW 3rd.  Get out and hug a tree, you'll be healthier for it.   Park that cab, quit squawking, start walking! 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Sunday To Sunday Hiking & How To Stop A San Francisco Robotaxi & Lyft Driver Murdered In WA DC

 Get Off Those Streets and into the Mountains!

From Sunday July 2nd to Sunday July 9th, I camped and hiked in the general Mount Baker/North Cascades National Park area.  I'm telling you this, and briefly describing the hikes, to encourage everyone to get out and walk up some mountains and along rivers and creeks.  I'm glad I took the time and I know that you too would enjoy leaving bad, old Seattle behind.  A quick overview of those eight days wandering the trails and roads off State Route 20:

That first day I set up camp above the Skagit River near Hamilton, WA.  My sister has property up there, making it a convenient spot to set up without having to daily pack up.  Also making it ideal was the more or less three mile drive to Rasar State Park, allowing ready access to toilets and showers.  For 50 cents you get a three-minute long shower, very refreshing after a long day hiking.   It also has a trail along the Skagit River.

Monday, I took it easy and walked in the Hurn Field Conservation Area, a nice property conserved by the Skagit Land Trust.  I also discovered the 22.5 mile long Cascade Trail that parallels Highway 20 to the north.  I walked for about a mile but the section I was on was too close to the road, traffic noice something I wasn't interested in hearing.

Tuesday I picked what I thought would be an easy trek, the 3.4 mile roundtrip Diobsud Creek trail but turning out to be fairly arduous, a rocky path eventually  petering out in some head-high growth, making it difficult to proceed forward.   The raging creek was good company, and at the very beginning, I found red huckleberries, and a little further down the trail, plenty of blue huckleberries along with lots of yellow salmon berries.  One major plus was having the trail solely to myself save encountering a couple and their dog upon their return to the trailhead, blessed solitude a balm in this noisy 21st Century.

Wednesday I decided on something easier, choosing to walk the Skagit-Sauk Reach trail located in the tiny burg of Rockport.  It's a wonderful trail taking one along the north side of the Skagit River.  Once again, I had a trail mostly to myself but for a lone jogger.  Other than her quick presence, the river's great expanse was mine to enjoy along with many thimbleberries to munch on.  During certain times of the year, it can be a good place to watch eagles catch salmon.  Whatever your motive might be, I recommend this walk, soothing to the mind and soul. 

Thursday my first choice of hikes was stymied by a road closure, forcing me to choose a trail somewhat close by, that being the 7.4 RT Park Butte trail, a path taking me up and up with an over 2000 foot elevation gain, ultimately providing wonderful views of a looming Mount Baker and other surrounding peaks and mountains.  While enjoying the alpine expanse, my poor body wasn't quite ready for that kind of push up into the mountains.  Regardless, I remain pleased I made the effort, telling me one of my favorite places to be is above tree line, my hands extended toward blue heaven. 

Friday, my choice was the Baker River trail, a path leading north of that huge body of water, Lake Baker.  Once again I had the trail mostly to myself, especially the second half of the walk, requiring the negotiation of a weather-induced tangle of logs and destroyed riverbank, making for a few confusing minutes until deciphering just where the trail continued on.  The payoff was soothing silence taking me to the trail's end and Sulphide Creek, a wonderfully raucous stream officially located within the boundaries of North Cascades National Park.  Refreshing myself creekside, I could see beautiful Mount Shuksan towering to the northeast.  Incredible!

Saturday was somewhat frustrating because I wanted to hike to Slide Lake for a high elevation swim but the 20 mile long forest road proved to be too rough for my faithful but low to the ground Chevy Sonic, causing me to turn around.  For my alternatives, I first walked in the Barr Creek Conservation area, and after that, returning once more to the Skagit River-Sauk Reach trail, this time not meeting anyone upon the path.  I like that trail, and whenever I am back up in that part of the state, I'll visit it again.

