The War on Cabs

Riders May Have More Options These Days, but Taxi Drivers Say That For-Hire Drivers and Upstart Car Services Are Breaking the Law

The War on Cabs

Mike Force

"Seattle's become chaos and lawless like Mogadishu city where I came from," a Seattle cabbie lamented during public comment at an April 4 hearing before the Seattle City Council. Taxi drivers had packed the council chamber to demand that the city stop for-hire vehicles and out-of-town taxis from illegally stealing their passengers.

"It's like Somali pirates," the driver fumed.

But the for-hire drivers had turned out in force to plead their case, too. "All we're asking is to be treated equally," one driver implored. "Why not give us the same rights as taxis? We need fairness."

There's a civil war of sorts brewing within the city's highly regulated taxi, for-hire, and limousine industry, and while we aren't exactly becoming Mogadishu on the Sound, drivers on both sides worry that the dispute could escalate to violence. At stake are the livelihoods of thousands of drivers, mostly East African immigrants, as well as the long-term health of Seattle's $75 million taxi industry that is itself a crucial component of the region's $5.9 billion tourism industry. But even as the industry descends into an increasingly contentious turf war, upstart companies providing short-term rental and ridesharing services—many of them operating entirely outside the established regulatory regime—are threatening to eat its lunch.

Still, if there's one thing these drivers agree on, it's that the city is to blame. For-hire drivers blame the city for creating regulations that make it impossible for them to earn a decent living, while taxi drivers and owners blame the city for not enforcing the laws and regulations already in place.

"The city created this problem, and it's the city who must fix it," another speaker proclaimed, to applause from both sides.

"You know, we don't have to do this," Council Member Bruce Harrell reminded the audience. This was the second of five scheduled hearings before the Committee on Taxi, For-Hire, and Limousine Regulations, which was convened by Council President Sally Clark specifically to address the dispute. In July, the council will issue the results of a study determining whether there is a sufficient supply of cabs, after which the committee will consider reforms, including licensing more taxis.

Part of the problem is that few customers can tell the difference between a taxi and a for-hire vehicle. For-hire companies are required to paint their cars in two tones (to distinguish from single-tone cabs), but owners still manage to creatively paint them to look like taxis. Only taxis have those iconic lights on top, but some for-hire vehicles mount a sign on the roof, creating further visual confusion.

The bigger difference is regulatory. Taxi fares are regulated by the city and county, and are metered by distance and time, whereas for-hire fares are flat rates by zone, hour, or prior negotiation. But most importantly, only taxis are authorized to pick up passengers that hail them off the street or at designated taxi stands, whereas for-hire vehicles (and limos) can only pick up passengers by "prearrangement."

Hail a for-hire vehicle outside a Seattle bar on a Friday night, and if they pick you up, they're breaking the law. But how are you to know?

There are about 1,400 taxis and for-hire vehicles licensed in Seattle and King County (plus another 763 town cars and limousines), but only 688 taxis licensed to pick up passengers within Seattle. And to make matters worse, cabbies claim that taxis from Tacoma, Everett, and surrounding areas are driving into Seattle on Fridays and Saturdays to feast on our busy nightlife scene, illegally picking up fares. This is the chaos and lawlessness that local taxi drivers are complaining about, a state of anarchy that only took hold over the past few years.

"It used to be good," Orange cabbie Adane Biza told me on the ride back to the office after the council hearing. "It's completely different now."

So why the artificial distinction? Why shouldn't for-hire vehicles be allowed to pick up passengers the same way a taxi can? From a policy perspective, it's all a question of supply and demand, explains Seattle Consumer Affairs director Denise Movius. The city limits the number of taxi licenses in order to maintain a "competitive, safe, fair, and viable" industry, she says. "The concern is if you flood the market with too many cabs, no one will make a living."

But many drivers argue that supply and demand is exactly the problem. There are 928 licensed taxicabs in Seattle and King County, but nearly 6,000 licensed taxi drivers. This puts drivers at the mercy of a few hundred car owners, many of whom own multiple licenses. While the city caps the lease payment an owner can charge at $85 a shift, some drivers claim that they are charged a higher rate. That would be illegal, says Movius, but many "drivers are afraid to report violations for fear of losing their lease to drive the taxicabs."

But even at the $85 lease rate, fuel and other fees drive the cost up to an average of $120 a shift. The city estimates that the typical driver earns a $100 profit on an average 10-plus-hour shift. Nine hours into his shift, Biza told me that he had only made about $40 above his $110 up-front cost.

And while taxi licenses remain in short supply, the competition for passengers is only about to get worse.

Forget bikes and transit; the secret weapon in Seattle's war on cars is turning out to be... cars.

Car-share services like ZipCar and Car2Go are rewriting the rules of urban transportation. At a rental rate of $0.38 per minute, Car2Go is substantially cheaper than taking a cab. Meanwhile, app-based rideshare and dispatching services like SideCar, Lyft, and Uber, critics say, are ignoring the rules entirely. The Seattle City Attorney's Office has determined "that SideCar—and similar businesses—are subject to for-hire vehicle licensing and regulation requirements," Movius confirms. Yet none of their drivers or vehicles are certified, licensed, or inspected.

SideCar's vice president of communications, Margaret Ryan, objects to this for-hire classification: "SideCar is not a taxi," insists Ryan. "There are no shifts, drivers drive whenever they like, and payment is voluntary."

Well, not exactly. I tested SideCar on the way to City Hall, drawing a driver who drove all the way from Fremont to pick me up on Capitol Hill for a mere $7 "suggested donation."


During SideCar's introductory phase, he's being guaranteed a minimum of $15 an hour to cover a midday shift. Ryan confirmed the policy.

