Sunday, May 26, 2024

Why The Ottawa Metro Taxi Lawsuit Win Against The City Of Ottawa ( And Uber) Is So Important & Yellow Paint Doesn't Make A Car A Taxi & A Final Appreciation & An Editor's Apology

Following Ottawa's Lead, Should Every American and Canadian Taxicab Company Sue Uber and their Home City? 

This quote from the judge making the ruling, Superior Court Justice Marc Smith, essentially says it all: "Uber was a bandit taxi company."  Smith found that the City of Ottawa "was negligent in enforcing its own taxi bylaws from 2014 until changes were made in 2016 to account for the growing presence of ride-hailing companies like Uber."

What is interesting about this lawsuit, and what makes it potentially a harbinger of future lawsuits against cities, like the City of Seattle, who were clearly complicit in letting Uber and Lyft operate illegally within their municipal borders, is that it shows that victory, the righting of wrongs, is possible.  All anyone has to do is to begin shifting through the evidence that exists in public records.  We know that Uber was operating illegally in Seattle for over two years.  The investigation begins there.

There is also perhaps an untold story both in Ottawa and other cities, and that is one of Uber's influence peddling.  At the 2016 Davos, Switzerland World Economic Forum, no less a prominent political entity than then US Vice-President Biden, made positive reference to Uber in his speech to that most powerful gathering of world and financial leaders.  Just prior to Biden's endorsement, who had just held a private chat with the Vice-President?  None other than Uber's CEO at the time, Travis Kalanick.  Why, back in 2014, did Jim Watson, the Ottawa mayor, claim that Uber was only a technology company, thus not subject to existing rules governing transportation companies?   Why did Seattle mayor Ed Murray suddenly reverse himself from taxi ally to Uber supporter?   It has been a question I have always hoped would someday be answered.

Here are three more quotes from Judge Smith:

"Uber provided transportation services to customers for compensation, and for two years, it refused to comply with the City's regulations."

"Uber was permitted to defy the law openly for two years without suffering any consequences whatsoever.  On the other hand, because of Uber's blatant disregard of the law, the plaintiffs suffered."

"A multinational giant was invading Ottawa, and because of the city's unpreparedness and its lack of effort to develop a plan to enforce the 2012 by-law, the city's enforcement efforts against the Uber drivers were ineffective." 

One interesting note is that Smith has deferred the $215 million judgement to a later date.  Hopefully the cabbies will be getting their money soon.  One driver was quoted as saying his earning have been cut in half since Uber's arrival.  I can believe that.  

Back in 2014, I advised BYG (Seattle Yellow Cab) to sue the City of Seattle, just like Ottawa's Metro Taxi did.  It can still be done.  We too can win a huge judgement against the City of Seattle.  We can still kick Uber's butt.  It can be done.  It only takes the will to do it.  

But in reality do I think it will happen?  No, because PSD's current General Manager would oppose it even though he personally would receive part of any settlement, just like I would.  But it really isn't a question of money.  It is more about justice and accountability.  Mayor Murray, along with Sally Clark and the other Seattle City Council members, murdered Seattle's taxi industry.  That wasn't nice.  I was there in the council chambers when the vote was taken. I will never forget that moment.  I will never forgive them. 

The Seattle Times Headline read: "Woman killed in taxicab crash near Pioneer Square; truck driver arrested"

The big problem here is that a taxi wasn't involved in this fatality accident.  A yellow-colored Prius, minus lettering and toplight, was rear-ended by a truck, directly impacting three passengers seated in the back, killing one of them.   The accident, in a more comprehensive report released by KOMO News, displayed multiple photographs clearly showing a yellow Toyota Prius minus any lettering or regalia signifying it as a taxicab.  Not having a toplight is a clear giveaway that it was a TNC (Uber or Lyft) app operated vehicle.  Now there is a very good chance that the car was once a Yellow Cab though obviously not any longer.  If the reporters had bothered to take a closer look, they would have noticed that the car bore neither a City or County issued medallion plate located next to the license plate.  

The reason why all this is significant is the long bias directed against cabbies and their taxicabs. Despite the headline, I am guessing that if a poll of readers were taken, nearly 50% of them would say that somehow the cab driver was somehow responsible, even though a cabbie wasn't in any manner involved.  

I sent an email to the Seattle Times requesting a correction but really its too late, the damage already done, sloppy reporting by both KOMO and the newspaper stating that a cab was involved.  This is a classic case of not being able to believe what you read.  

And from my long experience, no one truly cares if their opinion or reporting about the taxi industry is accurate.  They already know the answer, taxi guilty as charged by public opinion!  Guilty as sin, guilty of driving a cab, the cabbie a cultural criminal weaving headlong down the roadway.  And for many, wishing he/she is heading directly to a jail cell, bread and water their daily repast. 

Is this an exaggeration?  Drive a cab and you too will answer, "Hell no it isn't!"

Thanks again, everyone!

A big hug to PSD, Minette, Greg, Deb and Cindi for donating toward Dennis Roberts' burial expenses.  The taxi angels sing your praise!

