J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

Category: Lifestyle Experiments (Page 1 of 6)

Lyft (and Uber?) Drivers Don’t Know Where They’re Going

Logan Green of Lyft (photo by JD Lasica)

As part of an ongoing no-car month experiment (not owning or leasing a car for the last eleven months), I’ve relied heavily on the freelance taxi/ride-sharing service Lyft. Overall my experience with Lyft has been good. The drivers are generally courteous, friendly (but not too friendly), and drive safely. In turn I try to be a good rider, being ready when drivers arrive, not slamming doors, and tipping (which Lyft allows in-app; their competitor Uber doesn’t). I like most of the drivers I meet, and I almost always give 5-star ratings.

But here’s the thing–if there’s any complexity to a pickup or drop-off location, most Lyft drivers will get it wrong. Lyft drivers rely almost entirely on GPS, and even though GPS navigation is a miraculous invention, it fails consistently with large buildings, detours, poor cell-service areas, and even some straightforward locations (GPS often ignores the street I live on and directs drivers to one block away from my house).

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New 6-Week Experiment: Living With a Disability


On the evening of Dec. 9th I stepped off my skateboard the wrong way and broke my foot (three fractured metatarsals — see above). Thinking it was just a bad sprain, I took a Lyft home and rested on the couch, watching my foot swell up to alarming proportions. Come Monday: doctor’s office, x-ray, a compression splint, the threat of screws and surgery. But after many scans and tests, I managed to dodge a bullet. No surgery required, just six easy weeks in a cast.

So, it’s my turn to learn. What’s life like with reduced mobility?

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Things I Regret KonMari’ing

Where did you go, little Peavey 8-track mixer? I miss you!

Where did you go, little Peavey 8-track mixer? I miss you!

About two years ago I wrote about applying the KonMari method to my stuff. Since then I’ve had time to reflect on the process. This is a quick update on my post-KonMari insights.

Regret

There are a few items I regret getting rid of. This is something Marie Kondo does mention in her book, but maybe underemphasizes. For me, the list is as follows:

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Hair Regrowth Update 2016

Logo for Rob's hair regrowth/eBook site

Logo for Rob’s hair regrowth/eBook site

Two-and-a-half years ago I received an email from a young man named Rob who was developing a hair regrowth technique based on intensive, long-term scalp massage. He had read my post Modulating Testosterone Levels (For Men) and had some thoughts about DHT and hair loss. Rob agreed that male hair loss resulted from DHT shrinking/inactivating hair follicles, but he disagreed that hair loss had anything to do with circulating levels of DHT. It was the accumulation of DHT in the follicle due to reduced blood supply and calcification of the scalp that caused the problem.

This theory matched my intuitive observations. My own hair loss, starting in my early thirties, hadn’t coincided with raging male hormones, but rather with an unhealthy period of my life that included too much alcohol, many late nights, a high carbohydrate diet, significant weight/fat gain, and most likely lower levels of testosterone and DHT. Just an n=1 observation, but the idea of a direct correspondence between hair loss and circulating DHT left something to be explained. I was intrigued by Rob’s idea.

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Eight Months Without a Car, Cost and Convenience

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The eight-year-old’s bike.

Back in February when Kia and I turned in our leased Fiat 500 and decided to do a “one-month experiment” of living without a car, I suspected that the experiment might last longer than one month. But eight months? No way. I was sure we’d have another car by now. But it turns out there are a few advantages to not having an expensive hunk of metal to care for, including:

  • On average, it’s cheaper (about $150/month less).
  • It’s great to not worry about your car (will it break down or get stolen/scratched/dented/broken into/ticketed).
  • We save time on car maintenance and paperwork.
  • All three of us are fitter, stronger, and leaner (details below).
  • I feel more physically and socially connected to my neighborhood.
  • Our carbon footprint is reduced (though still high — we sometimes fly on airplanes).
  • I get to use my phone like a magic wand to summon friendly drivers to my house who arrive within minutes and take me wherever I want for a reasonable price and I don’t need cash not even to tip (thank you Lyft).
  • Local grandparents have been great sports about having to drive a bit more (thank you!)
  • Given our situation (we both work from home, our kid goes to school three blocks away, our neighborhood has a Walk Score of 91/100, local car-sharing options), we’re pretty much the ideal family to NOT own a car.
Our neighborhood Walk Score

Our neighborhood Walk Score

Costs

Back in February I calculated our average cost of car ownership at $440/month, as follows:

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No Car Month 4 — The New Normal?

Just another commute.

Just another commute.

May was the fourth month our family went about our business without owning or leasing a car. We still used a few cars, including the CityCarShare car-sharing service and the occasional Uber or Lyft ride, but we also got around more by foot, bicycle, skateboard, and scooter.

