Four Modes, Two Legs and Shared Wheels
Adventures running errands without a car
The day looked daunting. Two appointments and two errands, all across town on a Saturday. Physical therapy at 12:00pm, a doctor’s appointment at 1:30pm, a post office and a pharmacy with “Saturday hours”, and a clothing return—and I don’t own a car. For many, financial barriers prevent automobile ownership. For me, it’s a choice. A little over ten years ago, I was driving my Nissan Sentra en route to work in Durham, NC. I was hit by an SUV and driven into a tree. I broke my neck, my back, my ribs, and my pelvis in multiple places. I punctured a lung and there was bleeding in my brain. I fell into a coma for two weeks. Then I woke up and started singing, “Humpty Dumpty.”
Soon after I learned to walk again, I had to drive. There was simply no other way to get around. I live in Chicago now, having chosen one of a handful of US cities where, in 2013, you could truly live without needing a car. However, this reality sadly involves multiple payment systems and an inefficient process that requires “starting from scratch” during each leg of the trip.
The inefficiency of making multi-stop trips of various lengths with and without packages is a real-world concern. According to Reddit forums and frugal living blogs, the difficulty of “running errands” is the second biggest reason after commuting for not going car-free.
I decided to start the day with a short stroll—to meet my Uber Express Pool. With this shared option, you pay a reduced fee if you walk within a few blocks of your pickup and drop-off locations. Despite once being picked up by a driver speeding through an intersection, it’s a painless way to go. I walked three blocks and met my driver. All stops made logical sense and were complemented with, “have a great day” from everyone on board. Obviously, manners peak around 11:00 am. I was dropped off near my appointment 5 minutes early.
After this was the big trek, from the west part of West Town to southeast of Near North. (This makes sense if you’re in Chicago.) I checked my Transit Stop app, which shows real-time bus times, and caught the 49 southbound so I was directly parallel to my next stop. A brief cost vs time comparison on my phone and I chose Lyft Shared for the cross-town trek. Although it varies, today the difference in cost between ridehail services was virtually indistinguishable.
I made it to number two with time to spare. Sadly, my expediency was completely unnecessary given the lateness of my doctor. After the appointment, I walked to the nearest H&M for my return, which is conveniently located on my favorite bus route. Yes, I have a favorite: it’s well-located, relatively frequent, and has a catchy number—Route 66. I took the second bus (there was a parade of them) and was back at the blue line across town in a zip.
Now the blue line is my lifeline commute-wise: it’s crowded, functional, and less than a half-mile from my apartment. However, today was Saturday and due to construction, both directions were sharing the same track. So I sat in the rail car and waited. And waited. Determined not to give up and go back to H&M, I conquered solitaire and my urge to flee before “doors closing” signaled I was headed almost home…to hit the post office a block from the stop, and then the pharmacy about a half-mile further before they closed.
One afternoon. Four modes including my two feet. No parking. Done. While I can celebrate my victory, it is at the end of the day my choice. Many others in disadvantaged communities and with physical disabilities do not have this option. Through my work at the Shared-Use Mobility Center, I hope to make multi-modal transportation options available to all, and accessible via a single, convenient, platform.
Single-Occupancy Vehicle Charges: (Approximate)
Parking 1st stop…$6.50
Parking 2nd stop…$13
Parking 3rd stop…$3.50
Parking 4th stop…$7
Shared Mobility Charges:
1st stop Uber Express Pool…$3.75
2nd stop Lyft Shared $5.83 + bus…$2.25
3rd stop bus $0.25 + CTA Blue Line…$0.25
4th stop walking…$0
Note: Divvy bikes were available as well.