To me, that doesn't seem like a donation. That looks like a salary.

Council President Clark agrees that SideCar is likely subject to for-hire regulation, but she admits, "We haven't figured out how yet."

That said, SideCar worked great—better than the Taxi Magic app, which efficiently dispatched my Orange cab but failed to track its progress or allow me to pay. And even experienced taxi, limo, and for-hire drivers admit that Uber offers customers a far superior user experience. Whether or not SideCar and Uber survive regulatory scrutiny, their apps show the way to the future of dispatching rides.

But for the moment at least, these app-based services have nothing to fear from impotent regulators, even if they are blatantly violating the rules. With only three inspectors in the city's consumer-affairs division, regulators can't even police Seattle's current wave of illegal pickups. So whatever rule changes the council ultimately approves, it all could be meaningless unless they back it up with the resources necessary to reassert the rule of law. recommended


Comments (92) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I call bullshit. If the competition for taxi services is so cutthroat, why do I have to wait a fucking hour to get a cab in downtown Ballard on a Saturday night? Seattle needs more cabs.
Posted by Keenan C on April 10, 2013 at 9:32 AM · Report this
The article did not mention the 800 pound gorilla
In the room: taxis are gross and unreliable.
On numerous occasions I tried to get a cab dispatched
for a business meeting and it did not arrive on a tomy manner.
I tried to call for a cab in thanksgiving day one year
And was told point blank by orange cab that there were nocabs available.
ÜBER offers no such challenges. Every time I use the service
I know when they are arriving and how much it will cost.
There were no challenges on holidays and I am never late for
Business meetings. Bonus, the cars don't reek like axe
Body spray and BO.
If uber provides a superior service they will be successful
Posted by AIisonb98 on April 10, 2013 at 10:54 AM · Report this
wilbur@work 3
In some cities, cabs provide a reasonably inexpensive way to get around, when no good alternative exists.

In Seattle, cabs are a parasitic, overpriced luxury item with the most unreliable dispatch service in history. $30+ from Fremont to Lake City? No, I'll walk, thanks.

Too bad for the cabbies, but it's time this service got put out of business by the alternative services mentioned in the article, and be forced to start over without the now unneeded dispatcher in the middle.

End of story.
Posted by wilbur@work on April 10, 2013 at 11:44 AM · Report this
Last time I took a cab from King Street Station, the driver got lost trying to get on the freeway and my wife had to give him directions. Compared to other cities I've been in, Seattle cabs seem like a high-cost, low value service.

BTW, if you drive a Car2Go, every taxi driver that sees you will honk their horn at you.
Posted by Orv on April 10, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 5
Have you smelled the inside of a Yellow or Orange cab? It smells like six month old leftover Indian food mixed with ass and vomit. And the inspection issue? I'm terrified one of those cabs gets close to highway speeds...they feel like they are going to fall apart.

I'll take Sidecar, Uber or Zipcar in a heartbeat!
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on April 10, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on April 10, 2013 at 12:03 PM · Report this
It's impossible to feel bad for cabs or cab drivers. I lived in Seattle for five years and taking cabs was always a nightmare. You'd have to wait forever! The first time I took a cab in Seattle, I'd moved there a few weeks ago, lived on Capitol Hill, and asked the driver to take me to 99. He said he didn't know where that was. I told him I'd just moved there and I knew where it was. Give me a break! 99 and I-5 are the two main roads intersecting Seattle. Every time I took a cab I had to fight with them to go the way I wanted them to go. Now they're pissed because people don't NEED their shitty service and have more reliable, easy, independent options. Boo fucking hoo!
Posted by xina on April 10, 2013 at 12:06 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 8
There's always a cab at the end of my block in Fremont. Usually two.

And once Stoned Way becomes the new mecca, I expect there will be some there too, between N 34th and N 45th.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 10, 2013 at 12:09 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 9
@3 unless your whole party is drunk or high, in which case they're essential. Inebriated people should never drive. Ever.

That includes texting, which is the same as eight shots of vodka.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 10, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Report this
shuvoff 10
The last time I planned on using taxi service to enjoy a night out on the town we waited FOREVER on hold, and had to hail a cab which ended up being pretty un-kept.

With that experience in mind, this last weekend's escapades involved making arrangements with a town-car service who picked us up right on time, was luxuriously comfortable and responded quickly to our late-night call for a ride. The cost was only a little bit more than what a taxi would have cost us, and the service was exceptional in comparison.
Posted by shuvoff on April 10, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Fnarf 11
@4, that's never happened to me. Because, driving a Car2Go in North Seattle, I've never seen a cab. A cab will roll down N 45th about once every four hours.
Posted by Fnarf on April 10, 2013 at 12:30 PM · Report this
Simply Me 12
I feel safer in an über cab than a regular cab. Regular cabbies are almost always on the phone non stop. Who has that much to say? What the hell are they talking about?

In an über I'm greeted kindly and driven safely. I've never had an experience where a driver was constantly on the phone dangerously weaving through traffic. If I did experience that, there is accountability built into the system. I would give the driver a poor rating and he/she would no longer be able to use Uber if he/she got enough complaints.