Editor's Apology 

Before I reread it, I allowed last week's blog to go "off to the presses" extremely flawed, riddled with errors big and small.  Sorry about that.  When I was at the Columbia Falls, Montana library, I let myself be pressured by the closing time, failing to do a proper proofing.  Always a mistake to rush.  Yes, I too can be an idiot!  JB

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Greetings From Columbia Falls, Montana: Update On Dennis Roberts' Burial & Targeted: The Black African Immigrant's Dilemma Living In America Today & Uber Loses To Ottawa, Canada Cabbies

 Dennis Roberts is now buried next to his parents

Call it mission accomplished as Dennis was buried today at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Columbia Falls, Montana.  A surprise awaited me because I didn't expect to find both his mother's and father's grave sites but there they were, side by side.  Knowing that his father died in Snohomish County, I didn't know that his body was later transported to Montana, relieving any doubt I had that Ruth Roberts was indeed Dennis's mother.   Tomorrow I will be taking a picture of the gravesite, and if I can figure out how to post it, it will be found on this specific posting.   If anyone ever gets close to this part of Montana, you will find their graves in the NE corner of the cemetery.  Once entering the cemetery, take your first right and drive forward to the end.  Look to your left and you will find all three members of the Roberts family.  The address is 2310 9th West, adjacent to the Super 1 supermarket.  Easy to find.

America Not Always a Paradise, Especially If Your Skin Is Not White

Recently I saw a photograph of a very dark skinned Black African mother and her son slogging through the dense Panamanian jungle that is the Darien Gap.  For all her efforts, I doubted if she truly knew much about the country she was trying to reach.  Like too many, I am guessing that like millions before her, she had embraced the mythology of the USA as the beacon of light and liberty, a place friendly and welcoming.  But mythology is one thing, reality quite another kind of question yet to be faced by anyone seeking entry into the United States.  A brief historical accounting brings clarity to murky assumptions. 

In 1882, in 1917, and in 1924, the American Congress passed bills signed into law by American presidents both denying and limiting entry to various ethic groups.  In 1882, it was President Chester A. Arthur who signed the Chinese Exclusion Act.  In 1917, Woodrow Wilson gave his signature to an immigration act containing the requirement that all immigrants over the age of 16 prove literacy in some language, failure usually resulting in exclusion and deportation.  The bill also contained a provision increasing taxes on the head of each new immigrant.  Calvin Coolidge (do yourself a big favor and read the Sinclair Lewis novel from 1928, "The Man Who Knew Coolidge") signed the Johnson-Read Act that not only banned Japanese immigration but greatly limited the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe.  I'm lucky to be here, as I think only one of grandparents could initially read; and since three were from Hungary and one from Sicily, fortunate they arrived in the late 19th Century.  My father was born in 1917, my mother in 1919. 

Most eastern seaboard emigration came thorough Ellis Island in New York City between the years 1892-1954, over 12 million immigrants arriving on its shore during that 64 year span.  2 percent were denied entry, with over 120,000 deported.  One of the more horrific events involving migrants was the American refusal, at the port of Miami, Florida in 1939, to allow the entry of nearly 1000 mostly German Jews fleeing Hitler aboard the Steamship Saint Louis.  Instead, the Saint Louis set sail back across the Atlantic Ocean, carrying its passengers back to an uncertain fate.  254 of those once hopeful migrants were later murdered by the Nazis.  

Closer to home, even though the Black African immigrant has made it to the USA, even obtaining  citizenship, it doesn't always translate into an ascension past America's heavenly gates.  Too often, taxi and Uber friends of mine are subjected to threats and accusations simply because they are black.  Male black African drivers are often being banned by both Uber and Lyft by unsubstantiated allegations made by female passengers. It is hard to fight hatred when you are black and your attackers are white.  In the 19th and 20th centuries in the USA, at least 3,446 mostly black victims were lynched, hung from trees and light posts.  Welcome to America, land of barely disguised discrimination. 

A friend of mine is assisting a Somali woman (via Kenya) who is caught up in web of racist innuendo, falsely accused of illegally gaining COVID-19 pandemic funds for the unemployed.  She caught the attention of Federal agents by her frequent journeys out of the country, including to her boyfriend in Turkey.  Though having done nothing wrong, because she is black, because she is Muslim, because she is Somali, because she is unusually independent, she has been targeted and persecuted by the American government.  It is costing her much money to defend herself while facing years of Federal imprisonment.  If her skin was of a lighter shade, would anyone have noticed her?

Her biggest mistake?  Thinking she was like every other American, having bought into the illusion that America is the "home of the brave, land of the free."  Truer of course if you are white but even I, in 1972, faced conscription (the Vietnam-Era draft) and the reality of going to prison if I didn't cooperate.  Welcome now to USA 2024 where tens of millions support an autocrat for president.  As much as changed, little in reality has changed.  As the rock & roll band Steppenwolf sang in 1969:

"Yeah, there's monster on the loose.  Its got our heads in a noose.  And it just sits there watching."

"America, where are you now?  Don't you care about your sons and daughters. Don't you know we need you now.  We can't fight alone against the monster!"

