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The Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

June 28, 2013 at 6:57 PM

Could we make identifying taxis less taxing?

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Abdi Dahir coordinates the flow of Yellow Cab taxis at King Street Station.
The morning Amtrak Cascades from Vancouver, B.C., is about to arrive.

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Sketched June 26, 2013

Some are painted a solid color: Yellow, orange or green. Others come in two hues, like blue and yellow.

You’d think as an artist I would like such a colorful fleet of city taxis. But I actually find the system very confusing.

Abdi Dahir, a supervisor with Yellow Cab who I met outside King Street Station, understood my point. The two-toned cabs, he said, are not even taxis. They are “for hire” vehicles that charge flat rates and aren’t supposed to pick up people who flag them down. When they do, “they are breaking the rules,” he said.

The current debate pitting traditional cab service against new app-based ridesharing companies is also adding to my confusion. If companies like Lyft and Uber provide the same service, should they follow the city regulations that apply to taxis?

In Barcelona, where I grew up, all taxis have a distinctive yellow and black design that has become a symbol of the city — much like the FC Barcelona colors — and a guarantee of safe and reliable service. They all play by the same rules. Would a similar system work here? It may seem far-fetched, but a uniform identity for taxis would make getting rides in Seattle less of a daunting task.

—ooo—

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I thought I’d find cabs from different companies at King Street Station, but Dahir said only the Yellow Cab company is allowed to pick up people here, at the aiport, Pier 91 and Pier 69. He said the other two main taxi companies in Seattle, Orange Cab and Farwest, can only do drop-off.

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I found a green Farwest taxi to add to my series of sketches at the taxi stand by the ferry terminal. The driver had no problem with me sketching the Prius, but declined to be included in the picture.

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Last, I stopped by the Westin Hotel, a taxi stand where I met Wessen Darge (above, left) and Asfaw Dargazee (below). The Orange Cab drivers said the city has strict regulations for cab drivers. They have to wear a uniform consisting of white shirt and dark pants, they also have to pass background checks, install cameras on their vehicles and pay hundreds of dollars in fees every year.

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Comments | More in Transportation | Topics: Downtown


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