Competition is good for the system. Don't kill it Seattle City Council.
Posted by Simply Me on April 10, 2013 at 12:32 PM · Report this
I had to make an unexpected last minute trip back to Seattle last month. I was shocked how high taxi rates are from the airport. I ended up renting a car. Sounds like that was the best thing after all after hearing the reports of how dirty and unreliable the cabs are.
Posted by WestSeven on April 10, 2013 at 12:48 PM · Report this
Posted by Fnarf on April 10, 2013 at 12:48 PM · Report this
Look, liberals calling for government deregulation and more competition. How cute.
Posted by Sugartit on April 10, 2013 at 12:54 PM · Report this
Fuck cabs. The dispatchers are rude & unreliable, the drivers drive like maniacs and are surly more often than not.
Posted by fdavie on April 10, 2013 at 12:57 PM · Report this
I was shocked when I took a trip back east to NYC and found the cabs massively cheaper, and far more reliable. Higher volume. This city, taxi service is sporadic and unreliable. The regulations are clearly broken, so screw this monopoly situation and let the apps, car-shares reign free. The old paradigm is decaying. Let it die and those that are still driving that paradigm can find new work.
Posted by Xrock on April 10, 2013 at 1:14 PM · Report this
More, I Say! 18
Man, Eastside for Hire (red & green cars) always pick me up when I hail them on the street...they're cheaper, too.
Posted by More, I Say! on April 10, 2013 at 1:21 PM · Report this
@ 15 That is why the GOP is so bad off they don't understand. Its not that liberals don't want ALL government, and no free market, they just believe there should be a mix.
Posted by Seattle14 on April 10, 2013 at 1:36 PM · Report this
"The concern is if you flood the market with too many cabs, no one will make a living."

Because so many people will be willing to drive for free, in cars they don't have to pay for?

Does this logic really work in *any* industry?

"The concern is if you flood the market with too many magazines, no writers will make a living."

"The concern is if you flood the market with too many houses, no builders will make a living."

"The concern is if you flood the market with too many restaurants, no cooks will make a living."

Establish rational safety regulations on vehicles and drivers, enforce them evenhandedly, and let owners and passengers decide how many cabs the city really needs.
Posted by Like I'm going to pay that for a ride on April 10, 2013 at 1:47 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 21

I'm now getting flashbacks to the time I called a cab because I was running late for work. The fastest route was 99 to the last exit before you reach Green Lake. Well, the cabbie missed that exit, had to go all the way around the fucking lake, made me late to work when I otherwise would have been on time, and offered no apology or acknowledgement that he massively fucked up.

Also, the law that cab drivers aren't supposed to stop for people who hail them has got to go. I know most cab drivers ignore that law, but it's still idiotic.
Posted by keshmeshi on April 10, 2013 at 1:50 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 22
@21, I've NEVER had a cab driver admit he fucked up on getting me to where I needed to go.

I can count on one hand the really good cab drivers I've had in Seattle since 1995. And I usually take a cab at least four of five times a month.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on April 10, 2013 at 2:12 PM · Report this
@21, I think the missed exit was an excuse to run the fare up.
Posted by neo-realist on April 10, 2013 at 2:12 PM · Report this
Cab drivers are stuck in the 1990s. They always give you crap about using a debit card. It's like you are doing them a disservice. Everyother major city has it together but Seattle. Hate to break it to the cab drivers but welcome to Capitalism.
I gladly ride Uber at least 4 times a week and happily pay more money than deal with cab drivers bullshit.
Posted by Ballardbeard on April 10, 2013 at 2:20 PM · Report this
kittenalarm 25
BLACK CROWN CAR, ALWAYS. Local, clean, awesome drivers, and super cheap rates. Eastside is my backup. I don't fuck around with these drivers who pretend they don't speak english or know where to go to drive up their fares. Also the whole "YOU ARE PRETTY LADY DO YOU HAVE BOYFRIEND" act is so skeevy and almost guaranteed when taking a Yellow or Orange.
Posted by kittenalarm on April 10, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
Seems like it yesterday Goldensteinemberg was telling us deregulation destroyed the airline indutstry.
Posted by Mercer Island Goy on April 10, 2013 at 2:30 PM · Report this
". Its not that liberals don't want ALL government, and no free market, they just believe there should be a mix."

Horse shit. You want things deregulated that personally affect YOU.
Posted by Sugartit on April 10, 2013 at 2:35 PM · Report this
Womyn2me 28
We rarely use a taxi, usually because we have had such bad luck actually having them show up at the house (calling ahead to schedule their arrival) or finding one outside Westlake/train station without walking a couple of blocks to a cab stand.

We do use a particular limo company now (I dont know their name) but Khalid is the best guy ever. His vehicle is always clean, he brings us water, he accepts whatever form of payment we have without complaints, always is on time and if he is not available, HE finds us a driver who is equally as good.

we also use car2go and have found it to be fantastic. the fact I dont have to return it someplace specific, like flexcar, is brilliant.
Posted by Womyn2me http://http:\\ on April 10, 2013 at 2:42 PM · Report this
tehjakers 29
I'm tired of them getting pissy when I don't have cash to give.
Posted by tehjakers on April 10, 2013 at 2:56 PM · Report this
Simply Me 30
Thanks @14. That is what I imagined was happening.
Posted by Simply Me on April 10, 2013 at 3:01 PM · Report this
tabletop_joe 31
Cabs are nearly always a nightmare. It's not surprising that something better has come along.
Posted by tabletop_joe on April 10, 2013 at 3:37 PM · Report this
pfffter 32
@12 YES! Why are they always on the phone?!?

The drivers, taxi drivers that is, shouldn't be blaming the city. They should be blaming themselves for providing such a SHITTY SERVICE to customers. Always on the phone. Surly. Not knowing their way around. Grumpy when you want to use a credit card. Fuck that.

I would wait half an hour for an Uber before I'd jump in a taxi.
Posted by pfffter on April 10, 2013 at 3:39 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 33

Maybe, but I'm pretty sure (this was quite a while ago) that he did a double-take as he passed the exit, like he realized that he fucked up. I don't really remember how I handled the situation that day, but during every ride thereafter, I watched the driver like a hawk and barked out orders when necessary (something that passengers shouldn't need to do and generally don't need to do when using competent taxi services).
Posted by keshmeshi on April 10, 2013 at 3:40 PM · Report this
The city limits the number of taxi licenses in order to maintain a "competitive, safe, fair, and viable" industry, she says.