As you might imagine, it was not their most successful or popular record.  America had just elected a monster for president, Richard Nixon.  People like monsters, thinking they only exist in fairy tales.  If only that fantasy was true. 

Ottawa Cabbies Win 215 million Dollar Judgement

In a class-action law suit, the Ottawa taxi industry won a judgement against the City of Ottawa for allowing and not stopping Uber's entry into the taxi market.  More on this in a later post.  It is what we in Seattle should have done.  All of us have lived that failure.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Thank You! Puget Sound Dispatch (Seattle Yellow Cab) & WA ST Ferry Summer Rate Increases & Manhattan Congestion Pricing & Seattle Traffic Congestion

 A Big, Pleasant Surprise from PSD

Yesterday I dropped by the Yellow Cab office to place a flyer and photograph advertising my GoFundMe campaign for Dennis Roberts' burial expenses.  Lema (PSD's owner) asked me what I was doing, and finding out it was for Dennis, he had his daughter Marta write me a check for $600.00, the total amount I was seeking.  That I was grateful goes without saying.  Minette and Greg, longtime staffers I have known for at least 25 years, each contributed an Andrew Jackson.  Everyone had kind words and fond memories concerning Dennis.  He was unforgettable, and no one has forgotten him, emotions translating into a final positive goodbye. 

I also had a good conversation with Marta, who is attempting to mold PSD and all those unruly drivers into a more functional unit.  They are now holding drivers who dump bells (fares) accountable, suspending them for days at a time.  We talked about training, and she was receptive to that possibility.  She is also working on getting dispatch (based in the Philippines) back on a more efficient track, as concerns I have brought up many times years ago continue to plague the callcenter.  Now that there is no longer a dysfunctional governing board screwing up the works, hope exists for a new and better Seattle Yellow Cab. 

As I told her, in the past I have offered to create a comprehensive driver training curriculum that could, if followed, would greatly improve and enhance driver performance.  And one reason these lunkheads would pay attention because it's me doing the teaching.  Whether I have any credibility anywhere else is an open question, but in Seattle Taxi-land, I have status, something everyone's knows I've earned, attempting at times to do the nearly impossible: creating sanity out of complete bedlam. 

I would enjoy contributing to the greater taxi knowledge.  Drivers would make more money.  Passenger service and pickups would improve by 25-50 %.  I know the tricks.  All they would have to do is pay attention and remember at least half of what I am saying.  Study materials would be there for them to take home.  

My courses would be what the City/County classes should have been, created and taught by someone who has driven and knows the business inside and out.  I am interested in transforming the guys into REAL cabbies, something not achieved by that once City/County mandatory training.   Success in the Taxi World is all fueled by the making of money.  If listened to me, these recalcitrant cabbies will be making a lot of money for themselves.  I guarantee it. Taxi driving overall is a simple business but you can't be a simpleton when operating beneath the toplight, dumb becomes ignorance becoming drivers surly and uncooperative.  That can all change.

Again, PSD, thanks much for the monetary support.  The taxi angels sing!  Believe it!

On May 1st, WA St Summer Ferry rates kicked in

All you cabbies having to take a passenger across the Sound will not be thrilled to know you will be paying more for the privilege.  The rates on local runs are now 25 % more, with San Juan Island runs up 35 %.  Enjoy the voyage and don't feed your passengers to the sharks.  No way to get a tip.

Manhattan Congestion Pricing starts June 30th, 2024

Beginning June 30th, New York City begins their much debated congestion toll in an attempt to reduce the insane nightmarish congestion that is Manhattan traffic.  The average vehicular speed in that clogged environment is 4.3 mph.  Pedestrians walking down the sidewalks average 3 mph.  The goal is to remove 100,000 vehicles per day.  Cars will pay $15.00.  Trucks and tour buses will pay between $24-36.00.  Motorcycles pay $7.50.  Taxis add $1.25 to the fare.  TNCs add $2.50.  Tolls either end or are reduced between the hours of 9:00 PM-5:00 AM.  Low income and disabled drivers can apply for discounted rates and exemptions.

When I was in Manhattan in 2010, attending that year's book fair, I vividly remember walking out of the building to a sea of stopped cars, all interlocked in a nearly unmoving grid.  More than one cabbie was marooned in that idling ocean.  It was awful to witness.  Sure, there is wait time but the cabbie only really makes money when the taxi is moving.  I read of one veteran cabbie complaining about the fare increase but it makes sense that he will be making more, not less money because he will be freer to move over the streets. 

Seattle's Traffic is little better

Thursday I took my once regular passenger, Pat, around the North-end, allowing her to visit various banks and stores.  In my 3 1/2 hours of negotiating the roadways, it struck me just how horrible of a work environment the average Seattle cabbie has to deal with on a daily basis.  The traffic that afternoon was stupid, cars everywhere and the drivers in those cars underserving of their licenses.  Seattle drivers are fools and idiots.  Sorry for the generalization but its damn true.  These people are dangerous. Glad, more than happy not to be working out there.  It is nuts.