The Public Transportation Diet: Eliminating MUNI, BART, And Metro From My Life For A Week
New Years resolutions are all about taking new steps, different directions, and dieting aspects of our lives out.
In the spirit of trying new things and getting ourselves out of our comfort zone, I (Anthony, EIC) for one week did a transportation diet. Where I eliminated public transportation in favor for Uber, Lyft, and Zipcar. You ask, "how is it possible?" To my answer, it's very possible—just expensive. In the similar vain as our social dating diet, I limited myself from using my Clippercard, going into BART stations, and avoiding MUNI stops by like plague. And don't get me wrong, I love public transportation, I've gotten to a point in living in SF where I can name the station, what route it takes, and what's the connecting bus line.
But in order to challenge myself, I gave myself a daily budget (of $50) to ride sharing apps, that everyone disdains at one point or another. But in order to make this challenge... more challenging, I needed to also one up myself and only use the single rider options on all platforms. No pools, no lines. Yes, you are right, I am ballin'. Well no, but let's run through the week and break down initial feelings.
Day 1, Monday:
Started really chill (bruh), for myself, I had a commercial photo client I was shooting for that day, so getting an UBER was no problem. A lot of gear, seamless, and a backpack of computer supplies: it felt right to ride share and willingly spend the money. But do note that since I've challenged myself to take single rides, a one way ride during noon traffic in downtown, SF costed $16.77. One way. I rationalized this purchase in my head as an expense through the client, they will reimburse this in the invoice. Sweat avoided.
Heading back however at about 3:30 p.m. traffic costed roughly $10.25 to go around onto the freeway heading to Golden Gate Bridge. Again, a new expense I felt that could be covered in the invoice. All in all, off to a good start.
Both drivers were incredibly nice, helped me with my bags, and unloaded my gear onto the sidewalk. Something they didn't have to do but both got 5 stars and a tip. That's worth the pay. // Total pay: $27.02
Day 2, Tuesday
This day started off challenging as I needed to head to Brisbane for the rest of the week for another client job. Starting prices at 6 a.m.—$20 dollars. HELL. To commit to this challenge of no public transportation (which BTW costs $2.50 to head one-way on the 29.) I relentlessly refreshed, open and closed, and dialed in my ride to lessen the price. Luckily for me, the minute 7. a.m. ticked over, the prices comparatively costed $15.00 one way. Rationality speaking: I chalked it up to prices compared to normal cabs. Ultimately with cabs, I would have needed to pay nearly $35. There was some comfort in knowing that I'm saving. Comfort... A good choice of wording.
In the unfortunate circumstances as 5.pm. rolled around, I paid $29.33 to Lyft myself into the middle of downtown. Feeling like my wallet was on fire, I pressed the app blindly and committed to a Lyft that was 18 minutes away because NO ONE Lyfts in Brisbane. Conclusion: making me late, throwing cash into the breeze.
As for both of my drivers, going into Brisbane was cake due to low traffic so early in the morning but as the afternoon rolled around, multiple detours to "avoid traffic" and a drop off that caused me anxiety through the roof. Can you imagine being dropped off, trying to let the driver know that he's double parked in a bus zone in downtown, and having a bus just lay on their horn... Yeah, me either. // Total pay: $44.33
Day 3, Wednesday:
Another Brisbane trip caused me more anxiety as only being half way through this challenge, money was severely burning a hole in my pocket. Again, I committed and I wanted to see this through to Friday. Currently, I'm about 71.35 in the hole. Only two days of back and forth ride-sharing and there goes my monthly phone bill. I wasn't going to crumble under public transportation pressure—but a glimmering hope of light at 6 a.m. I received an email from UBER themselves that I could sign up and pay for "monthly lower rides." This promotion is where you pay UBER a flat $12.00 to receive a discounted ride based on where you were going. So if say, if you were in the Outer Richmond and say needed a ride into downtown, that ride would cost $6 dollars by yourself or $2.50 on pool. Do I take the golden that's presented to me and ruin this diet. Do I eat the square of chocolate that could ruin my week? No. No. No. No. I erase the email and continue to call my ride... That now jumped to $19 one way. That's what I get for being the better person.