"We limit competition in order to maintain a competitive industry." Brilliant!
Posted by joelgrus on April 10, 2013 at 3:46 PM · Report this
Personally, I expect cab drivers to drive fast and crazy, get me there in a hurry with no risk to me of getting a ticket for reckless driving. I pay for taxis specifically because they'll find a new route with less traffic, drive on the shoulder, and scare the crap out of pedestrians all to get me to where I want to go in a hurry. However, I agree they're not responsive enough by a longshot. We need more competition.
Posted by rhombus on April 10, 2013 at 4:10 PM · Report this
mulata 36
Cab drivers hate debit cards as it takes them a week to receive money from charged accounts. Many of them are refugees or immigrants from other countries just trying to get by, supporting families here or back home on the small wages they are afforded. Getting cash means paying for food, diapers, bills, or whatnot in a timely manner; no borrowing from friends or the boss necessary.

Cab drivers deal with a byzantine set of regulations and have few resources to assist them in navigating the city's and the cab company's systems. Head over to the Department of Executive Administration (they administer taxis) on Dearborn and try talking to the gang in the office. There's one person who's helpful and the rest are the biggest bunch of obstructionists in's employ. Most of the drivers I've spoken to cringe at the thought of talking to the city as they feel belittled and attacked. It's a rough environment to work in.

For the record I am not and have never been a driver.
Posted by mulata on April 10, 2013 at 5:14 PM · Report this
Cascadian Bacon 37

Than isn't the cab you smell it is the driver.

Over all these assholes are totally rude, are often Muslim and seem to hate Americans. The last time my wife used a cab was because her car broke down at the Madison Safeway they showed up 30 minutes guy wouldn't even help her with the groceries and instead just watched her struggle. Then he proceeded to take extra turns to add fare to the meter refusing to listen to the directions he was given.

Generally we only take Black Car, it is cleaner, not smelly, dosen't drive you all over town to try and scam more cash and speaks English.
Posted by Cascadian Bacon on April 10, 2013 at 5:43 PM · Report this
@36 Tough shit, move back to Mogadishu if you think it's tough here. No one owes you a free lunch.

Time to deregulate their asses out of business. At least that's what all the liberals here think and for once, they're right.
Posted by Can u take Car2Go in Mogadishu? on April 10, 2013 at 6:14 PM · Report this
I shot burlesque for a lot of years and I rarely had a problem hailing a cab in downtown late at night to get me home. Which is to say that the driver was invariably curt and spent most of the drive talking on his phone while the radio played the BBC world news.

But calling to have someone pick me up? Last time I tried that was getting one to come to Queen Anne to pick up my girlfriend on a Saturday night and we were informed that it would be a 45 minute wait. I know Queen Anne is a weirdly placed neighborhood and all but that's more than a little ridiculous.

She took the bus downtown and texted me that she was able to hail a cab just as soon as she left the bus. Forty-five minutes in a pig's eye!

I'll use cabs if I have to but, man, I'm not looking forward to it.
Posted by Chris B on April 10, 2013 at 6:21 PM · Report this
I don't normally weigh in when my thoughts have already been covered, but in this case I'll make the rare exception: this article and it's focus, as well as that of the city council is FUCKING BULLSHIT!!! The people who should be heard are we the fucked over and bullied taxi customers. Taxi service is abysmal in Seattle. The dispatchers are often rude and it feels like we're held hostage. We have to either take it up the ass or we're deliberately stranded by the taxi companies. THIS is what the morons at city hall should be focusing on. So: FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU Seattle taxi drivers!!! More and more people are turning to Uber and shared car services because of all the years you fucked us over. We'll continue to find alternate means of RELIABLE transportation as long as your bullying service sucks shit!!! (And not that it matters, but I almost never comment and I certainly don't swear when I do. This issue and this crappy article made my blood boil - also something hard to make happen)
Posted by CaptainChaos on April 10, 2013 at 6:31 PM · Report this
I wonder if I could move to Mogadishu and start driving a cab my second day there without speaking a word of Somali and hanging a crucifix from my rear view mirror?
Posted by Travis Bickle on April 10, 2013 at 6:36 PM · Report this
Of course, the Mohammedans also have wonderful things to say about homosexuals. Say something mildly homophobic next time you're with one and then ask them what they think of pooftas. It's enough to make a Richland florist blush.
Posted by Travis Bickle on April 10, 2013 at 7:03 PM · Report this
"The city limits the number of taxi licenses in order to maintain a "competitive, safe, fair, and viable" industry, she says. "The concern is if you flood the market with too many cabs, no one will make a living.""

Anyone who's taken basic economics can tell you this is horseshit. Capping the number of licenses only serves to jack up prices, increasing the incomes of license holders at the expense of customers and others who want to enter the industry. If a flood of new entrants pushes incomes too low, some people will decide it's not worth it and get different jobs, which in turn will cause the price to rise for those who remain, eventually converging on an equilibrium.

Obviously we want some regulation here; it makes good sense to license taxi drivers for safety reasons. But regulating the precise number of taxis is a classic example of something the government should let the market decide. If taxis become common and cheap, fewer people will need private cars, which means less parking will be needed, meaning more space for humans in the city.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on April 10, 2013 at 7:06 PM · Report this

"If a flood of new entrants pushes incomes too low, some people will decide it's not worth it and get different jobs, which in turn will cause the price to rise for those who remain, eventually converging on an equilibrium. "

Wow, so I guess Boeing should tell their unions to fuck off and make the workers earn their incomes?

