By Nate Jackson
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true: after lease fees, licensing costs, taxes, insurance, gas, and maintenance, taxi drivers who pick up passengers at our airport start the work week as much as $1000 in the hole. That includes money they pay to dispatch companies like Yellow Cab and a weekly fee of more than $300 they have to pay to the Port of Seattle in order to pick up passengers at Sea-Tac.
Taxi drivers are technically classified as “independent contractors,” but in addition to the weekly fee they pay, they must follow detailed rules in exchange for the right to pick passengers up at our airport. Cabbies have set prices they cannot change, a set place to park, set rules on how they cannot approach or solicit customers, and tight rules on the appearance and condition of their taxis. They even have to follow a dress code that is written by the Port of Seattle.
These rules are created by the Port of Seattle and they are supposed to benefit the customers and taxi drivers alike by ensuring orderly & reliable service for travelers. Unfortunately, the Port of Seattle is failing to enforce the rules that they themselves set up.
For-hire limousines have suddenly been allowed to expand their services at the airport and solicit passengers, which confuses travelers and undercuts taxi cab drivers. There’s plenty of room for a wide variety of transportation options at the airport, from taxi and and limos to light rail and buses. Choices are a good thing, but the problem is that the Port of Seattle is not holding up its end of the bargain. The way they’re handling the situation is unfair, and it make things even harder for taxi drivers who are just trying to make a living.
For months, taxi drivers have raised these issues to public officials, asking the Port to simply enforce their own rules regarding transportation service in the airport. Still, the Port has done nothing to address the problem and ensure all drivers have the opportunity to make a decent living at our airport.
Taxi drivers don’t expect to get rich. They just want a chance to provide for themselves and their families and continue to provide the vital services many passengers rely on. This shouldn’t be complicated: it’s our port, it’s publicly owned, and it’s time the people who run the Port of Seattle lived up to their mission by making sure every job at our airport is a good job.
At this point the cabbies, have nearly exhausted their options, so they are starting to take collective action on their own. The taxi drivers are united and are ready to ready to take action to ensure they are treated fairly. It’s time that the Port of Seattle did the right thing: enforce the rules so that travelers have options and drivers have a shot at making a decent living.