By on December 23, 2015

uber

After a week in which I was burned in effigy by some “autowriters” who didn’t much care for my editorial about their complete and total lack of ethics (don’t worry, fellas — I still won’t send you a bunch of web traffic, er, I mean, name names), I found myself in a situation that Alanis Morissette would call “ironic.”

I was going to spend the weekend in Philadelphia at the glorious Hotel Monaco, right in the Old City across the street from Independence Hall. Thanks to a last-minute deal, I got a magnificent rate of $100/night, but there was still the specter of the $43/night parking rate looming over my head, not to mention the difficulties of finding parking elsewhere in the city once I actually retrieved my vehicle from the valet.

As a result, I decided to go without a rental car for the four-day weekend, instead depending entirely on Uber and the city’s taxi services to squire Mrs. Bark and me around the City of Brotherly Love. This was the perfect way to test out the only viable theory that some of my colleagues in the automotive journalism (not that there’s much journalism going on, but that’s another subject for another time) game put forth as to why some writers don’t own cars.

“It’s too difficult and/or expensive to own a car in the city,” they said. As somebody who was born in the Greater New York City area, but has spent most of his life in the Midwest and the South, I was eager to see if I, too, would make the choice to go carelessly carless on the eastern seaboard.

As with most cities, Philly doesn’t make it easy to use Uber at the airport. My only Uber option at PHL was a black car, which my app estimated would be a $61 to $76 expense to take into Center City. From prior visits, I know that the flat rate for taxis from the airport to downtown is $28.50, so I opted to hop into the first waiting vehicle. That’s where I found this sign awaiting me:

025

Sigh. Okay.

As we exited the airport and hopped on I-95 South, our taxi driver suddenly swerved off the ramp onto the shoulder and came to a halt. “Lots of traffic and accidents today,” he said in halting English. I have no idea why that made him pull over, considering the highway heading into the city was nearly devoid of cars at 4:17 p.m. He apparently felt safe enough to continue on our journey, as he re-entered the highway and made his way into town. The generally sad condition of his Toyota Sienna minivan made me wish the 17-minute trip would end as soon as possible.

Luckily, the Hotel Monaco, my favorite hotel in the Kimpton universe, awaited us.

059

Sigh. Happiness. I love the Monaco. Not only is it perfectly situated in the middle of All Things Tourism in historic Philly, and not only is it the home of the sinfully cool Stratus Lounge on the rooftop, it also happens to have the most tastefully and beautifully appointed rooms of any hotel in the world.

We arrived just in time for the famous wine hour from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m., where we cozied up to the lobby’s fireplace and made our plans for the evening. I’m a huge fan of El Vez, but it’s notoriously difficult to get reservations there (even for famous autowriters), so we decided to head over to the trendy South 13th Street area and take our chances.

Since we didn’t have a car, we made use of the most basic form of human transportation: My Adidas.

The walk from the Monaco to El Vez was a little less than a mile, and since Mrs. Bark and I are both in relatively good shape, we didn’t mind the leisurely walk down Walnut Street past Washington Park, the final resting place of hundreds of unknown Revolutionary War soldiers. The weather was mild enough, at a cool 43 degrees or so, to make it an easy jaunt in our winter coats. Unfortunately, El Vez had a wait of 2 1/2 hours, so we pulled up the traveler’s best friend: Yelp. It informed us that an even more highly-rated Mexican restaurant, Lolita, was directly across the street. They, too, had an immense wait time, but luckily, two seats opened up at the bar as soon as we walked in.

034

Lolita is now my favorite Mexican restaurant — not only in Philly, but in the world. My fried chicken tacos were fucking perfection, while Mrs. Bark’s fish tacos (STOP IT) were delightful, as well.

After dinner, we wandered over to Philly’s imposing City Hall and Love Park, where we explored the vast array of temporary shops set up there for the “Christmas Village” shopping area. It was incredibly quaint. What was considerably less quaint was the walk back to the Monaco, down Chestnut Street after dark. Philly does a great job keeping the historic areas and the trendy shopping areas free of those who would do harm. The rest of the city? Not so much.

As we walked down the eerily quiet street, nearly every doorway seemed to be home to a beggar. The streets weren’t lit nearly as well as I would have liked. Several of the sidewalks were under construction, and we were forced to walk underneath scaffolding that seemed harmless in the daylight, but appeared to be the perfect place for anybody who would be lurking, hoping to prey upon out-of-town tourists. Luckily, we avoided any such encounters, save for a overly-persistent panhandler or two, and we made it safely back to the confines of the Monaco. After that less than pleasant stroll, I decided to make use of Uber for longer trips, as well as those that took place after dark.

041

The next day, we walked across the street in the late morning and took a tour of the wondrous place that is Independence Hall — the very building where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. To stand in the footsteps of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Washington is a humbling experience, indeed. We then set out in search of the best Philly Cheesesteak.

