Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Vacations to other cities: car rental versus transit + car sharing (+ bike sharing)

In last Sunday's Post Travel section, one of the Qs in the Q&A feature recounted the story of someone who visited Seattle, rented a car, and the car rental cost $700.

We visited a few weeks ago. Suzanne used to live there though, so she knows how to get around.

Before we left I was sure that we'd need to rent a car, but knowing that we'd mostly be in the City of Seattle--we weren't gonna travel out of town much, Suzanne disagreed, so we didn't rent a car.  (But Suzanne can rent cars for great prices via USAA. But it depends on which location you use in terms of pricing. We've found Hertz at Union Station can be four times pricier compared to the National Airport location.)  But we knew that if we decided to travel out of the city for a day, we could rent a car just for the day.

At the same time being members of Zipcar and Car2Go, we knew we could use those cars while we there, and the city has a great bus system, and in the last few years, light rail from the Airport also became an option.

We took light rail from the airport.
As we were were walking from the light rail stop to connect to catch the bus to our final destination (a VRBO rental in Capitol Hill), I saw a car2go -- we're members -- and I snagged that. (Although as commenter Charlie pointed out, that works only if you have a small amount of luggage.)

At the airport we bought an ORCA pass, that area's transit media card (note that they say adding money online takes 24 to 48 hours, which ended up being a problem--they need to have more places where you can put money on the car) for the transit system and used it on buses, ferries, and light rail. It also works for the railroad commuter service, but we didn't use that.

Right: Ferries passing in the Puget Sound, as seen from Alki Beach, Seattle.

The place where we stayed was a block from 3 or 4 major bus lines running on a couple of different streets.  But we walked a lot.

We used car2go a few times, a taxi once or twice, and Zipcar once. And we got a couple rides from friends (to a wedding in Bothell, etc.).

And we didn't rent a car that cost $700.

But we know how to use transit, living as we do in DC.

The Post Travel section does run stories from time to time about traveling and using transit rather than driving.

But it's worth their doing a feature on on transit + car sharing as viable methods (depending on how much luggage you have) for getting around a city. The great thing about zipcar and car2go is that you can use them in other cities in the US (Car2Go is limited to your own country, zipcar you can use in any of their markets I think, in Europe and Canada).

We could have also done lyft (I blogged about it) but we didn't. But if we were going to drive a lot out of the city, then we might have made different choices.

FWIW, we've traveled recently to SF and Montreal. In Montreal we never used a car during the 9 days we were there. In SF we used a taxi once, otherwise we used public transit or walked--the SF MUNI weekly pass is really trip--plus we used BART to and from the airport.  We could have used Zipcar--there was one immediately next to the place we were staying, but we ended up using the MUNI or walking.

And if you go to Salt Lake City, you can get to a lot of places via light rail, railroad, bus, and now the bike share system.  So if you're not going there to ski and such, you could probably get around without renting a car, even though it's otherwise a big place.

And yes, in cities like DC and NYC and Montreal, bike sharing becomes another option for visitor mobility.  I've used systems in Montreal and Salt Lake City to get around while visiting there.  In SLC especially, where the blocks are 10 acres in size (about 5 times bigger than DC blocks), it's particularly useful.

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At 3:27 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

First, I have no idea how you rack up $700 in rental charges for a car. Car rental is great because it is realtivey cheap -- weekend trip to detroit cost $75 in car rental charges.

Second, yep, all great advice and car2go is a real killer there. If you are visiting DC I'd be afraid of the arcane parking rules and speed cameras, but DC is probably the worst in the country there (Manhatten is also up there, but most people don't want to drive there).

I believe car2go will enable to use them in europe at some point, but lots of issues with licenses and insurance.

Third, the savings comes from parking, not the rental charges. I found that out in Miami Beach -- $40 a a day for valet parking can add up quick.

Still unable to figure out the car2go rear hatch.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

hope that car2go privileges get extended out of country, at least to Canada.

2. rear latch is 4 steps. 1. hit the unlock thing in the console. 2. unhook the latch, 3. open the window, 4. use the release mechanisms simultaneously at the left and right top of the hatch.

Yes, it is tricky. It probably took 3 uses before we got the procedure down.

3. wrt car rental, I think the dude used a nonmajor and got stuck with weird insurance/CDW stuff. (We got scammed probably in SLC like that last year. They said that the state requires separate insurance.)

4. wrt parking, that's why we never used Zipcar in SF. Finding a street parking space there appears to be impossible. I didn't want to bother.

But with car2go, that's why it's so great, you can park the car in a metered or residential space, and for the most part not be worried that you're parking legally. Plus you don't have to pay at the meter. (At least in DC.)

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

I get lost somewhere between steps 2 and 3, and don't want to spend 41 cents a minute to find out.

Well I was thinking of the rush hour rule and the attendant $100 ticket but the last time it was integrated into the GPS -- it would not let me end a trip in a rush hour parking area. I can't imagine it is perfect. Speed and red light cameras also a menace as a tourist in DC.

I'm not sure if it possible to get a liability insurance w/o owning a car. I looked into it for Virginia and it was not. I am hoping that avis and hertz can find a way to extend insurance to zipcar/HtoG members although it is a pure profit center.

At 9:52 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

don't some credit cards have it? or is that the difference, collision insurance vs. liability insurance, which credit cards don't cover?

2. I think the car2go GPS system is pretty on. E.g., I stopped off in a supermarket parking lot and it wouldn't let me give it up.

And once I got a hankering for Parkway Deli (on Grubb Road two blocks outside of DC in MoCo) and figured we could park on the DC side of the line. It called right at the border "park" so we had to back track a bit and park a bit more than one block in. But Parkway is worth the bother!

Haven't had the rush restriction issue come up.

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