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Seattle Waterfront Handcar

Feb 21 2016

Seattle Waterfront Streetcar, 2001 - DaveTavres.comWith the very sad demise of Seattle’s Waterfront Streetcar, and the extremely unlikely chance that it will ever come back, as the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will cause waterfront condo prices to skyrocket, I have an alternate idea to bring a bit of Seattle’s railroad history back to the waterfront. This idea is part history, part touristy. Manually operated handcars along the remaining track along Alaskan Way.

Seattle’s Railroad Ave. (Alaskan Way) around 1903 - DaveTavres.comMost people don’t know that Alaskan Way use to be the domain of the railroads – in fact, it use to be called “Railroad Avenue.” And other people don’t know that the Seattle Waterfront Streetcar use to run passengers along the entire length of the waterfront, from Pioneer Square to what is now the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Walt on the Kalamazoo handcar - DaveTavres.comSo, why not develop a fun, unique attraction that the tens-of-thousands of cruise ship passengers each year would love, as well as regular Seattleites? Rather than using the powered streetcars, build several handcars, capable of carrying up to seven passengers (six paying customers and a ride operator), where four passengers take turns pumping the crank to move along the track.

The proposed route uses the existing streetcar rails, and is just over half a mile long from about Pier 63 (click for street view) to The Old Spaghetti Factory (click for street view). Hey, Disneyland does it with Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes! Walt Disney even had his own handcar for Disneyland.. That’s plenty long enough for people to enjoy a ride, see the Seattle waterfront in a fun way, and even get from one end to the other quicker than walking – heck, this could even be called “kinetic art”.

Proposed Seattle Waterfront Handcar route - DaveTavres.com
Google aerial view: https://goo.gl/maps/3BGRh34YR9k

I say there should be several handcars, because they could be ‘launched’ a few hundred feet apart, allowing more than eight passengers at a time to make their way along the waterfront. There could be up to four going at once, one right after another. When all four handcars get to the end of the line, all of the passengers disembark, and the next set of passenger get on, ready for their adventure.

Handcar diagram - DaveTavres.comHaving a ride operator on board each car would insure that people don’t try breaking any land-speed handcar records, they make sure people on the ground don’t get run over, and they can help rotate the passengers along the way.

Yes, this would be monetized. Just like Disneyland, people would have to pay for the privilege of locomoting themselves. The ticket price goes to cover the cost of building the handcars, covering the cost of operating insurance, paying the employees, maintenance of the cars and some simple advertising – although word-of-mouth and getting listed on the cruise-ship port itinerary would likely mean very low advertising costs. Plus, if this was built and operated by the Northwest Railway Museum, this could be a way of reaching the community at a great distance from the actual museum (as well as bring in extra funds!)

What about storage of the handcars you say? I suppose they could be stored at the old Bell Street Streetcar Station, locked up and covered with heavy-duty canvas, to keep people from climbing on them during the operating season. Then during off-season, they would be light enough to pull up onto a rented flatbed truck and stored at the NRM.

So there you have it. Railroad history, non-profit fundraising, tourist attraction, Seattle.

Seattle Waterfront Handcar - DaveTavres.comSeattle Tourist Attractions - DaveTavres.com

 
 

Cruise ship app

Dec 04 2015

Carnival CruisesAlmost EVERYONE today carries a smartphone. Carnival should create an Android and iOS app that can connect to the ship’s WiFi but can only access the ship. This app can be a way for passengers to communicate with each other, look up show times and schedules, use maps of the ship, request or schedule services and even scan QR codes around the ship that would give them information about where they’re at or what they are seeing.

Carnival could also send messages and information to passengers, coordinate disembarking, and advertise up-sells for internet connectivity, discounts at certain on-board shops and offer specials to premium services when attendance is low.

This app could work on ALL Carnival Ships and could even be a tool for users before and after their trip. By installing the app weeks before, Carnival can communicate ideas, up-sell shore excursions or help people plan their Port visits ahead of time. And once they finish their vacation, the app could be a way to entice users back to Carnival for future trips by sending photos of ship upgrades or announcing new shows and acts.

 

Ship1

 

Uber takes 33%, plus $60/mnth and doesn’t pay tolls

Nov 03 2015

I recently took Uber across a San Francisco bridge, which cost the driver $4 in cash. Cash that I don’t carry. Cash that I can’t add to a tip in the Uber app. I apologized to the driver (he wasn’t upset in the slightest and fully expected to pay the bridge toll.)

It surprised me that the Uber app doesn’t recognize that I went through a toll and automatically add it to my fare – especially considering that Uber charges my a ‘safe rider fee’ separately from the fare.