The tourists’ favorites of Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Cheesesteaks are a stone’s throw away from each other on East Passyunk Avenue, which is a little over 1.3 miles away from Independence Hall. We decided to take our first Uber ride of the weekend and, after a bit of confusion as to where we actually were at that moment, we were picked up by Sang — a recent Temple University Finance graduate — in his new Toyota RAV4.

sanguber

Sang drives Uber on the weekends to pick up spare cash, because the $150,000/year he makes at his financial industry job isn’t enough for him to live comfortably in Philadelphia. Ouch. He told us of the $5,000 house he bought near Temple when he was a student so he could establish residency, which saved him a considerable amount on tuition. After Temple invested over a billion dollars gentrifying the neighborhood, he sold it for $310,000 only three years later. I’m still not sure why Sang needs to drive for Uber.

He did tell us, as did every other person in Philadelphia over the course of the weekend, that neither Pat’s nor Geno’s was the place to go for cheesesteaks.

“Only tourists go there,” Sang told us. “You want to go to Jim’s.”

After he dropped us off, we discovered that both Pat’s and Geno’s only offer outdoor seating. While I’m sure this isn’t a problem in the summer, it was only 32 degrees that afternoon and Mrs. Bark wasn’t having that. As a result, we ended up wandering up the street into the Italian Market area where we found yet another wonderful Mexican restaurant, Blue Corn. Remember how I said Lolita was now my favorite Mexican restaurant? I totally meant that at the time. Blue Corn was unfathomably good. They had a salmon quesadilla that was so delicious that I forgot that I don’t like salmon.

However, we were still a lengthy walk away from our next destination, Macy’s in the former Wanamaker building. Thus, I dialed up the Uber app again and requested a ride. This time, we got Willy and his Hyundai Sonata.

Willy was a slightly older gentleman who was incredibly directionally impaired. Despite his GPS telling him exactly where to go, Willy got lost twice. Actually, he got lost three times — one of which was on the way to pick us up. I watched Willy wander around aimlessly on the Uber app, cursing him with every wrong turn. I have no idea how our 1.2 mile trip took seventeen minutes, but it did. Willy, however, was a nice guy who offered pleasant, harmless conversation. I didn’t mind the experience as much as one might suppose I would, but I was mercifully glad to get out of the car across the street from our destination and bid him farewell. I still gave him five stars on the app because we live in the Google reviews era where people only give one or five stars to everything, and Willy didn’t deserve one star.

Both of our trips that afternoon were subject to “surge pricing,” which is what Uber does when the demand exceeds the supply. Our fares were 1.5 times the normal price. I suppose that I could have waited for fares to go down, or I could have walked. But, in both instances, I decided to pay the extra fee for convenience.

I won’t bore you further with the details of every Uber trip we took for the rest of the weekend, but I will give you some highlights here:

  • Maher spoke no English, drove with his windows down in freezing temperatures, but was otherwise fine. Paid surge pricing again. 12 minutes to go a mile.
  • Arthur drove us to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Christmas concert in a very pimped out, slightly older BMW 7-Series. He asked us which radio station we preferred, told us to go to the Reading Terminal Market and get a Roast Pork sandwich from DiNic’s (which we did), and delivered us quickly and safely. Took us 13 minutes to go about five blocks, due to some challenging traffic patterns around Broad Street. (Mrs. Bark did not want to walk in her sassy heels.)
  • Said could not find us after the concert at the Kimmel Center. He went to the wrong entrance, and he could not speak English well enough for me to communicate to him where we were, so we just ended up walking to him. However, once inside his Toyota Avalon, we had a quick ride home to the hotel.
  • The best ride of the weekend went to Karl, who hustled his Jetta Hybrid across town with great velocity and agility. He deftly changed lanes and found holes in the traffic where I didn’t think they could be found. I suggested to him that he join the Philly SCCA and go autocrossing. He drove us the 2 1/2 miles from the hotel to the Art Museum in just 14 minutes, a feat which I doubt could be replicated by real racing drivers.
  • This was followed immediately by the worst ride of the weekend, Nikesha in her two-generation-old Maxima. She cranked the music to the point where we had difficulty hearing each other speak and, not only that, the music was filled with obscenities. I would have asked her to turn it down, but it was almost funny. We rode with her from the Art Museum to Jim’s Cheesesteaks where, upon arrival, she informed us that we had chosen the wrong cheesesteak. That was the first and last time she spoke to us. I gave her three stars and a “TURN DOWN YOUR MUSIC!” comment on the app. I immediately got an e-mail response from Uber management, apologizing for my experience.
  • Jason took us to Rittenhouse Square in his Maxima wordlessly, also with the windows down. Unremarkable trip.
  • Finally, Shermain drove us back to the airport on Monday in her new Corolla. She streamed my Spotify Jazz playlist on the ride, which was a nice bonus. The fare was $18.84, about half of the fare plus tips of our taxi into town three days earlier.

Overall, my Uber fares totaled $75.93 for the weekend. My taxi was $35, including tip. For four days of transportation, we paid $110.93. A rental car would have cost about $45 a day from National, plus the $43 parking fee, plus however much it would have cost to park it elsewhere in the city, for a total of $309 plus additional city garage/street parking fees. There’s no question that, for a weekend trip, it makes much, much more sense to Uber than rent a car.

