James L. Szekely Sr.
Director, International Taxi Drivers' Safety Council
Shuttle Vans a Factor
As a cab driver here from 1990-2003, I believe that the days of a sole authorized cab company to service the airport have come to a close. The number of cabs available to any particular company is too small to provide service. And one of the reasons why there are fewer cabs was not mentioned in your article. The problem? Shuttle vans. What started off with major hotels offering rides to their hotels resulted in most all motels/hotels offering free rides anywhere in the city. We used to count on hotel business for over half our trips. We also lost trips when other businesses started offering the shuttles, businesses such as retirement homes, auto repair centers, and others. Without a steady passenger base throughout all hours of the day, the cab numbers started to dwindle. By the numbers, the picture here is worse than listed in the article, for there are only 70 to 80 licensed and un-licensed cabs in the entire Spokane/Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls metro area of 500,000 people.
Yes, We Need More Cabs
I have been in the taxi business for 18 years and most of the problems that we have in the industry have to do with the city itself. We keep telling them the truth about what is necessary, but instead they take the word of one person and call it an industry need.
We went through extensive meetings with the city to try to come closer together on what is really needed, but what they really wanted was to get more money out of the industry. They said that we had asked about a medallion. A couple of people who thought it was in their best interest asked about it, and [the city] took them to be the industry.
One of the biggest problems with Spokane and its lack of taxis is the hotel/motel usage of their vans. Those vans were supposed to be used between the airport and their facilities. Instead they are used like taxis in so many ways.
Cab drivers go through lots of hoops to be deemed safe enough to carry people to and fro. Shuttle drivers don't have to even have a hack license. They don't have to be looked at by our police, or any of the other law enforcement agencies that we do. And yet they can drive those huge vans with many more people on board and there is hardly any regulation at all.
The convention business in Spokane suffered greatly at the loss of cabs in this town. When the business went away, so did the taxis. Now when people want to get a safe ride home from the bars at night those cabs are gone and there is a huge demand. The bars downtown are where the most people are and so the taxis go there to make their money. Therefore the rest of the city suffers with a lack of taxis.
During the day there are so many medical runs that must be taken care of. This industry is not just about taking home the people who have overindulged. It is about the safe movement of people and other medical items through our city with drivers who can be trusted to do a professional job.
In my opinion I don't think that the convention business is going to come back like the city thinks it will. I think unless they understand that people who come here want to enjoy all of our facilities, and not just the downtown ones, there will be no growth toward what used to be a huge, successful boom. Leaving the taxi industry out of the equation is not the way to get it back.
There should be a lot more drivers. We have a lot of cabs, but there just are not enough drivers because they feel that they can't make a living doing the respectable work that we do.
Vice-President, Spokane Owners and Drivers Association
Verner Off to Good Start
I was one of those affected by the alley trash pickup controversy that surfaced in Spokane just prior to the recent mayoral election. A major portion of my concern had to do with the manner in which this decision was arbitrarily made without any consideration of the consequences it might have upon citizens. When those concerns were made known, they resulted in a unanimous resolution by the City Council to re-consider the issue. In addition, they resulted in a virtually unanimous resolution by the Community Assembly -- representing multiple neighborhoods throughout the city -- to re-consider. However, under the city's "Strong Mayor" system, the Mayor wasn't required to give weight to those voices, and he made it clear that he would not.
In contrast, I and many other members of that group were struck throughout the campaign by the willingness of then-candidate Mary Verner to listen carefully to all that was being said. While she promised us nothing, we felt confident that any decision she might make in this matter would include an awareness of our concerns. Still, this was an election year, and we knew that such a willingness to listen doesn't always survive a successful campaign. Mary Verner, however, has already demonstrated that she is neither defensive nor hostile when confronted by citizen concerns, and that clearly she is an inclusive and thoughtful listener. It seems apparent that her future decisions will reflect these qualities as well.
As a citizen, I do not feel it is my right to have my point-of-view prevail, but I do feel I have a right to have it be heard. It seems critical to me that our representatives share this view of the citizenry. Clearly Mary Verner does. I feel fortunate that the voters of Spokane selected her as our Mayor.
Janet R. Norby
Pay Attention to Moscow
This morning, Tuesday, March 4, the newsstands of Moscow finally saw the Feb. 28 edition of The Inlander.
Reading this week's On The Street respondents, I felt a sense of d & eacute;j & agrave; vu. It seems that outside the Inland Northwest, Spokane is just that other city in Washington. Judging by the way Moscow is treated by The Inlander, both in coverage and circulation, Spokane views Moscow the same way the rest of the country views Spokane.
Moscow? Where? Oh, yeah, they're in the Inland Northwest too, aren't they? As Spokane is to Seattle, so is Moscow to Spokane.