Monday, January 1, 2024

Greetings From Arcata, CA: New Year's Eve Taxi Hodgepodge---Does Seattle Yellow Cab (Puget Sound Dispatch) Owe All the Drivers A Pile of Money? This And Other Grinning Ghosts From The Year That Was

 I Tell You Folks!

Yes, everyone, I find arrogance very annoying, and the arrogance displayed by PSD is too much to take, plainly thinking they can do anything they want minus accountability or consequence of any kind.  Their Holiday Pizza party angered me, perhaps that is what woke me up to another violation that went on year after year.  Each week, on our itemized receipts verifying we paid our weekly dispatch fees, we were charged $10.00 for advertising that never occurred.  Per driver, that comes to $520.00 per year.  

When the BYG Co-op (Seattle Yellow Cab) was going strong, they had at least 500 lease drivers and probably a lot more than that, serving a fleet of more or less 550 cabs.  Multiply $520.00 times 500 and the total is $260.000. for one full 52 week year.  Let's calculate one ten-year period and we find the total is 2,600,000 dollars.  That's right, millions of dollars are probably owed to everyone who has driven a Seattle Yellow Cab.  My very quick estimate is that we are collectively due over five million dollars, and that very well could be a conservative estimation.  

For years on end, on many levels, Seattle Yellow Cab did, and still does whatever the hell they want, knowing the City and County are either unwilling, or simply not having the legal authority to intervene. Wouldn't it be a shocker if past and present drivers request PSD pay up all those unused advertising funds?  

The current PSD owner is well known to have made untold millions in a roughly 30 year long period of operating 36 or more cabs.  I know he could afford to pay the money though it might mean selling off some of his properties, maybe even PSD itself.  Now wouldn't that be nice, a belated Christmas gift that keeps giving throughout the year?  If anyone doesn't think that these unused fees won't be an issue in 2024, you would be wrong.  This is what happens when you jam cheap pizza down the driver's throats.  That wasn't nice.  No, not at all.   Perhaps it is time for PSD to experience some financial indigestion.  

Minimum New Fare From Sea-Tac

On December 18th, 2023 (coincidently my 70th birthday), a new minimum fare policy for cabs operating out of Sea-Tac started, a now official minimum rate of $20.00 for all cab fares originating from the airport.  This new rule has some history, trying to halt an outrage that hurt drivers for too many years.  

What was happening is that much too often, after waiting one or two hours for a fare, a cabbie would get a fare to a local Sea-tac hotel, and since the Port of Seattle has a surcharge of $6.00 per each Sec-Tac originated fare, the cab ride would be a total loss to the driver.  Unfair it was, and this new rule attempts to assuage that injustice.  The new rule also allows the driver to charge the passenger an additional one dollar, reducing the surcharge to five dollars overall.   

Whether it makes the passenger happy is another question. What is obvious is that the Port of Seattle will not give up that $6.00.  It wants that money regardless of who it impacts.  Like an angry, growling dog gripping your pants leg, Sea-Tac will not let go, gritting its teeth, snarling. 

Yellow Cab 296 and His Bad Taxi Luck

My friend, the owner/operator of YC 296, has probably seen his last days as a cabbie.  A lifelong driver, he once owned seven independent cabs serving the airport.  I am not sure how many years he has been driving but it greatly surpasses my 35 plus years. On October 9th, he was hit from behind on North 145th while waiting to make a left hand turn.  The offending driver, minus license and insurance, hit my friend's 2011 Ford Crown Victoria at a speed between 40-50 mph.  All that Detroit steel saved him.  Otherwise, a very different story.  The driver was issued two citations by WSP. 

Thankfully, Washington State insurance rules have gotten him some money back in compensation.  Without it, he wouldn't have been able to pay his rent.  More money is coming but it could be nine months or more before it does.  So, like many former cabbies, he has turned to Uber.  Overall, it is a better deal for him, as I have been saying in these pages for months, the Uber overhead nothing when compared to taxi.  

This was his second bad accident in three years.  Two winters ago, a driver lost control of her car, went airborne and struck his cab that was on the opposite side of the roadway.  He was fortunate to survive that accident but his car was totaled.  Such is the fraught life of a cab driver.  

