Taxis rallied outside City Hall in August, asking the city to crack down on their competition's legally questionable practices.
Last night at about 8 p.m., I was downtown and needed to get home in a hurry when I hailed a Yellow Cab on Second Avenue. But after I asked the driver to go to 21st and Union, he said he wanted to go in the other direction.
"I want to go home," he told me.
"Me too," I replied.
Then he stared at me until I offered to get out of the car. I guess the driver was cruising for passengers downtown, hoping someone would pay to go somewhere on his route home, and if they weren't, booting them from the cab. But what are the chances, really, that the person you pick up downtown is heading to the same neighborhood as you?
The city is deciding this year how to regulate the bloom of car services that compete with taxis, but this experience officially resolves my feelings toward Seattle cabs. I know the drivers themselves are generally hardworking, good people. And I know the city says it's unclear whether competing ride-shares such as Über, Lyft, and SideCar "satisfy state and local law." Furthermore, I know these app-driven services also "threaten economics of existing Taxi, For-Hire and Limo drivers and owners," according to the city. But I'm glad they're a threat. Yellow and Orange Cabs often no-show when you call; when the taxis do show up, they're often late; if you complain, the dispatchers are hostile; the drivers balk if you try to pay with a card; many drivers need directions or charge extra when they get lost taking circuitous routes; and when they pick you up on the street, they sometimes only drive in the direction they feel like driving.
That's literally the opposite of how taxicabs are supposed to work, last I checked.
So godspeed to Car2Go, Über, town cars, for-hire cars, and everything else that either forces cab companies to step up their shitty game or provides enough competition to drive Seattle's taxi companies out of business. The city should give long reins to the upstart competition, and if the cab companies die, well, Seattle will be left with a plethora of superior alternatives.