But what about everyday life? Wouldn’t the impracticality of having a car in a big, urban city like Philadelphia (or New York, or Chicago) become further magnified by actual car ownership? Don’t those urban, city-dwelling journalists have a point when they say they don’t need a car?

No. No, I don’t think that they do. First of all, living in the city is a choice one makes, and it’s rarely out of necessity. I understand that some outlets, including Jalopnik and Road & Track (two other fine websites where you can find examples of my work), are based in New York, but you don’t have to live in the city to work there. That’s a choice you make. And those guys who work there do, for the most part, own their own cars.

Secondly, if you’re passionate about something, you’re likely going to throw entire heaps of rationale out of the closest window. I don’t own forty pairs of dress shoes because I need them. I like shoes. I don’t write about cars because of the piles of cash that TTAC sends me at the end of each month. I do it because I love cars. And if you love cars, you should own one, regardless of where you live. You might be like our friend David, who moved to downtown Chicago and garages his 991 GT3 in Atlanta, because he loves cars. Of course it’s inconvenient. He does it out of love.

Lastly, if you live in the city, and if you’re a sage, inventor, and patriot like Ben Franklin, you can just have prisoners from the local jail carry you around in one of these:

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Mrs. Bark looked dashing (and comfortable) in one of Franklin’s “sedans” that we saw at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

There you have it. If you’re visiting, go with Uber. If you live there, and you have a passion for cars, I’m confident that you’ll figure out a way to make car ownership work.

Merry Christmas.

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74 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: A Weekend Without A Car...”


  • avatar

    I started a small UBER group with some friends.
    We have a few cars on Uber Black here in NYC/NJ/CT.

    UBER takes 20% off the top – the rest is yours.
    UBER makes it easy to buy new cars and pay them off quickly. The car has to be less than 5 years old – and they send a dude to inspect them just to make sure they are “OK”.

    I use our service to move car-less clients back and forth from the LIRR to my office.

    It’s working perfectly thus far and we are all happy.

    I’m going to lease a Model X when the price is regular so that this way I can add vehicles to my fleet that DON’T use gas sitting in Holland Tunnel Traffic. Already have a Model S. I hate the comfort in the car but I love the efficiency – sitting at dead stops for long durations of time here in traffic!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Piston Slap Yo Mama

      This new web-enabled economy is paying dividends – our forays with Uber across the USA and England have been great with few duds. HP paid for our Mercedes S400 limo ride from Heathrow to the hotel – wafting along on a cloud while receiving a shiatsu electronic massage from the seat. Who knows that would’ve cost us but when I asked the driver what his thoughts were on Uber I could see his blood pressure spike. We didn’t take any of London’s black cabs, just Uber and the Tube, all money in the bank. The flip side is the taxis we used to take: vinyl upholstery that literally stinks, drivers that literally stink, rates more than double Uber’s and still they expect you to fork over a hefty tip. That’s an industry I can’t wait to see capsize.
      Re. BigTrucksyadayada ownership of a Tesla, I distinctly remember your frothing-at-the-mouth hatred of anything that didn’t burn dead dinosaurs some years ago. Your hypocrisy fascinates me.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Automotive journalism as it exists today needs to go away. Car and Driver may be the worst. How many times does an extended test of an economy car read something like this?

    ‘It took us two years to put 40,000 miles on the Nissan Versa Note, as nobody drove it on a long trip since we had more appealing road cars in our fleet during its stay including an S8, a 550i, a Panamera Turbo S and even an Infiniti Q90.’

    How about driving the car and writing about it because it’s what passes for the public version of your job description? These repellent, entitled poofs think that car magazines exist so they can collect SWAG and drive luxury cars in exchange for telling lies about German junk and domestic cars that started being just as good as their competition this morning, and every morning after this morning. They’ve become about as respectable as MSNBC.

  • avatar
    plateofshrimp

    Mexican food….. Fried chicken tacos…

    Hopefully this nonsense never hits SoCal.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I’m sure you have modern, higher end Mexican places in SoCal that will serve something similar. I’ve been to that kind of place in Scottsdale. It was actually a Japanese-Mexican fusion place. I also find Arizona to have some of the best Mexican food around (especially Tucson, that has many regionally specialized Mexican restaurants).

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Best Mexican food BY FAR I’ve ever had in the U.S. was in some ordinary buildings in Kingsman & Tucson, AZ.

      It was so good, in fact, I am now disappointed when eating at allegedly “great” Mexican places in San Diego or other place in California or Texas.

      FORGET Michigan, the Midwest in general, or Northeast. Arizona is where great Mexican food, delivered with dozens of freshly made, variety-colored salsas and squash blossoms and peppers on the side, resides.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Tucson dude. So much good Mexican food. I miss it all the time.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          Word.

          From Tucson to the border at Nogales (Nogales, AZ), which I should’ve mentioned – BEST, MOST VIBRANT, FRESHEST MEXICAN FOOD EVER.

          There is something about the Sonoran style Mexican food with fragrant, zesty sauces and bright red, yellow and green salsas, and things like roasted peppers and squash blossoms that just rocks.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Now I am missing Tucson even more. My favorite restaurant in Tucson was a converted house. They come around with a platter of grilled green onions, jalapenos, and other various peppers and veggies when you get your food. Oh man…So hungry.

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    The sentence “(two other fine websites where you can find examples of my work)” hyperlinks twice to the same article when I was looking for a second link.

    I have yet to try Uber here in Toronto despite the fact I’ve installed the app on my phone and created an account. The cabbies here are rabid about Uber’s ‘unfair competition’ and even shut down a downtown intersection for a protest two weeks ago.

    http://globalnews.ca/news/2389591/traffic-slowdown-expected-as-toronto-taxi-drivers-stage-protest-against-uber/

  • avatar
    70Cougar

    I just spent a long weekend in NYC. I drove there and found a parking spot in front of my sister’s apartment in the West Village that was good for the duration of my visit, so I never moved the car. We used a combination of subway, Uber, and cabs. Most Ubers were Camrys, although we also rode in a Caravan and a full size Infinit SUV. Most Uber drivers there are fast and know their way around. Only one seemed a bit lost and unable to work traffic like a pro. Given the cost of parking in NYC, using Uber or a cab (if you see one right when you need one) for modest distances is a no brainer. I actually like riding and driving in the City–everyone is just trying to get where they are going, and bad drivers are afraid to go there.

    • 0 avatar

      I took a foreign girlfriend on a tour of NYC. I parked directly in front of the Empire State Building on that Sunday and took her to the ESB, Intrepid, Statue of Liberty and MOMA…all in one day.

      I had this feeling in the back of my mind there would be some law or restriction or something to ticket or tow my car. NYC is filled with ridiculously hard to understand signs.

      FORTUNATELY, we had a perfect day – no tickets – no problems.

      I’ve lived here for over 30 years.

      Manhattan has become so “anti-car” that you absolutely DO NOT drive here unless it’s:

      #1 Sunday

      #2 after 8PM

      #3 lower manhattan

      #4 a parade

      #5 the Pope’s in town

      #6 the President’s in town

      I HATE TAKING THE BUS. I HATE TAKING THE TRAIN. It’s like being forced into a cage with the dregs of society.

      But for those meetings in lower Manhattan where you can’t get to a parking lot…it’s a necessary punishment.

      And these gotdammmned 25 MPH cameras…

      My personal cars don’t move properly unless it’s past 50 mph.

      DiBlasio’s gonna be a 1-term-mayor.

    • 0 avatar
      Speed3

      I live in Manhattan and would NEVER own a car here. A monthly spot at the parking garage across the street is $650 a month. $1000 if its an SUV or crossover.

      I disagree with Bark, under very few circumstances does it make sense to own a car living in Manhattan. Sure living in The City is a choice, but so is foregoing an hour commute each way and living a few blocks away from the office. Public transportation, citibike, uber, and cabs are more than sufficient. My grocery store is a few blocks away too. For everything else there is delivery.

      I understand that Manhattan is the outlier, but I had my Speed3 when I lived in San Francisco; since I biked to work it was basically my weekend warrior/ grocery getter, so it didn’t get used that often. Even then I had a love/hate relationship with car ownership. The street parking situation was such a nightmare. Bumpers ruined within months? Check. Clutch ruined by 50K miles from parallel parking on 30 degree incline hills and a spouse that can’t drive stick? Check. Hundreds of dollars in parking and street cleaning tickets? Check. Trying to catch some air while recklessly flying up a steep hill? Check :-)

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      If I’m in NYC for an Uber, I’m summoning BTRS, and BTRS, if it ain’t a He!!cat or at least SRT, ME NO RIDE!

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’ve used Uber a handful of times and it’s worked for when I needed it. Those places where mass transit sucks or is non-existent. But, also as a Midwesterner(ish), I feel wheels are a must unless they too are also expensive( as in Barks case)

    But for an auto journalist to not own a car is bizarre. That would be like someone writing for Flying who isn’t at least a private(or sport) pilot. Or insert whatever is your hobby/passion and having someone with little knowledge write about it.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Gearhead77
      I agree but I think the point needs to be fleshed out a bit more. Having a pilots license in the first place is the equivalent of owning a car, not merely having a drivers license. There is no assumption of familiarity with automobiles, experience driving or even mental competence associated with owning a drivers license. Those can only be inferred from how you own your own vehicles. There is also no unreasonable barrier to owning a vehicle in this country. It can get expensive in Manhattan itself (which is exactly why no auto publication should ever be headquartered there), but even in that most extreme example there are ownership solutions out there for the truly motivated (beater cars, cow catchers, any other borough).

  • avatar

    I’ve used TNCs twice thus far, and both were pleasant experiences.

    The first was when I went to Portland to shift my own gears in a handful of classics — a tale I wrote about back in late September 2015 (hint-hint). Once the BoltBus dropped me off downtown, the contact at Hagerty (the event’s sponsor) had an Uber driver waiting for me to bring me to Portland Meadows. She drove a new Jeep Cherokee — which I still believe is hideous — and was friendly.

