Test-Driving Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar

I am a public transit junkie, but I f*cking hate the Bay Area’s public transit system. In a nutshell, our public transit system — if you can call it a system — perfectly and unfortunately encapsulates all that is wrong with direct democracy, referendums, obsession with eminent domain, and what constitutes “for the greater good.” For those of you who don’t know, the Bay Area presents some topographic challenges (a huge bay plus a hilly city) that makes certain types of transit impossible. As a result, there’s a Caltrain line that services San Jose to San Francisco (approximately 60 miles+) with suburban stops along the way, though it curiously passes right by San Francisco’s main airport without a stop! Then there’s BART, a mostly underground train that magically moves under the Bay Bridge and connects all parts of the East Bay to the eastern half of San Francisco and down to SFO (airport). And finally, there’s SF Muni, the city’s own bus and rail car system. They all use different ticketing systems, fare structures, and operate during different hours, and are managed by different entities, for the most part.

The crux of my issue is the fact that Caltrain doesn’t connect to BART in San Francisco. Unbelievable, yes, but true. Apparently, to connect BART at Montgomery to Caltrain’s railhead could take decades and cost $10b. In a state like California, that just ain’t gonna happen. Unfortunately, whatever we want to say about our current systems of government, the balance between land use and planning has failed for citizens. While I believe private infrastructure like this is much better managed by private corporations, our only resort now is to reinvent how we travel from point A to point B, as we are powerless now about building new systems or laying new tracks.

So, what services are available to get from Caltrain to Embarcadero, where walking takes ~40 minutes?

  1. Scooter Service (developing, they just pinged me on Twitter)
  2. SF Muni N-Judah ($2, 15 mins, somewhat reliable)
  3. ** I am waiting to discover a new pedicab service **
  4. Sidecar ($6, worked well for me today, responsive service, great app flow)
  5. Lyft ($7, worked well yesterday, but app needs work)
  6. Yellow Cab (TaxiMagic or Cabulous) ($15, if you can find one)
  7. Uber ($18+, the best service so far, excited to see Uber X)

Haywire is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2014 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus