What to do for Wheels?
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
I sold my car in 2007 and haven't purchased one since. I've been living car-free for 13 years!
Living in the middle of San Francisco, I found I was getting more parking tickets than I really wanted, and during the week, basically moving my car from one side of the street to the other to make way for street cleaning.
Anyone who lives in San Francisco knows the mental effort required to manage a car if you don't have a dedicated parking space, and the travails of street parking. So many early mornings running out and moving the car. A monthly parking ticket budget. And the dreaded broken window after you've left your car for just a couple nights.
So many of us just end up getting rid of the expensive (but convenient) thing causing our mental anguish, and stick to public transportation or a bicycle for the daily commute. For me, that usually meant a daily BART ride, just 5 minutes, with more walking than riding, from home to station and station to office. In fact, my reading time got so truncated by the short BART ride, I went from reading books to reading articles because I didn't have enough time on the train to read (first world problem).
Now during the shutdown, I'm generally not taking BART and just getting around on foot, with walks around the neighborhood and to the store.
I'm about to embark on a construction project this summer, building a small cottage with my parents at The Sea Ranch on the Sonoma Coast. Suffice to say, the only way to get there is to drive, and while I would love to purchase an all electric vehicle like the Chevrolet Bolt, it's still hard to justify the mental burden of dealing with parking and car ownership in San Francisco.
I told myself I wouldn't buy a car again until I could reliably get around and charge an electric one, including for the 100-mile one way trip to Sea Ranch. What with fire season and power outages to prevent fires, it's hard to justify charging an EV with a gas generator, which would be the case up on the north coast!
So, I've been thinking again about how best to acquire a set of wheels for the upcoming driving I'll be doing, and thanks to the plethora of alternatives to car ownership in the Bay Area and beyond, includ
For full disclosure: I'm a member of Zipcar, but don't get any perks for sharing their info in this blog!
I'm also an investor and returning member of Upshift, which is a more recent start up, with a fleet of Toyota Priuses and Rav 4 hybrids. I like the fact that they have a concierge service (bringing the car to you between 8 am-8 pm, as well as picking up from you, so less worry about parking), and the
membership includes insurance. Each car has Fastrak, so it's easy for the bridge toll to be charged to your account. They also have a refueling option, so rather than returning the car full, I can return it empty and leave the refueling to Upshift. And they're hybrids. One drawback is that they charge for a full 24 hours, so for short trips around town, I'll stick with Zipcar (generally about $13/hour). Upshift is best for longer weekend or full day trips, coming to about $60/day. It also does require finding a parking space at the end of the reservation, and communicating this back to Upshift so they can pick it up - outside of concierge hours, this can put the burden on the driver to make sure the parking space will not be towed for street cleaning the following morning!
I may try AAA's Gig in the future, since they've expanded to "home area" lots in San Francisco. Gig offers a fleet of Priuses with roof racks, and charge by the minute, hour or day depending on your duration, and rather than supporting round trips like Zipcar, where you return the car to the same parking space or lot, Gig enables parking in a different location, on the streets in Berkeley in Oakland, where they've negotiated parking, or in specific parking lots in San Francisco. They even have a fleet of EV vehicles in Sacramento.
Getaround and Turo are peer-to-peer car lending networks, which are great, but do require one to find parking for the car - as mentioned, rather difficult in my neighborhood.
I'm grateful for these options, because I'm just not ready to be a car owner again. When EV infrastructure is more ubiquitous, and we don't have the issue of power outages, you might see me buying a Chevrolet Bolt one day. Until then, I'll probably stick with these car sharing services!