    After the event, my contact called for another Uber to bring me back downtown to catch the bus back to Seattle. The driver had a metallic beige minivan, and was an older gentleman. Again, friendly.

    The second time was a few weeks ago, when I started my move back to Louisville from Seattle, with a brief, month-long detour into Columbus, Ohio. Flew from SeaTac to O’Hare, then from O’Hare to Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky (it was cheaper than direct to Columbus).

    The last leg of the trip would be via Greyhound, so I had a few options to consider: bus, taxi, TNC. I opted to use Lyft to get me to the bus station because A) time constraints prevented using the local bus option, B) I downloaded the Lyft app in-between flights, whereby I received five $10 credits to use within a certain time period, and C) I could use PayPal with Lyft; found out later I could do the same with Uber, but Lyft it was!

    My Lyft driver was not a hipster, but a father in a white Chrysler minivan whose young son was learning how to drive. I told him about my experience with Hagerty’s program, suggesting he sign his son up the next time Hagerty visits Cincy. We also talked about local sports, and why he decided to work with Lyft and Uber; I don’t remember his reasons, alas.

    Minus the $10 discount and $5 tip, I paid $21 to travel 15 miles in under 30 minutes. I was also rated by my driver — which I didn’t know about — receiving a full five stars for being a friendly, well-behaved passenger; I gave him five stars for being a wonderful driver.

    And those are my two experiences with TNCs to date.

  • avatar

    I’ve used Uber once, in LA, to get back to the airport. Nice young woman driving, nice Accord, straightforward trip.

    @BTSR: I drive to NYC once or twice a year. It seems to me the traffic is getting worse, and parking harder than it was in the ’00s.

    And I agree with Bark that car journalists should own cars. One thing that I think has gone unmentioned: long-term car ownership often reveals aspects of cars that don’t come out during a week, that can inform good journalism. I also agree with the notion that car journalists should not depend on car companies’ good will for their transportation. Studies have shown that doctors who accept drug company money unconsciously bias their trials of said drugs.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    “supply exceeds the demand”

    Maybe I’m reading this wrongly but I think prices would go up when demand exceeds supply.

    Also I have to say the only place I’ve really felt unsafe was in Philly around all the historic buildings. And that’s after living in downtown Chicago for decades.

  • avatar
    didenkan

    Yep, Uber is a good one, but few days ago I tried NoTaxi app, where I can set up the price by myself. It’s interesting, that there is no commission on drivers.
    Unfortunately now only iOSversion is available. Waiting for Android.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    Wow, you were only a couple blocks from my office when at the Monaco; sorry we could not have gotten together. Glad you had a generally good time while you were here. Sounds like you hit a lot of the high points.

    One does not need $150K to live comfortably in Philly; we have a fully paid for house, A5, and Mini Cooper on less, with money left for overseas vacations, though granted we have no children. It is nowhere near as expensive to live here as in NY, 90 miles to the north.

    I have only used UberX, which is technically illegal in Philly, one time, and the ride was no better than in a taxi, as I had a driver playing rather unpleasant talk radio. Uber was less expensive, but the taxis always get me to where I need to be without getting lost.

    I generally do not drive into center city much. Commuter rail here is reasonably good, so I only put 3000 or so miles on the car each year. Were I to drive into center city each day from the leafy neighborhood in northwest Philly where I live, the cost of parking would be easily twice what I pay for public transportation.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      SANG sounds like he’s FOS with his line about buying a house for $5,000 upon entering college and selling it for 62x that within 3 years.

      Yes, such things happen, but that kind of return, even in the most heated, bubbly markets, is exceedingly rare, bordering on winning powerball type odds.

      SANG should write fictional novels about real estate, and drive less Uber fares.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        I think Sang is just field testing his lines in the hope of getting some future back-seat action with female passengers. He’s figuring out what sort of stories they might actually buy.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        Maybe Sang forgot to mention the size of the mortgage he took out with the $5K he put into the house, and that had to be paid out of the proceeds of the sale. That would of course make the numbers more realistic. But the way he tells the story is designed to impress the impressionable. Sounds like a carefully constructed and edited revision of the whole story, one that he has used time after time when meeting new friends of his desired persuasion.

        Reading about him after seeing the two mortgage lenders in the Big Short movie made me think he might be related. As another character says of them “they aren’t confessing. They are bragging.”

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The Big Short was too – I dunno. Too long, too much a cross between comedy and documentary, with random Steve Carrell emotional appeal.

          Could have been better.

          Though, I do realize it’s hard to fit lots of banking terms in for the average consumer and have them maintain interest in the movie.

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    Uber was just what the doctor ordered when in San Francisco last summer. Parked the truck (we were RV-ing through the region) on the outskirts of town and used Uber and cablecars to do the touristy stuff. Amazing number of drivers available, we never waited more than 5 minutes for pickup. One of our drivers was a recent Chinese immigrant on student visa, another was an OR-tech supplementing his income to support his family living in Oakland. With only one exception, they were all driving late model Mazdas, various models. Prices were very reasonable, suspect we were riding on the happy side of the supply/demand curve.

