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.
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.
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.