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.  

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Taxi/Uber Rhyme & New Toll Rates For the Highway 520 Bridge Effective July 1, 2023 & WA ST Gasoline Now Highest In USA & Troublesome Intersection: S 129th And MLK JR South & Rioting In France


Driving taxi & Uber not so fun

dealing with every kind of fool

beneath the shining sun

be they in your car or on the road

you know these a-holes are

human toads 

you simply wish would disappear 

and stay away 

not just for tomorrow but to eternity's

last day 

hip hip hurray!

Speaking of Irritation: More $$$ out of your Pocket

Leaving the University District heading east, the best way across Lake Washington is the Evergreen Point 520 Bridge but as of July 1st, you will be paying more.  Back in 1973, the toll was one dollar which was reasonable, though even better after the toll requirement was removed.  But since tolls have been reinstated, they keep going up in a reminder that Seattle is the 16th most expensive city on the planet.  Weekday rates are increasing between 20 cents and $1.10 depending on the time of day.  Peak rate time periods have expanded to 7-10 AM and 3-7 PM.  Peak rates top out at $4.50.  Weekend rate hikes vary between 20 and 40 cents, with the highest peak rate at $3.50 when driving between 11 AM and 6 PM.  You can be assured that many more drivers will now be clogging I-5 S-bound to reach the non-tolled I-90 Bridge.  It happened the last toll increase and there will be a repeat of same behavior.  Now don''t honk that horn, its not polite!

Gas Prices as High as Mount Rainer 

Yes, the Evergreen State now has the current distinction of have the highest average gasoline prices in the country.  In Seattle, it's over five dollars.  Want cheap gasoline?  Move down to Mississippi where gas is averaging $3.00 per gallon.  Hey, on my most recent car trip I filled up in Oregon for as little as $3.49 per gallon.  And now, holy cow, you can pump your gasoline in Oregon minus an attendant.   Ain't that good!?  National average price this 4th of July 2023 weekend is $3.24 per gallon of gasoline.  Last year it was $4.98.

No Fun on the Martin Luther King Way South Going through Skyway

Good recent article by Mike Lindblom in the Seattle Times describes the chaos at one particular State Highway 900 intersection.  Knowing that stretch of roadway well, it has been bad news for a very long time, speeding a very serious issue.  Coming off of I-5, drivers routinely speed up 70 mph and more.  It is nuts!   More concentrated enforcement is the answer.  How often have I seen stopped motorists?  Never is the sorry plain answer.  This weekend the full moon is beaming down upon an already deranged humanity, translating into a very good moment to avoid that troublesome section of Skyway/Tukwila MLK Way.  In general it's a wild part of Seattle/King County, the local residents sometimes rabid, ready to bite.   And that 129th intersection will not change for a very long time.  Approaching it, I advise patience and caution, and please, slow down.  Skip the jive, stay alive!

Where Ever You Are, Do Not Simply Drive Away When Stopped By The Police

For the past 6 days, there have been rioting across France after a cop killed a 17 year-old driver who began moving his car after a traffic stop.  The cop fired point blank into the car, killing the kid.  When stopped by the police, it is extremely important that you do not do anything that might be perceived as threatening.  Any sudden move and you might die.  Keep your hands in clear view.  Endure the insult and live.  Having been stopped between 75-100 times over my taxi years, I understand that the police are in complete control of the situation.  The vast majority are not nice.  Be careful!