As 5 p.m. rolls onto the clock, the mornings previous email still dances around in my mind. Do I take the offer, do I ruin my "social experiment," or do I continue to be the better person? "STUDIO IS CLOSING, EVERYONE FINISH UP AND GET OUT," yells the studio manager from her office. Not to say I was sweating but it was now or never to call my ride. Lyft: $12.12 or Uber: $10.65—Call the Uber, take it all the way home and sighed with "relief" that it didn't cost an arm and a leg.
As for the drivers, both were quiet. The morning's ride played Gospel and Bible studies on the radio. A fate worse than death. // Total pay: $29.65
Day 4, Thursday:
At this point, I'm getting tired of this diet and truly miss public transportation. My Routsey app covered in dust, my Uber and Lyft apps rubbed off like an old keyboard. And to my relief, I didn't need to go anywhere in the city until 11 a.m., saving me a bit of coin and utter panic. My bank account is not happy (I'm also not counting the entertainment items, food, or drink.) A regular Lyft from my apartment to Mission costed me $11.43. Was I supposed to be happy that my ride was significantly "cheaper?" You bet your ass it did. Pressing down the book ride button with a little more pep in my step. Made my way onto Valencia St., and happily went about my day.
This may be cheating but by the end of my friend's scheduled activities, I copped out and split a one-way ride with them to ultimately lower the cost and give me a piece of mind. I needed some interaction that was my own, involved, close friends that I liked, and didn't involved any awkward conversations with drivers. A simple hello and thank you will suffice. Paid around $5 for this ride but hey, I wouldn't call it cheating, no?
And the drivers: quiet, humble, and polite. Nothing to complain or praise here. // Total pay: $16.43.
Day 5, Friday:
The last freaking day, thank you Lord or whoever is listening, I'm much closer to using public transportation again. My body, income, and sense of "entitlement" is relived. And without skipping a beat, called an Uber at 6:30 a.m. towards Brisbane, paid a fee of $15.78, and closed out the thought of "what am I paying": I'm missing my one true love, MUNI and I want this to be over. But to my dismay, a chatty driver who irreverently mentioned "oh, I have a gay friend too, do you know...?" No, Linda, I do not. But hell, I'll let it comb over, my diet is almost over. The ride continued to be a series of questions of LGBTQ lifestyle (which I'm more than fine to answer) but to a few of the questions mentioned (for example: can lesbians get pregnant?) To my retort: I don't know and I'm not the one to ask." I do not, and no, I don't want to answer your question. With a smile, of course.
As for the ride back, I needed to head into downtown for a editorial meeting and the joy of ending this diet plus having to pay an ENORMOUS fee on a Friday night at 5 p.m. wasn't the business. Channel: $29.87 and cry with me. What a way to go out with a boom. Besides having to pay to sit in traffic, my mind couldn't way to bust out my clipper card from my wallet and just decay into the plastic seats on the bus. Waiting, pining, and finally: getting what I want.
And the drivers? Who cares. I was so over being in random people's cars that I completely tuned out and put up my personal glass wall. // Total pay: $45.65
So how could I concluded this. To make a metropolitan city work: yes, public transportation works and it's very needed. People of various trades, lifestyles, and neighborhoods aren't at liberty to pay for ride-sharing every day. MUNI, BART, and Metro is inherently cheap to ride. Also the ability to get on and off without paying makes the city wonder how do they continue to make money on this resource? For those who are "low income" in the city has to take those chances because for them, it could be apart of their lunch or dinner. A daily survival tactic. For those who live in a much higher pay grade, this is their personal chauffeur that they can call on a whim. Would I do this again, no. I value good public transportation that's simple, isn't complicated, and easy to learn. I understand where these ride-sharing apps come in, it's supposed to make daily transportation easier, but when you rely on a service that can be called at the tip of your finger, you lose humility in that the concept of public transportation. It makes you hostile when a bus is late due to a Uber of Lyft driver taking up its drop-off spots. You need a mixture of both to gain a perspective into how both sides live. And at a total amount of: $163.08, I wouldn't trade in buses for the world.