Sunday, having to get back to Seattle for an early Monday morning eye appointment, I decided to extend my trip by detouring through Whidbey Island, taking the Clinton ferry back to the mainland.  On the way there, I stopped to walk in what is called the Northern State Hospital Recreation Area, a Skagit County park located on the grounds of the old psychiatric hospital just outside of Sedro-Woolley .  I found the concept a trifle disrespectful, further exemplified by the Seattle Times front page headlines greeting me this morning, "Lost Patients---Two People's Consuming Quest to Unearth the Truth about Washington's Abandoned Psychiatric Hospital," an in-depth article about Northern State Hospital.  I wandered the grounds, examining the still intact weathered, ominous looking buildings where untold suffering occurred, barred windows telling sad stories.  A quick doggerel poetic impression:

Let's have a holiday, 

let's have a picnic, 

on the psychiatric hospital grounds,

all anguished tears 

and frowns buried

and now forgotten, 

screams and cries and moans

a litany of terrible sounds

lost to the wind--- 

happy people now walking 

their dogs, oblivious 

to society's past egregious 


And a further point is that despite many information signs greeting visitors at the parking lot, there is not one mention of the hospital, its history or its residents.  I found that extremely odd given the name of the recreation area.  Is Skagit County in complete denial?  I think so, is the answer. 

After that, I continued on to a Whidbey Island initially swamped with visitors, prompting me to quickly head south and away from the maddening crowds.  One prime personal destination was Fort Ebey, an old WWI encampment known for its concrete gun emplacements.  Back in 1975,  I visited the park with Karen, an early Seattle girlfriend who was also a photographer, taking many photos of me walking on the beach.  

After Elby, I drove down down to South Whidbey State Park, a walk down to the beach made more interesting by a broken wooden stairwell allowed to tumble into complete disrepair.  Instead of steps, I was forced to rappel down an embankment using a rope provided by the park.  Somewhat unreal but once down, I had the beach to myself.  Sitting on a log, I watched an Alaska cruise ship head north, very glad I was no longer concerned with picking and dropping off all those thousands of vacation goers.  You can have them, not me. 

I loved the ferry ride from Clinton to Mukilteo, it being a few years since riding on a Washington State ferry, the short "ocean" cruise topping off my trip.  I'm ready to go back.  Who can blame me?

Decision Concerning San Francisco Robotaxis Delayed Until August 10th, 2023

Lots of noice and protest emanating from the City of San Francisco concerning the potential 24/7 approval of robotaxis being allowed to operate without restraint throughout the entire city.  City government, plus many private citizens are telling anyone who will listen that, given almost too many negative incidents to count, that the technology is too new to allow unfettered access to San Francisco's very crowded urban streets.  

The problem is that State of California law does not allow for the city to make its own decisions in this matter, instead control and decision making are in the hands of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), they alone retaining power of what will happen or not.  Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, and Waymo Robotaxi Services, are fighting to make sure the CPUC rules in their favor.  A few days ago, Cruise published full page ads in the NY Times and other major American newspapers saying that because Americans are such horrible drivers, autonomous vehicles are the logical solution to obvious human failings. 

Causing more controversy is that CPUC commissioner John Reynolds, for three years, served as managing counsel for Cruise.  Some think this might be some kind of conflict of interest, which of course it is.  Some San Francisco residents have come up with their own novel solution to stopping the robotaxis by placing an orange traffic cone on the car's hood.  After that, they don't move, which is the entire idea.  

Another somewhat humorous development is the joining of cabbies and ride-share drivers in a collective effort to stop Waymo and Cruise.  Perhaps "strange bedfellows," but all of them see the robotaxis as a personal threat to their economic future.  Hard to argue against that. 

Given the uproar, official and otherwise, a decision one way or the other has been delayed by the CPUC until August 10th.  If they do approve expansion, it will be interesting to hear their justification, especially the words coming from the mouth of Mister Reynolds.  It might be amusing. Or perhaps not. 

Nasrat Ahmad Yar Murdered While Driving Lyft in WA DC

In early July, a former Afghan language interpreter who had assisted American forces in Afghanistan, was shot to death while driving for Lyft.  Four teenagers were caught on video fleeing the area.  A GoFundMe account has to this date brought in over a half a million dollars for his widow and five children.  To this date, no arrests have been made.