After The Stranger posted a story about legal and illegal competition making things difficult for cab drivers, KIRO Radio’s Andrew Walsh, a frequent cab rider, wanted to make sure he’s not contributing to the problem.
A Seattle taxi driver who identifies himself as “JD” tells Walsh there is a real issue with for-hire drivers operating illegally and they’re taking the business right out from under him.
“It’s really cut into my walk-up business downtown because there are so many of these cars. They’re pulling up in front of us. I’ll be stuck at a red light and one will turn the corner in front of me and people will just jump in the car,” says JD.
The main difference between a cab driver and other types of for-hire drivers, the report explains, is that a taxi can legally pick up a person trying to hail a cab, other types of for-hire drivers cannot. Paid trips must be arranged in advance.
But JD says the fact that it’s illegal for these drivers to pick up those trying to flag down a cab doesn’t seem to stop them.
“I’ve exchanged words with them. I’ve told them, ‘Hey you can’t pick up down here.’ And they’ve cussed me out and they just laugh. They know they’re not going to get cited.”
JD says Seattle and King County regulate cab drivers very tightly, and these other drivers don’t have the same type of regulation.
“They can pretty much charge whatever they want,” he says. “They’re just cruising around, they’re parking in front of the Mariners games and they’re negotiating deals with people.”
This means some customers could be taken advantage of, he says. “You get the people who don’t know any better, who get in and these guys will charge them $50 to take them to Northgate or Bellevue.”
The meters in regular cabs, JD says, keep people from getting ripped off and it keeps drivers from being underpaid.
For potential customers, it might be hard to tell the difference between a regular cab and another type of for-hire driver, but JD shares some distinct differences. He says if you see the taxi light on the top, it should be legit, and also there will be a medallion on the back of the car marked with the name of the city and county so you know they’re official.
JD says he has no problem with for-hire drivers that are working as they should under the law. Even services like Uber, which was among the other competitors mentioned in The Stranger report, he says he doesn’t have a major issue with, because the customer makes an appointment for the driver, and is charged a fee based on speed and distance, which is similar to a meter. Mainly he doesn’t appreciate for-hire drivers taking walk-up customers illegally from taxi drivers.
The city is currently holding hearings before the Committee on Taxi, For-Hire, and Limousine Regulations.
Taxi drivers want more regulation to keep others off of their turf and other for-hire drivers want freedom to operate in a manner more like cabs so they can make a better living. Three more hearings are scheduled before any changes will be made.