LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Taxi Competitor Questions Port’s Fairness

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As the owner of Shuttle Express, a provider of passenger service at Sea-Tac International Airport, I have been following the Port of Seattle’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 STITA’s reputation, I thought they would surely be chosen for the new contract for the taxi concession. I was astonished to hear the Port’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 can’t watch this play out without saying something about the Port’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.

Jim Sherrell is the Owner of Shuttle Express.

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.

It’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)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Have something you’d like to say? Then email us your “Letter to the Editor” by clicking here. Be sure to include your real name and a way to contact you, and, pending our review, we’ll most likely post it. Otherwise, feel free to leave a Comment below…]

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5 Responses to “LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Taxi Competitor Questions Port’s Fairness”
  1. Chump Change says:

    Mr. Sherrell has not laid out what is truly at stake. Shuttle Express, like STITA Taxi, has also operated under an exclusive contract with Sea-Tac Airport. In order for the airport to comply with the recommendations of the State Auditor (who harshly criticized the Port’s contracting procedures), Shuttle Express’s very lucrative, exclusive contract will likely be put out for public bid. The Port’s taxicab contract was NOT scored on money alone; money was an element, but was one area where STITA seriously underbid its competitors.

    Sea-Tac Airport is supported by revenue; it must be a self-sufficient operation. Passengers and other concessionnaires (restaurants, shops, etc) at the airport should no more subsidize taxi service than Shuttle Express. It is imperative that a public bidding process be used not only to get the best possible service at the airport, but also to maximize monetary return to the airport so that those ground transportation services are not subsized by passengers who do not use those services. Most importantly, no one wants the airport run in such a way that it would have to ask for taxpayer subsidies. Mr. Sherrell, as a taxpayer, should look forward to a healthy and spirited public bidding process on ANY commercial concession at Sea-Tac Airport.

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    • chilly says:

      The Port runs the airport. The Port is supported by property taxes. The Port is too poorly managed to be self sufficient.
      That said, if it was an open and transparent bidding process, no one has any reason to complain about the results. But if it was done in the Port’s traditional way of smoke, mirrors and “we can change the rules and not tell anyone” method, then it needs to
      be scrutinized.

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  2. Clarification says:

    The Port (shipping, etc) is subsidized by taxes; however, SeaTac Airport is a self-sustaining operation.

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  3. JB says:

    I whole heartedly agree with Jim Sherrel above on how Port’s decision to side with a company that will offer them the most money will impact general public. Yellow cab has offered 70% more revenue to the port than STITA. One must wonder, why would STITA bid so low? Now, it is not that STITA bid low, they bid accounting for expenses such as green cab cost, advertising and most importantly liveable wages for the drivers working at the Airport. Yellow blew that out of the window & what that means is that the cab drivers working under the Yellow cab will make less wages when compared to what they made earlier. This has the potential to drivers investing less in their cabs to meet ends thereby resulting in safety concerns for general public. It is also possible that they will ask for rates to be increased to make liveable wages & that mean you the consumer might end up paying more!
    Port needs to relook at their decision & take a harder look at this. Yellow cab has also been accused of cheating in the bid process as mentioned in the lawsuit against them by Farwest cab!

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    • Chump Change says:

      Jesse Buttar (JB, get real), you might want to disclose the fact that you own Yellow cabs as well as STITA cabs. But in any case, you are offering nothing but conjecture regarding Yellow cab. Taxicab rates are regulated — heavily — by the City of Seattle and King County. Further, the City of Seattle also regulates how much taxi license owners can charge drivers to lease their cabs. This regulation prevents the passing along of costs to the cab drivers.

      STITA lost in an open and fair bidding process. To those above who question the Port ‘s processes, you have not been paying attention. The state auditor issued a scathing audit on December 20, 2007 (http://www.sao.wa.gov/auditreports/auditreportfiles/ar1000008.pdf) of the FORMER bidding procedures, and made recommedations for changes. Part and parcel to those recommended reforms was that taxpayers get a greater benefit in these contracts. The Port of Seattle has complied with these recommendations. In pre-bid meetings, Port staff MET WITH STITA TO LAY OUT THE BID PROCESS. STITA was not only well aware of the bid parameters, they helped formulate the RFP.

      Now, STITA and other operations who have long sucked at the public teat are finding their free milk is drying up. Folks, its time to wean yourselves off welfare and go hustle for business the way every other taxi and ground transportation company has to do.

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