LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Taxi Competitor Questions Port’s Fairness
As the owner of Shuttle Express, a provider of passenger service at Sea-Tac International Airport, I have been following the Port of Seattleâ€™s recent decision to replace STITA (Sea-Tac International Taxi Association) with Yellow Cab. How could the Port make such a poor decision and why? Even though I compete with the taxis, I feel the need to speak up. When there is such an injustice to the traveling public, questions need to be asked.
Working at Sea-Tac for 35 years, I have firsthand knowledge of airport operations and STITA Taxi. Knowing STITAâ€™s reputation, I thought they would surely be chosen for the new contract for the taxi concession. I was astonished to hear the Portâ€™s decision. The structure of the RFP caused a bidding war, and the Port plans to award the contract to the highest bidder, Yellow Cab. How could they base their decision purely on money and not reputation and quality of service?
Shuttle Express and STITA operate within a few feet of each other so I know their operations and service level. STITA taxi owners maintain their vehicles and have invested in a green fleet, all while making a living wage. And, STITA provides good service, much better than any other taxi service in Seattle.
As a competitor, it would be to my advantage to say nothing and compete against a lesser provider. But I canâ€™t watch this play out without saying something about the Portâ€™s injustice to STITA, and more importantly to you, the traveling public. I have no issue with the Port opening the concession to competitive bid, but its selection based on who will pay the most money rather than service and safety is wrong.
More money for the Port may sound good, but in reality the over-inflated fees that Yellow agreed to pay the Port are way off base. There is no way Yellow can use the minuscule taxi fees to fund reservations, dispatch, accounting, marketing, safe vehicles, insurance, advertising AND also pay the Port an exorbitant fee to use the taxi curb. What expenses will the Yellow taxi drivers have to cut to still be able to put bread on the table? Will you feel safe when you climb into that taxi knowing they cannot meet their financial obligations and still make a living?
So why would the Port prioritize getting more money above safety, service and other important factors? What seems obvious is the Port wants more money. Who is eventually going to pay the Port more money? Sure, first it will be the poor taxi drivers. Next, the taxi drivers will ask regulators to allow increased fees. In the end, YOU, the traveling public will be paying the difference with higher taxi fares.
Now ask yourself, is the Port operating in the interest of the traveling public, or is it merely trying to squeeze more money from taxi drivers and you, the passengers?
Will the publicly elected Port of Seattle Commissioners recognize this flawed RFP bid for what it is and correct this radical mistake? My experience during the last thirty-plus years tells me that when the Port Commissioners know the facts and hear from their voters, they will make the correct decision to award the RFP fairly, based on service and safety for the traveling public rather than strictly money from fees.
Itâ€™s up to you, the traveling public, to let the Commissioners know your feelings on the issue to have it corrected: www.portseattle.org.
– Jim Sherrell
Owner, Shuttle Express
(Jim Sherrell is the owner of Shuttle Express, serving the Seattle region since 1979)
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