  • avatar
    tylermattikow

    I live in Hoboken, right across the Hudson from Manhattan. While I currently own 4 cars and a motorcycle, I use Uber all the time. The cars are for leaving town. Within town Uber is great, no looking for parking and no worry about having a drink and driving. 95% of the time the Uber drivers are great, I have had very few problems and Uber is very quick to respond and comp the ride or remove charges when something does go wrong.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I lived in Chicago for a couple of years in the early 90’s, and owned a car. I used it mostly to get out of town. While in the city, I rode my bike April through November, along with the occasional bus or L ride.

    I get the impression that the east coast cities are less car friendly than was Chicago.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Used Lyft in Las Vegas earlier this month. Compared to regular cabs Lyft wss consistently cheaper, had friendlier drivers and cleaner, newer cars. What’s not to like? I’m actually a registered driver mysef, signed up for fun last year, but have only driven two fares, barely breaking even for gas money.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil200

    Glad you had a good time on Philadelphia. I live two blocks from El Vez. Right downtown. Awesome neighborhood.

    I kept my car for about 6 months after i moved downtown. The city provides an on-street parking permit for $45 a year, and with it you can park in designated places in your neighborhood without feeding the meters. A GREAT deal. IF you can find a place to park.

    My car was a VW Golf with 300,00 miles on it, was on its last legs. When it finally died, i didn’t replace it. I wanted to see if I could live here without a car. For a suburban motorhead, this was (and is) an interesting move. Its been about a year.

    Luckily i do not need a car to get to work or about 90% of the places i need to go, stores, etc. Even when i had the car, it sat most of the time.

    There are two car sharing services within a block of my place. I joined one, never used it. There’s a regular car rental place two blocks away.

    Garage parking here can cost 300-350 a month. Not cheap.

    Public trans is good and effective. And now that i am 65, its free or costs one dollar. WooHoo! And ya don’t have to roam for parking. Or a cab, or uber x, which is illegal in Philadelphia. But that’s another story.

    Not having a car releases a surprising amount of money. No more insurance, tires, registration, car cosmetics from Pep Boys, car washes, gas, leather seat conditioner, oil changes, air conditioner repair, bump and ting removal, the list goes on and on.

    Not having a car also leaves me strangely incomplete. Raised in suburbia close to Philadelphia, a car is absolutely critical to get anywhere. It becomes kind of an appendage. You get used to it. Thinking in terms of walking or taking a bus takes a little while. But I’m definitely liking it.

    So can a motorhead get along without a car of his or her own? Yep. I could never afford the cars I really wanted anyway, My cars needed to be cheap and reliable. Not at all the exotic and temperamental cars I like to read about and dream about. I still read about these cars. I wonder about lifestyle choices also For what I’m paying to live in this fancy schmancy neighborhood, I could have a nice two car garage house somewhere, an old Alfa in one bay, a new cayman in the other. Or maybe a ’56 Cadillac in one and a Macan as a daily driver. No no wait – a mid ’70’s Aston and a 5 series M sedan. No wait….

    But then I could not walk out of the house 10 minutes before dinner at ElVez, or Lolita, or the awesomely named “Charlie was a sinner” for vegan fare, then a 10 minute walk (all wined up) to the Orchestra or a play or even the ballet. Are motorheads allowed to like modern dance?

    OH – and about your walk down Chestnut St after dark, i feel your pain. Walnut street (one block south) would have been better choice, but how would you know? Like most cities, one block is good, the next maybe not so. Smart money would have been the bus on Chestnut. It costs a couple of bucks. Next time!

    • 0 avatar
      SilverCoupe

      I too grew up in the suburbs of Philly, but we only moved half way back in to center city. In Mount Airy, our cats can roam freely, and I have a garage to keep my car in. I am the only person of the twelve houses on our portion of the block to actually park his car in their garage, though! The trade-off is a 45 minute commute into center city, of course.

      If I moved into center city, the higher cost of housing would probably offset any savings from not having a car. And let’s face it, I am a car guy. If I had too much extra money laying around from not owning a car, I would just want to buy a car with it anyway. Until Uber is willing to park an Audi in my drive way for me to gaze at, it will not meet all of my needs.

      After all, it’s not like we actually need cars for transportation or something!

      P.S. – There is no ’56 Cadillac sitting around on our block, but there is a ’54 Cadillac for sale. I know, it’s just not the same thing without big fins.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on Walnut. We walked down Walnut on the way there. Much better!

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Jerseydevil

      I was in that exact situation when I lived on the upper east side after college. Going car less seemed like it was going fine until I realized I was spending a rapidly escalating fortune on rental cars. I found myself subconsciously favoring out of town plans more and more. I’m pretty sure it was bc the novelty of economic independence had worn off, and I wanted my freedom of travel back.

      When you find yourself at the rental counter two out of three weekends, even if it’s perfectly justifiable as a one off occurrence, immediately go buy a car.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Nice writeup on your vacation .

    This car share thing sounds like the future .