The experiment started in February, with the end of our Fiat 500 lease. I’ve posted a short update each month since (here’s March, and April, if you want the whole story to date). In May we started to get the feeling that not owning a car is the new normal. It just didn’t feel like a big deal to run errands on foot or via self-propelled means. A few things that spring to mind:

  • This month we made an extra effort to make sure we were pulling our weight in terms of dropping off/picking up our daughter from cross-town playdates, either with her grandparents or friends. This meant heavier CityCarShare use. Also, we reimbursed some friends and family for extra driving they did on our behalf during the first three months of the experiment. Basically, we’re trying to not be those people who congratulate themselves for not owning a car but then bum rides all the time, or assume other people will happily do all the driving (and absorb the related costs).
  • I got some more upgrades to my bicycle, including thicker tires for a smoother ride, and switching from fixie mode to single-speed (with the option to coast). On my Critical Cycle this was just a matter of flipping the back wheel, but I had the guys at the bike shop do it so as not to find myself inadvertently and unexpectedly riding a unicycle at some point.
  • In the process of exploring new ways to get to a client in South Berkeley I ended up having one of the most epic longboard rides of my life. I took BART to the North Berkeley station, then rode the longboard all the way down Virginia to 4th Street. Smooth pavement, gentle slope, no traffic, all the way. Slalomed all the way down, fast enough to be fun but not so fast to get the wobbles and crash. So fun!

Total transportation costs for May, including amortized expenses:

  • CityCarShare — $142
  • Lyft (including in-app tips) — $51
  • Uber (including cash tips) — $20
  • car expense cash to family and friends — $30
  • amortized bike upgrades — $25
  • additional public transportation spending — $10

Total: $278. By comparison, total transportation expenses were $289 in April, $290 in March, and $225 in February. I would predict that if we continue our “no mooching” policy, in addition to our “no declining social invitations because we can’t easily get there” policy, our expenses will average out at $275-300/month.

Looking at available leases that we would seriously consider, we could get a 36-month deal on an eGolf for $219/month and $2349 due at signing. Other car leaser approximate costs would include:

  • $75/month for State Farm insurance, including loyalty and good driver discounts
  • $80/month for gas, bridge tolls, and parking
  • $50/month average cost of repairs and maintenance
  • $15/month amortized DMV registration

So that comes to $504 a month. So even at the upper end of the no-car lifestyle costs, we’re saving $200/month.

After 4 months, I’m starting to get a feel for the overall pros and cons. Here’s how we would characterize them at the moment.

JD’s Cons

  • Cross-town transportation requires a little more planning (though the CityCarShare app is very easy to use, and almost always we can pick up a car within a 5-minute walk).
  • I still don’t love using Uber or Lyft. Most of the drivers are really nice and completely competent, but we had one “Crazy Taxi” style driver, and one guy who got completely lost. Getting in a car with a stranger is always a bit of a crapshoot, now matter how you slice it.
  • I sat in a CityCarShare Prius (my first time driving one) button mashing for several minutes before I managed to turn the damn thing on.

JD’s Pros

  • Better fitness from biking (now more comfortable with my high-end seat and fatter tires and coast-mode), skateboarding, and walking.
  • Transportation is generally more relaxed — it’s nice to be out and about on sunny days, and not stuck in traffic.
  • It’s great not having to worry about your car (where’s it’s parked, if it’s OK, if someone has stolen it or broken into it).
  • We’ve probably lightened our environmental impact, at least somewhat. Less CO2 emissions, less fine particulate pollution, less noise pollution.
  • Save $200/mo. on average.

8-Year Old Daughter’s Pros

  • “I like that we don’t have to go get gas anywhere, because CityCarShare usually takes care of the gas”
  • “I like that I can play in the driveway when we don’t have a car there.”
  • “I usually like the cars that they give us.”

8-Year Old Daughter’s Cons

  • “I don’t like that we have to walk to get a car.”

Kia’s Pros

  • Kia has discovered that walking/biking is often just as fast as driving, for short trips.
  • She really enjoys walking family outings.
  • She likes the “car shopping” aspect of CityCarShare (get to know a particular model, and know that if you don’t like a feature you don’t have to live with it for a long time — for example finicky seatbelts, beeping while backing up [Prius], odd button placement).

Kia’s Cons

  • “I mostly really like it.”

Moving Forward

The fact that our neighborhood is highly walkable (close to schools, close to stores) influenced our decision to buy the house we did, but this feels like the first time we’re fully taking advantage of it. I realize that not everyone has it so easy, but for us it makes sense to at least try out the no-car-ownership lifestyle.

Maybe we’ll eventually lease or buy a car, but I could see us continuing the experiment indefinitely. I’ll provide an update at least a few times a year, but this will be my last monthly post on the topic.

If you’re currently on the fence, what’s preventing you from making the leap? Many of what I considered to be insurmountable problems turned out to be relatively easy to solve.

If you have any questions about how we’re making it work, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments. Or just share your own thoughts and experiences.

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