I like your style!
Posted by Apparently taxis turn liberals into conservatives on April 10, 2013 at 7:15 PM · Report this
"Mogadishu on the Sound"

Oh Goldensteinemberg, stealing one if my favorite lines?

Posted by Sugartit on April 10, 2013 at 7:24 PM · Report this
So, Goldy, did you jew the SideCar driver or pay him?
Posted by Mercer Island Goy on April 10, 2013 at 7:30 PM · Report this
@44 Large plane manufacturing is a very different industry from taxicabs. Boeing is a TBTF company - it's a key Defense contractor and it's one of only two companies in the entire world that makes large passenger jets (its only competitor being Airbus) so realistically the US government will never allow it to go under. For that reason it has no excuse for employee abuse. It makes a lot of money that it wouldn't get if it had more competitors and it is only fair to share the bounty with the workers instead of forking it all over to shareholders and executives like nonunion firms typically do.

Moreover, as the article notes a lot of the monopoly rents arising from the current arbitrary limit on the number of cabs is accruing to the taxi company owners, not the poor immigrant drivers. Those $85 daily lease fees that Goldy talked about wouldn't exist in a competitive taxi market, because individual drivers could drive their own cars instead of having to drive one that belongs to a limited-quantity license holder. The poor immigrant drivers aren't going to be getting high wages in either scenario, so we might as well do what's better for the customers and for the city as a whole.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on April 10, 2013 at 8:06 PM · Report this
" For that reason [Boeing] has no excuse for employee abuse"

Or it could just pack up and move to South Carolina where "some people will decide it's not worth it and get different jobs, which in turn will cause the price to rise for those who remain, eventually converging on an equilibrium. "

The beauty of deregulation and free, open, right to work labor markets
Posted by We agree, let the market decide on April 10, 2013 at 8:30 PM · Report this
@48 Excuse me while I laugh. Labor markets are not like normal commodity markets, they are always and everywhere heavily affected by power relationships and social norms, and in the South the legal deck is deliberately stacked against workers and in favor of owners. Moving Boeing to South Carolina wouldn't do any good for the buyers of planes or the general public, it would only serve to transfer income from Boeing's workers to its owners and executives. I favor the market only when it actually produces a better outcome than the alternative, and that's not always the case. "Free markets good!" is a mindless slogan, not a real understanding of the economy and how it works.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on April 10, 2013 at 9:55 PM · Report this
They can all fucking starve for all I care.
Posted by Vitriolforbreakfast on April 10, 2013 at 10:08 PM · Report this
I'm a Seattle hipster and I draw the line at black cab drivers. If only they weren't so black! And stinky! Even worse are the Indians. Curry! If I use Sidecar, I'll be picked up someone who's white and doesn't stink!
Posted by Unbrainwashed on April 10, 2013 at 11:06 PM · Report this
p.s.: Hipsters, why can't you use a fucking bicycle, or the bus, or light rail like you're supposed to? Too many black people?
Posted by Unbrainwashed on April 10, 2013 at 11:12 PM · Report this
@51 exactly. Suddenly all these white liberals want deregulation, more competition and fewer Mohammedans employed.
Posted by Only liberals when it doesn't affect them on April 11, 2013 at 6:39 AM · Report this
Hernandez 54
@5/22 Given what we can glean of your personality based on years of Slog comments, I have to assume you don't give anyone much of a reason to treat you well or respect you, cab driver or not.

I've had cab drivers admit to mistakes and not charge me full fare, but I'm also calm and don't act like a dick toward everyone, and I lack your casual racism. See how that works?
Posted by Hernandez on April 11, 2013 at 10:20 AM · Report this
@ 27 Well that's not true at all
Posted by Seattle14 on April 11, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
Hey #54, if there was ever something that revealed the "casual racism" of Seattle's hipsters and their favorite newspaper, this article and most of the comments are that something.

Seattle's cabs and cab drivers are too dark and too foreign for this city's white yuppie wannabes. Isn't it ironic that these are the same people who never stop lecturing us about the need to be more diverse, accepting, and multicultural?
Posted by Unbrainwashed on April 11, 2013 at 10:27 AM · Report this
57 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
Goldy 58
@43 Seattle attempted deregulation in the late 1970's, as did many other cities. And like it did elsewhere, it failed. So the industry was re-regulated. Just like it was in almost every other city that tried deregulation.

So you can spout your "let the market decide" ideology all you want, but we tried that, and it didn't work.
Posted by Goldy on April 11, 2013 at 11:04 AM · Report this
I tried zTrip, similar to Uber except it's in more cities and the drivers are licensed and insured. Cool service, download the app and you know where they are, pick you up now or later.

Posted by aviano44 on April 11, 2013 at 12:18 PM · Report this
Part of the problem is that the City seems to have issued too few licenses. This limits the number of cabs, and inflates prices (demand chasing supply). Car services like Uber, rideshare arrangements like SideCar, and carsharing services are providing flexibility, nicer vehicles, and lower prices. The cab companies will simply have to evolve or die.

Case in point. When I travel for business, I have to take a cab from home in West Seattle to the airport. Despite requesting a cab in advance w/TaxiMagic, cabbies were usually late, and in some instances couldn't find my house (despite the fact they had GPS, and my house # was clearly displayed out front. I never knew for sure what my fare would be until I was dropped off, and as often as not, the feature that allowed me to pay via smartphone wouldn't work!

Enter Uber. Each time, they've been on time, I could see where they were with the app, and I knew in advance what my fare would be! The cars and drivers were nicer and more professional too. To seal the deal, Uber is about $10 a ride cheaper to the airport for me!