Uber takes 33%, plus $60/mnth and doesn’t pay tolls - DaveTavres.comAs we drove, I asked the driver more details about fees and found out that Uber is now charging drivers $60/mnth for an old iPhone (with service) that is used for connecting to the Uber servers for getting and tracking rides. I DO think Uber can/should charge for the device, as drivers apparently have the option of using their own phones instead (although I do not know all the details of that.) However, Uber is handing out ancient iPhone models, while at the same time adding thousands of Uber drivers each month, which would reduce their costs. So, this is yet another money-grab by Uber, but the cash-grab is from the drivers, rather than the riders.

To top it off, I learned that the rate is now 33% of each fare goes to Uber. That is HUGE considering how many drivers there are around the world. In 2014, Uber’s revenue was $1.6 Billion.Lyft - DaveTavres.com

In talking to other drivers, I’ve heard that Lyft only charges drivers 20% of each fare and (probably for a limited time), if a driver does 25 or more rides in a single day, they get 100% of the fares.

I’ll be re-thinking my commitment to using Uber and give Lyft a try.

 

Uber’s “Safe Rides” fee is ridiculous

Oct 22 2015

I’m a huge fan of Uber. But, I also know they take a huge percentage of each fare (I’ve heard from Uber drivers as much as 30%.) However, I also understand websites and technology and the costs to run such businesses, so when I see $1.65 fee on top of an $11 fare – of which Uber gets 20-30%, it makes me click on the link next to the ‘Safe Rides Fee’ line item.

Here’s their reason for charging that fee:

I WAS CHARGED A SAFE RIDES FEE (US + CANADA ONLY)

I WAS CHARGED A SAFE RIDES FEE (US + CANADA ONLY)

The Safe Rides Fee supports safety efforts for the uberX platform, including among other things a background check process, motor vehicle checks, driver safety education and development of safety features in the app.


Here’s the issue… As of October 2015, Uber confirmed a $40 BILLION valuation. That’s a lot of money – and I love entrepreneurship and capitalism, but in this case, Uber is just being greedy. That $1.65 for “background checks’ and ‘vehicle checks’ should be coming from the 30% they take from EACH fare that a driver collects. That IS the business that Uber is running. When I see the line item on my phone bill for $1.28 to help extend phone service to rural areas, I get that – it’s basically a tax to help those people Uber’s “Safe Rides” fee is ridiculouswho choose not to live near city centers, and it’s an infrastructure cost that will give a return in years to come. And yes, you pay that $1.28 each month on your phone bill. But that’s each month, not each fare.

Uber – you’re doin’ a great job (be sure to thank your drivers), but seriously, you need to re-think this fee. Those checks are part of doing this business. If you want to raise fees, do that – don’t try to hide your massive profits in lame excuses in the name of “safety”.

 

Call Uber to get a battery jump

Aug 28 2015

I recently left my headlights on and killed my car battery. It’s not the first time I’ve done that. That’s why I carry jumper cables in my trunk. Cables are great – when someone will give you a jump. This most recent time was the last straw though… it was 98° in Anaheim and I was on the top-deck of a parking garage at the Anaheim Convention Center. Apparently the Anaheim Convention Center isn’t as concerned with helping guests as Disneyland is… when I asked if they could give me a jump, both the security department and the parking department said they couldn’t because of liability. (Wouldn’t you think they would already have a HUGE amount of liability insurance being a Convention Center and all?)

It got worse… I asked five people if they would give me a jump and they all basically said no. Okay, last option is AAA / roadside service. And how long does that usually take? I’ve never seen it take less than an hour for one of their pickup trucks to show up. I REALLY did not want to wait around in almost 100 degree temps, then explain to the parking gate that AAA was coming and to direct them to find me among a sea of cars.

Jump-N-Carry battery jumper - DaveTavres.comSo while waiting for roadside service, I popped open the Amazon app and ordered a “Jump-N-Carry” portable battery jumper. I haven’t had to use it yet, but at about $70 it will be worth every penny when I need it.

imageIt showed up at my office and I was showing one of the office boy-geniuses, Randy Walker, who pretty quickly asked “Does Uber give jumps?” WOW. That’s why he’s a boy-genius. I would HAPPILY pay $20 to an Uber driver who would show up in 3-12 minutes, pull one of these portable battery jumpers out and get my car started again. Seriously. If Uber isn’t doing this yet, they should make it an option for any driver who wants to make a couple extra bucks. Uber – PLEASE – add this to your app and give drivers the option to do it as an add on.