Celebrating World Carfree Day… in a taxi

22 Sep

Today is World Carfree Day, which for me, is not so different from any other day, since most days I get around by walking and taking the bus. So when I was reminded of the day by TransForm on Twitter yesterday, I struggled a bit with how I would celebrate and what I might write here.

I’ve already gone on and on about how awesome it is to not own a car and how much I love getting around on the bus and by foot (even if sometimes it’s challenging and frustrating). But the truth is that the bus system and my feet are not enough. There’s one thing that allowed me to give away my car, and it might seem odd, but that thing is actually another car. Specifically, a taxi.

Every morning I walk or bus to work and most days I do the same to get home, either from work or from whatever I go to after work. During the summer, these forms of transportation serve me well, as the sun doesn’t fully set until after 8pm. But once the sun does set (and this will start happening earlier and earlier in the coming weeks), my neighborhood is a bit creepy. There aren’t nearly enough street lights and it’s rare to see someone walking around after dark.

If I still owned a car, I might plan to take a car to work when I knew I had late nights ahead of me (I used to do this sometimes years ago). And even now, I sometimes get rides from friends, but I can’t (and don’t want to) depend on this. So a taxi is my easy back up. Especially when I’m downtown (which I often am at night) or somewhere else taxis frequent, like Temescal or Rockridge, I know a cab is just a call and a 5-10 minute wait away. I live centrally, so even with tip, my cab rides usually cost under $10.

So why am I writing about getting around in a car on World Carfree Day? Well, the truth is that our world is not going to be entirely carfree anytime in the foreseeable future, nor would I want it to be. (Without my wife’s car, there’s no way I could have the amazing garden I wrote about yesterday – I couldn’t take home five big bags of dirt on the bus.)

But what could happen is more people could get rid of their cars, and part of the barrier to doing that is concern about being able to get around – at all times of the day. Since folks in Oakland (and other places) often seem not to know that taxis are a viable means of transportation, I wanted to let them know that they are. Sure – like any means of transportation they have their problems. Just like the bus, they sometimes show up late. Just like cars, they can be a bit pricey, especially if you aren’t as centrally located as I am. But overall, they’re fairly reliable and a great fallback when transit, walking or biking aren’t the best options.

So on this World Carfree Day I’m asking car owners to try out taxis. You might find – coupled with carfree means of transportation – that they allow you to drive your car less or to maybe one day, like me, get rid of it entirely.

6 Responses to “Celebrating World Carfree Day… in a taxi”

  1. peggychinn September 22, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    What about City Car share or zip cars? Like taxis, these seem like great options but I have not tried them yet. And I have not done the math yet, but I think that for many folks (myself included), the expense of these alternatives could be less than the expense of owning and maintaining a car. I like the idea but have not gotten there myself — yet!

    • Rebecca Saltzman (aka Becks) September 22, 2011 at 9:48 am #

      Yeah, I recently signed up for car share, but that doesn’t solve the same problem that taxis do because you need to return them to the same place you picked them up. So if I’m downtown late at night, a car share car wouldn’t be a good way to get home.

      Ultimately, to give up a car, one usually has to embrace many ways of getting around, which could include bus, BART, walking, biking, car share, taxis, getting rides, etc.

  2. Brian September 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I normally catch a cab when I’m at Amtrak or the airport really late at night. After a long trip I’m too tired to deal with AC Transit’s all-nighter bus.

    The city was looking at adding more taxi stands. I wonder what happened to that plan. I’d take them more often for routine trips if they went in. I don’t like calling and used to text “tmagic” for Friendly Cab, but I don’t think it works anymore.

    • Rebecca Saltzman (aka Becks) September 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

      Yeah, there’s a lot the city could do to make taxis more convenient and attractive. I met with a councilmember about adding taxi stands probably 2 years ago but it went nowhere. It’s definitely an issue I want to take up again, as I think taxi availability is necessary for night life.

      I too would take taxis more if there were more taxi stands, particularly in Uptown.

      • MarleenLee September 23, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

        I am not a big fan of our local taxis. I only use them to get to and from the airport, and they pretty much suck. When I call to reserve a cab for pick up, it is frequently a struggle to understand and be understood, their English is so bad. Sometimes they show up late. Once or twice not at all. No apologies. Drivers are generally unfriendly, and sometimes downright rude. Cabs frequently reek of cigarette smoke and are generally dirty and gross. Sometimes the driver will be playing some sort of obnoxious music. They never ask if it is okay. They never try to engage in small talk or generally try to be nice. They expect a tip just the same. I guess they figure they know where you live and if you don’t tip them you’ll be afraid they’ll burn your house down. Sorry, I will not rave about cabs.

        • Rebecca Saltzman (aka Becks) September 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

          Wow, your experience sounds almost opposite of mine. Sure, there have been a few annoying drivers and sometimes they’ve shown up late. But I’ve only once had a driver not show up at all.

          And when they do arrive, they’re generally very pleasant. I usually initiate conversations, and the drivers often have interesting things to say. Since I live on such a dark street, probably half of the cab drivers wait for me to get inside my gate before driving away.

          Too bad you haven’t had the same experience.

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