So that's my choice: dirty, frequently late cabs, or gleaming black towncars & lower prices. Hmmm...decisions, decisions. Evolve or die, and stop bitching, cabbies!
Posted by MrB on April 11, 2013 at 1:01 PM · Report this
So that's my choice: dirty, frequently late cabs, or gleaming black towncars & lower prices.

And the best part: white drivers!
Posted by Unbrainwashed on April 11, 2013 at 1:08 PM · Report this
December 9, 2012: my soon-to-be husband and I were getting married at City Hall. I called Yellow Taxi for a cab because I didn't want to deal with parking hassles. We received the automated call that our cab was waiting outside, so we made our way to the street. The cab driver saw us, two men dressed in suits, and drove off. Thank goodness we had a car that we could jump into, otherwise we would have been late to our own wedding. Yellow Cab didn't give two shits.

The irony of Seattle cab drivers crying for equal treatment is palpable.
Posted by riot gorl on April 11, 2013 at 1:19 PM · Report this
@#61, actually, one driver was black, and the other was middle-eastern.

I've looked at your other comments here; you seem to be obsessed with race for some reason, and make little sense. Are you a troll?
Posted by MrB on April 11, 2013 at 2:43 PM · Report this
#63, don't make me laugh. Even your fellow fuckwits at the Stranger noticed the racism of their readers. Of course, not their own racism.
Posted by Unbrainwashed on April 11, 2013 at 5:15 PM · Report this
I got bitched out for kissing my gay husband in the back of a cab. Not a tongue down your throat, make out kiss. Just a sweet peck on the lips. "No sexual activity in my cab," he yelled out us. "Stop the fucking car right now," I yelled back, got out in the middle of the street, and walked away leaving the doors open. Many cab drivers in Seattle are crooks, dishonest, and jack up fees either by manipulating the meter or taking the worst possible routes. Meanwhile, they pressure the city to allow increased fares. Cabs are filthy, they smell like a$$. The city should require some basic standards. I have sworn off cabs in Seattle, which cost twice what NYC cabs cost. I hope these amazing alternatives drive all of them out of business, which is what should happen when you do a $hit job.
Posted by Roddychristian on April 11, 2013 at 8:17 PM · Report this
Consumer culture has made you all monsters (with a few exceptions. Unbrainwashed: marry me.) Seriously, have you all been taught that you have a right to cheap and plentiful servicing by an underclass whose humanity you ignore? Are we all so indoctrinated that we are consumers first and humans second? I have taken a cab about 25 times this past year when I had to get to work quick (I don't have a car) and I have had only wonderful experiences. Because I'm not an entitled asshole. I've had cabbies heroically get me to the airport on time, I've had a cabbie offer comforting words when I was crying. I've had countless conversations that were real and affecting and in some way beautiful.
So many racist comments on this post. So much evidence of internalized privilege. So much ignorance of what's going on for so many people in the world. Jesus Christ Seattle do you really suck this hard?
Posted by emmaz on April 11, 2013 at 8:38 PM · Report this
A sober and boring personal tale to offset all the talk nasty words here about curry smells and jabbering foreigners. I drove a seattle taxi for 12 years, putting up with every kind of racist insult, vomiting frat guys, physical attacks, the traffic jams and the occasional road accident. I also met thousands of interesting people and sometimes even enjoyed the work. Eventually I save up enough to buy my own taxi (the value is in the number plate, not the car). Now I pay monthly costs of: $750 to Yellow for dispatch and other services, $600 for insurance, about $300 in maintenance, another $100 for licensing/regulatory. We drivers also have to pass criminal background checks, and take driving, geography and language tests, and all of this shit costs money too. Some of these costs are excessive, and of course they all get passed on to the customer. The whole industry could be streamlined and improved, but the euphoria over App-enabled "everyone is a taxi driver" isn't really a solution, just temporarily ignoring heaps of insurance and regulation costs. Not to mention causing a race-to-the-bottom in driver wages (who won't switch the next App with lower prices?). It would make more sense to use the tech behind an App like InstantCab to make use of the existing taxi fleets & drivers, cutting down the middleman costs (taxi dispatch) and provide the ability to rate/review drivers. This should bringing costs down and service up.
Posted by farAway on April 12, 2013 at 4:49 AM · Report this
68 Comment Pulled (Spam) Comment Policy
OK and what about the outrageous cost of AIRPORT TAXI service? The comment that it was cheaper to rent a car at the airport says a lot.
Posted by chapala21 on April 12, 2013 at 7:38 AM · Report this
@67, I find it incredible that it took 67 comments for someone to make that point. Keep the regulation (with tweeks for modernization and accountability). Ditch the middle man and require the owner of the plate to drive his own damn cab. If the industry did away with the parasite cab owners, drivers would actually be able to make a decent living. Most of the complaints I see here are either racist bullshit or the result of economic pressure on the driver from owners.
Posted by swendr on April 12, 2013 at 8:50 AM · Report this
Cabs in Seattle are the worst. Dispatch is always rude, the cabs are filthy and stink. We took a cab one Halloween from Capitol Hill to Leschi. Getting there was no problem. Getting a cab on the way back was impossible. We realize it was Halloween and expected to wait an hour+ when you call the cab. After an hour, we called and they said the cab would arrive in 10 minutes. We waited 15 minutes, no cab. We called back and they said it was around the corner. We waited another 15 minutes, still no cab. We called back and they told us that there was no cab and they refused to pick us up It wasn’t like we were in BFE. I’ve been done with the cab service in Seattle since then and only take Uber. They reap what they sow.
Posted by texsea on April 12, 2013 at 11:25 AM · Report this
More, I Say! 72
I can't believe I'm the only one who enjoys it when the cabbie is on the phone the entire saves me from awkward conversation and/or awkward silence. IT'S PERFECT. Chat away, cabbies.
Posted by More, I Say! on April 12, 2013 at 1:44 PM · Report this
@36: I call BS. Why would it take a week? I have a Square account, and if I swipe a credit card through that thing the cash is in my bank account within a day or two.