Puget Sound Dispatch lost the School Run Accounts

Until recently, transporting children to and from school was an account mainstay, something very dependable both in the mid-morning and in the late afternoons.  The vast majority of the trips were very good, ranging from $20-100.00 and and sometimes more.  Often, lucky drivers would sign up for an entire school season of round-trips, guaranteeing good money from only two fares.  Why did they disappear?   

I was told that the local school districts were now requiring one million dollars in insurance coverage to transport students, making it unaffordable.  Why the school districts made this decision is unknown to me.  I don't remember hearing of any serious accidents involving school runs.  What was their motive then?  

Perhaps I will never know but I wonder about PSD's advocacy for the owner/operators and how much effort they made to save these school accounts.  Also, another account negative is a very diminished HopeLink relationship, with fewer fares and lower rates.  

This is the reason why I keep saying that more transparency concerning PSD is highly necessary.  PSD's relationship with the driver's is opaque.  No one knows what they are doing, neither financially or questions regarding their operational efficiency.   A powerless workforce is unfortunately pliable, unwittingly providing a permission that must be taken away.  I tell the drivers this.  Do they listen, do they understand?  I am doubtful, is all I can say.

Is Farwest Planning Once Again on being A Major Taxi Player in Seattle and King County?

I have heard that this is true, that Farwest Taxi is planning on expanding its dispatch (currently terrible); and growing its fleet with all those flat-rate vehicles slated to become metered taxis.  One very big potential positive to this is that it could provide a viable option to Yellow Cab, providing owner/operators new negotiating power.  If Farwest offers the drivers some real incentive to change colors, offering lower dispatch fees and help with transition costs, it could be sayonara for Puget Sound Dispatch.  I am purposely writing this as a warning to Yellow, encouraging them to wake up before it is too late.  I am not vindictive.  I'd rather that Yellow survive despite my obvious criticism. 

Robo-Trucking Coming to your Interstate? 

In Texas, there have been two successful years of testing using safety drivers.   They don't exceed posted speed limits.  It could change the trucking industry forever.  Will it, is the obvious question mark.  Or after some terrible accident, will it go down in flames? 

More on that 10 Percent Rule

To elaborate a trifle more upon the City and County's attempt to protect cabbies from greedy associations, nothing appears to be written about limiting or eliminating set dispatch fees; instead it seems to provide permission for associations to charge an additional 10% of every dispatched fare while simultaneously charging set fees.  Huh?  Currently, Puget Sound Dispatch is charging owner/operators $195.00 per week.   Maybe somewhere in that huge 105 page ordinance it eliminates that ability but I doubt it.  

I've been told that this 10 percent provision was inserted on the behest of those troublesome do-gooders, Teamsters 117, a group of well-meaning but non-taxi experienced folks.  And this could be the entire issue with the new ordinance: it was created by people who have never driven a taxicab.  I have said more than once in these pages over the past 12 years that the biggest PROBLEM plaguing both the local and national taxi industry is that it is regulated and directed by non-industry personnel. 

If I was the Seattle City Council's President, or if I led FAS (they oversee Seattle taxi licensing), this ordinance would be a very different looking document, for very obvious reasons.  I know taxi reality inside and out.  There is nothing I don't know about how it runs and how everyone involves functions.  Not ONE person currently regulating or writing rules can say this.  Not a solitary one.  Until this changes, the industry will hop along on one leg.  

Another example of this is the woman who leads the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, Bhairavi Desai, again someone who has never driven a cab.  No member of her family has ever driven a cab.  What is her background?  She received a BA from Rutgers University in Women's Studies and, in the past, worked with women's rights groups.  No previous association with the taxi industry but somehow she is leading 15,000 NYC cabbies.  A do-gooder, yes, no argument there.  But someone like me, who knows the industry firsthand, no, not at all.  Theorists are the last anything the taxi industry needs. 

People, I tell you, this is a mistake, putting the taxi industry in the hands of amateurs.  Would you hire me to run a hospital?  No.  To run United Airlines?  No.  To head General Motors?  No.  But why not?  I've worked in hospitals, flown around the world in jets, and in my lifetime, the majority of my cars have been Chevrolets?   Doesn't that qualify me?  No, it doesn't, as I obviously do not have the in-depth experience and skills required.  Same with the people holding influence over the USA taxi industry.  They do not hold the required knowledge.  It is that basic.