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.