I suspect the real problem is when they get paid via debit/credit card, they have to pay taxes on their tips instead of taking them under the table.

@66: I don't have it in for cabbies. I just want good service. I've loved the cabbies I've gotten in other cities, even the guy in San Jose who was clearly ripping off his employer. (He took me to the train station with the meter off so he could pocket the money for the trip.) I suspect the problem is Seattle's regulatory scheme inadvertently shifts money from the actual drivers to the license holders, thus ensuring anyone who isn't a taxi driver out of pure desperation will give up and do something else for a living.

@69: That's the Port of Seattle's fault. They control who is allowed to do trips to the airport, and essentially award that license as a monopoly. They also decree that the company that does trips *to* the airport is not allowed to do pickups *from* the airport, thus ensuring that everyone will have to drive empty one way.
Posted by Orv on April 12, 2013 at 2:57 PM · Report this
Hello all !

One think everyone forget is this. Taxi company pay thousands of dollars to city of Seattle law maker for fullfil their needs and that is why they don't care about wonderful people in this community who depend on taxi every passing day.

When customer call for Taxi, their dispatch is very rude, they hang up the phone on while u are still speaking.

(1) They have NO idea what customer service mean.
(2) Seems like most of them either waiting for trail or
they can't go any other place but work and home.
(3) They never have any type of customer service experiences. As long they able to speak English, they don't have to have any type of experiences..

So, what this tells you? Ask yourself?

Their driver drive customer block after block for finding ATM machine because they don't want credit card.

Their driver don't show up on time,

Their driver is rude and their car smell very bad.

Their driver rather drive u longer rout than short rout to charge u more money.

Posted by Mike2008 on April 12, 2013 at 3:23 PM · Report this
NaFun 75
Hey morons, limiting the number of licenses reduces the number of cabs circling for a fare, reducing congestion. In NYC that reduction in congestion reduces the average time it takes to hail a cab.
Posted by NaFun on April 13, 2013 at 2:55 PM · Report this
@58 O c'mon Goldy, how about instead of saying we tried something different already and it failed, so let's not try something different again, we sent the city council to look at a place where cabs actually do work.
Like Hamburg, Germany.
Any time, day or night, in a trafficked area, you get a cab in the time it takes you to walk to the curb. Cars are new, and clean, and drivers know how to get to the destination (not a small feat with non-gridded streets with arbitrary names).
Not sure what their regulatory setup is, but being Germany, you can bet it's not lightweight.
Whatever they do, it works. City Council should go and find out, how they do it.
Posted by buscommuter on April 14, 2013 at 6:47 AM · Report this
Has anyone here not heard of Black Crown Car? Full fleet, nice cars, rates the same as a cab, and fucking rad drivers. Just wait 10-15min, it's super worth it.
Posted by Whocares83 on April 14, 2013 at 11:05 AM · Report this
well, rogues will take advatage of the weakness of the city, we need tough rules like New York
Posted by bob min on April 14, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
Texas10R 79
As a musician with minimal gear (tenor sax & vox), and working in multiple bands, I was all over Seattle. I had business cards (personal cell phone #s) from a few really pro taxi guys.

And then there were...the idiots who could not drive, could not speak English, could not take DRIVING directions when they didn't know Seattle worth a damn, and complained when I used a Visa, even though there was a Visa logo on the window.

In fairness, of course, there are a-holes out there who definitely need a cab because they're super-hammered and are a pain to transport, but that's no excuse to be rude to EVERYONE else.

And why the hell is it that the so-called "professional" drivers (cabbies) are among the very worst drivers on the road?

And now? I'm in Boston where it's actually WORSE!
Posted by Texas10R on April 14, 2013 at 6:54 PM · Report this
Texas10R 80
@ 72

You're an idiot waiting for an audition to play "Elaine" in an upcoming community theatre production of "Seinfeld –the Stage Play".
Posted by Texas10R on April 14, 2013 at 7:02 PM · Report this
There's really a giant disconnect between # of taxi cars and # drives that advantages the car owners way too much and creates a harsh working condition for cabbies. Maybe the city should up the number of cabs within the city and if not already in effect, have a reasonable but limited amount of short-trip rentals. As to the I-have-a-day-off-work-i'm-gonna-play-cabby driver for hire that doesn't pay taxes or follow the regulations in place for private drivers, they've got to go.
Short trip rentals are, or at least can become, legal competition to the cab system but the cabbie-wannabe driver creates an unfair and illegal competition.
Posted by Natty Light on April 14, 2013 at 11:19 PM · Report this
The system is indeed broken. It is regulated by the State, the Port of Seattle, King County and the City of Seattle. Overlapping rules and lack of enforcement are major issues. Metered taxi drivers have their rates set by the city, and are forced to compete in an unregulated environment with the flat rate cars who can charge what they like. the credit card issue is real, in part because their dispatch companies, who they are required by law to be part of, rip them off to the the tune of up to 5% processing fee per charge. Some of the drivers are moving to square and other options. But to understand what they are up against, all drivers start their week in debt. For many airport taxi's that means they can start each week at the high end as much as $1,000.00 in the hole. In other words they make no money until they make their "nut". They work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. They have no health insurance, no sick leave, nothing really. they are classified as independent contractors, but are often treated as employees with few if any rights. This is a system that exploits the people working in it for the benefit of a few at the top of the heap. Don't blame the driver who is often working 12 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week, and to somehow insinuate that because they are largely immigrants that they do not like you, is insulting and simply not true.