    I can’t imagine anyone writing about a thing they clearly don’t know about ~ if you love cars , you own one , don’t have to be a mechanic or Race Driver but *DO* need to have one and do all the myriad little things involved with vehicle ownership or you’re full of shit , plain and simple .

    You should ‘ out ‘ these wankers .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I feel like, if you’re going to take issue with auto writers being in positions where living car-free is advantageous, take issue with the publications that choose to set up in those environments, I mean, I love cars, but I also live in an urban environment (because my wife’s job makes for a horrendous, multi-hour commute otherwise), and if I had weekly press cars, I don’t know where I’d stash my normal car.

    It’s also nice to talk about how if you love cars, you need to own a car, which is a bit of a logical leap. Again, if I have constant access to a rotating pool of frequently interesting cars, that itch is scratched. Getting a project car (for something weird and different) would be appealing if I had the space and money, but wrenching on an old RX7 or Corvair or something doesn’t have much to do with long-term maintenance on a commuter module, and it’s certainly not daily transportation except in an emergency. See also – motorcycles.

    And, hell, if you’re putting significant miles on someone else’s car, you’re not putting the miles on your car that would actually represent a typical ownership experience. But then, if you want to talk about a typical ownership experience, you need to find a better way to do long-term tests then, because they’re anecdotal at best now (for reliability at least), and it’s just an unfortunate reality that regular road tests can only convey so much.

    Realistically, we need a variety of voices with a variety of experiences, and the disclaimer that no one singular voice is going to have all the answers. I mean, Cameron didn’t even have a driver’s license until recently – are you questioning her integrity or interest in the industry?

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I owned a car when I lived in central Washington, DC, but it was quite clearly irrational. I paid $229/month for parking, drove the thing only once (maybe twice) a week, and used Metro for most travel because it was faster once you took finding parking into account.

    Now in inner-suburban Seattle I own three cars, and two of them remain quite clearly irrational, but one is necessary. Only a few places in Seattle, all of them very close to downtown and too expensive for us, really work without a car.

    Also, if you are going to spend a lot of time in the city it’s useful to learn to tell those who might actually do you harm from those who just look bedraggled and poor. Based on where you were, I’m pretty sure you didn’t see any of the former.

  • avatar
    Mr. K

    Next time you come over:
    Cheese steak – try chicken steaks too:
    http://www.tonylukes.com/
    Not located for the tourist
    http://dalessandros.com/
    Italian market
    http://www.fantes.com/
    http://www.bestcannoli.com/
    http://www.italiancoffeehouse.com/anthonysitaliancoffee/home.php

    BTW L&I can and does seize illegal cabs like Uber X, and there is minimal insurance on Uber x cars.

  • avatar
    jnik

    Of course, you know that big cities like New York, Philly, Chicago, and San Francisco for that matter, all have excellent transit systems in which one can reach those places you want for less cash than a taxi or an Uber? Just wait at a designated spot on the sidewalk for a few minutes and a bus, streetcar, or subway will come by at regular intervals.

  • avatar
    VolandoBajo

    Nice article, Bark. I live across the river, over in NJ (TP exit 3-4).

    El Vez overrated. Blue Corn an excellent choice. A nice downscale but completely authentic Puebla style Mexican restaurant is El Taco Riendo, on 5th, about two blocks above Girard.

    And Jim’s is clearly better than Pat’s or Geno’s, but my friends from South Philly turned me onto Tony Luke’s, near the stadiums in South Philly. The Italian Veal with Broccoli Rabe and Sharp Provolone, on really good Italian bread, is an even better sandwich than the cheesesteaks.

    El Azteca is another authentic Mexican restaurant, not much Tex-Mex on the menu. One downtown near Washington Square Park, and the other over in Cherry Hill NJ, which is the one I prefer, but both are good. Not fancy dining rooms…just solid Mexican food in a clean joint with polite staff.

    For Italian food, check out Ralph’s in South Philly, oldest continuously operating restaurant in the city. And right up the street, Sarcone’s bakery for Italian bread you will seldom find anywhere else.

    I believe the Kimton hotel you stayed is the one famous for Legionnaire’s disease two or three decades ago, though of course it has been significantly upgraded since then.

    The story about $150K not being enough to live in Philly would only be true if he was living on Rittenhouse square or some similar extreme upscale neighborhood such as Society Hill, Philly’s answer to Boston’s Beacon Hill.

    Merry Christmas!

    Merry Christmas.

    • 0 avatar
      jerseydevil200

      The Legionairs disease hotel as (and is) the Belleview Stratford on Broad st.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        (My bad…just realized it wasn’t Bark who replied to my comment…not fully awake yet. The bulk of this comment is directed towards Bark, but also addresses why I mentioned the other hotel. Hope I didn’t get anyone else as confused as I seem to be this am.)

        Since I don’t have a need for a hotel while in Philly, I wasn’t sure. Guess I tossed that out to see if it was so. I do know they have some nice restaurants and stores in and around that hotel, and have managed to resuscitate it successfully.

        Glad you and Mrs. Bark had a good time while here.