Taxis, are a vital part of our transportation system, and the people working in that system deserve, at the very least to be treated with respect. The majority are recent immigrants or refugees trying to make it in the US. A few have succeeded nicely, the others just want to earn a decent living to be able to support their families and provide a decent life for their children. No different than anyone else.

The metered taxi drivers have formed the Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association with the Teamsters Union to provide a voice to the people doing the work in the industry. Its a voice that has been lacking in the past when the dialog was dominated by the dispatch companies. The Association is working to improve the working conditions of the operators and to improve the experience of the consumers. This is a time of game changing technological advances with Uber, Taxi magic, Side Car etc. The workers in the industry are organizing with their Association to meet and adapt to the changes that are here and are accelerating. Their goal is to provide decent transportation to the public, what's lacking is that the regulations that govern the industry are no longer functioning, creating a system where people working in the industry are finding it more and more difficult to make a living. That situation, if allowed to continue will not benefit anyone.
Posted by leon on April 15, 2013 at 4:20 PM · Report this
"There are no shifts, drivers drive whenever they like, and payment is voluntary."

Uhmm.. there are definitely shifts.. these companies love to position themselves as something they are not. I can post screenshots of the app and the shift available! lol
Posted by brothenberg on April 18, 2013 at 2:48 PM · Report this
"There are no shifts, drivers drive whenever they like, and payment is voluntary."

Uhmm.. there are definitely shifts.. these companies love to position themselves as something they are not. I can post screenshots of the app and the shift available! lol
Posted by brothenberg on April 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM · Report this
The cabbies in Seattle are anti-Black anyway:fuck them.
Posted by 5th Columnist on April 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM · Report this
I couldn't have said it better, Leon. And FWIW, I've never had a bad experience with a cabbie in Seattle - though I was continuously sexually harassed when I lived in NYC. Any problems I've had with my cab experiences have been getting them during peak hours (I mean, DUH people) and shitty shitty dispatchers.
Posted by kasa on August 2, 2013 at 4:48 PM · Report this
Most of you are foolish. You don't even think of your safety. Taxis are regulated and monitored by the city as a result the drivers are kept honest. If hail stranger cars or illegal cars such as out-of-town taxis or for-hires or town cars you might regret later on. Watch !!!!! out these rogues engraved their side doors beautiful words. Flat rate or low fare but it is scam.... They don't have meter they charge you 20, 40, 55, or 80. $$$$$$$$$ what ever they desire. Don't hail illegal cars because of your safety... Don't become a victim ... of rape or rip off or pick pocketing etc happened to foolish people like u. Taxis. Are safe. They are regulated and monitored by the city...
Posted by Sherif on August 5, 2013 at 9:44 PM · Report this
RedwoodTree 88
Who the hell knows how cabs work?? I know how Uber works. I know how car2go works.

Besides all the things that have already been said, there's the question of destination. I needed to get to Leschi, and this cab driver was absolutely livid about driving me there in the middle of the day.

He'd rather do 6 tourist runs around downtown than to make my ass to Leschi, fine, but he's obligated to take me. He tried to say he had a flat tire, and I said okay, I'll take another cab, then he changed his mind, then he yelled in a phone the entire trip and then he was pissed at me because I wanted to take a cab.

TL;DR - Cabs suck! Step up your game or go bust. Welcome to capitalism, it's not perfect, but in this aspect of life, it's actually working.
Posted by RedwoodTree on September 27, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
I own a taxi driver recruitment website in the UK and we have the same issues although not as blatant. The rules in the UK are very stringent and the customer is now wise to taxi cabs just chancing their luck for a quick buck.

There is also a security aspect to bear in mind too.

It is very likely the UK taxi industry will deregulate and this is a storm in a teacup waiting to happen.

There is a column on my my site about honesty in being a taxi driver
Posted by TaxiDrivingJobs on October 2, 2013 at 2:53 AM · Report this
As a buisness woman who commutest to Seattle via Downtown every other day ,
I have witnessed these Limo Drivers push and shove their way into the face of a 65 year old woman... A possible fare!!
These guys are not asking for a fair chance. They want to take over a domminate from the looks of their bahavior.
One friend who had recently has surgery needed a ride to the U. W. hospita, was in very bad pain and with very little cash. She was vulnerable and desperate.
The Limo driver took her to the U.W. hospital from the ferry all the while repeatedly passing gas and then told her she owed 25 $ and a 2 dollar tip.
They get in my face every other day and a lot of the time continue to hound me as I walk accross the street to my ride already waiting for me... And most of those times I have my ear buds in !!! They actually expect me to take my earbuds out to hear them ask me if I need a ride.... And they know I don't .
Bottom line, they are rude and very disrespectful to everyone, especially women.
They charged me 25 $ to go from the ferry to harborview near Capital Hill and refused to give me a receipt.
If they lose their buissness it will be because they did it to themseves!!!
Do heed my advice and do not gove them your money!!
Posted by J cantrell on October 28, 2013 at 5:01 PM · Report this
@10 hit the nail on the head. Uber and the like are for-hire cars. The only reason they aren't also the same price is because they are completely and flagerantly ignoring the laws. They are unliscensed, essentially uninsured (if your regular consumer insurance finds out you are driving for-hire they will not pay out), etc. They are breaking the law and they are a public liability (due to their lack of insurnace mostly).
Posted by brent.b on January 6, 2014 at 4:04 PM · Report this
Cabs are worthless.
You never know if it's late or if someone stole it. No way to track them.
They get pissed at you for paying with a credit card....
but they also don't carry change a lot of the time.
You have to call instead of pressing a few buttons
Even if you do have cash, it takes longer to pay then pressing a button.
Posted by Jimwck on February 26, 2014 at 11:17 AM · Report this

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