        I lived in NYC for a decade, and although I find this area a good place to raise a family, I still feel a bit strange when writing about the three or four good places in whatever category, such as cheesesteaks, or Mexican or Italian food. In NYC by way of contrast, there are usually a dozen or so topnotch places, often a choice of two or three in each part of town. And I have never been able to develop a passion for the Philadelphia sports scene, with the sole exception of the Sixers years when AI was at his peak, and Pat Croce was in management there. But I guess Philly must seem like the big city when you come from middle America.

        Sometimes I miss that, too. Spent my first decade in the SE corner of Wisconsin. Had an opportunity to do a multiyear contract in Columbus. But could never bring myself to live more than a couple of hours drive from a beach, when all was said in done, having spent the rest of my youth in a beach town in FL.

        Overall, you gave a very good overview of Philly from the perspective of a visitor. Reminds me of the kind of articles done in the NY Times: “36 Hours in…”.

        You being a writer and covering so much territory in your “day job”, ought to consider submitting there. Your article was as good or better than half of the columns they run under that heading.

        Or if not, at least grace us with similar articles on more cities you visit, in order to give the rest of us an inside tip on other cities.

    • 0 avatar
      dahammer

      Never knew Tony Luke’s made veal, but does make an awesome roast pork Italian…..it’s the other white meat. But we can agree it’s the best sandwich in the city, better than a cheesesteak. The legionnaires disease was at the Bellevue Stratford on Broad St. which is now a Hyatt. I am also calling BS on the kid who bought a house for $5k and flipped it for 62x in a couple years. But it’s nice to dream. Instead of driving an Uber, he should be looking for his next $5k gem. They are out there in the ‘hood, but not in a neighborhood.

      Nice article, I am a fan of using public transit when in Chicago or NY. I believe Uber will have a dramatic effect on reducing drunk driving by filling the void in many areas not served by taxis.

      By the way, if you leave the philly airport, you need to go on I-95 North to get to Center City.

      • 0 avatar

        Good thing I wasn’t driving, then!

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        You are right, @dahammer. However, you can also take 291 over the other bridge, go through S. Philly, e.g., to go to Tony Luke’s, then drive up to CC from there. When traffic is bad on 94N, that can save time even though S. Philly traffic can be slow. Broad St. not too bad though, unless the Eagles are playing, which won’t be much longer this year. (Hail to the Redskins!).

  • avatar
    Phillin_Phresh

    “I watched Willy wander around aimlessly on the Uber app, [the app] cursing him with every wrong turn…I still gave him five stars on the app”

    “Maher spoke no English, drove with his windows down in freezing temperatures”

    “She cranked the music to the point where we had difficulty hearing each other speak and, not only that, the music was filled with obscenities. I would have asked her to turn it down, but it was almost funny…I gave her three stars and a “TURN DOWN YOUR MUSIC!” comment on the app”

    I will never understand people who don’t speak up for themselves and their lady at times like this. If you’re paying for a service and not happy with what you’re getting, the time to say something is in the moment; not afterwards with a passive-agressive review. Who said chivalry is dead?

    “if you love cars, you should own one, regardless of where you live”

    I love cars, but I live in the city and can’t justify the cost. Cars cost thousands of dollars per year. They may be an essential appliance for people who live in the suburbs; but for me in the city; there are many more life-enriching things I could do with that money.

    Ironically, selling my car last year was a great choice as a “car guy”. Now, I drive and ride in a much wider variety of cars than I ever have before. Want to rent something fun for the weekend? Services like RelayRides and Getaround, where ordinary people can rent their cars, offers nice options in my area like a WRX, Z4, or 350Z. Instead of driving the same Mazda 3 every day, I’m spoiled for choice.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Wow. I cannot believe what has become of the Farago creation. Removed from my reader. Life is too short, kiddies. The Peter Principile, writ large. Edit if you feel the need.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Bark & his kind ushered in a new wave of narcissism, materialism & shallow topics.

      It was inevitable to see such center-of-the-universe musings appear on Ford Fiesta STs, food/uber culture in Philadelphia, Boss Mustang “critical dilemma” topics, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “Wow. I cannot believe what has become of the Farago creation. Removed from my reader. Life is too short, kiddies. The Peter principle, writ large.”

      Good enough?

    • 0 avatar

      Fortunately, Mark has indicated he will have a new way for you to show us all how it’s really done in 2016! I, for one, can’t wait to see your contributions.

      • 0 avatar
        olddavid

        Bark, a road map or a Denny’s menu would exceed your recent contributions.

        • 0 avatar

          A road map? Dude. You really are old.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            Not only must he be really old (trust me, compared to you and your brother, I am rapidly closing in on old geezer), but to suggest that ANYTHING about Denny’s is better than anything else about dining and cuisine is to display a severe departure from reality.

            You would have to either be delusional, or never have set foot in a Denny’s, to think that it could be better than anything, save (in your brother’s sense of the word save) for the world’s slowest service and longest wait times.

            That is the ONLY thing Denny’s excels in, and it is unsurpassed in that category. I used it to good effect once, and only once: the first time I went out for a late night breakfast, the night I met my wife.

            I wanted to have an opportunity to spend as much time as possible with her before we were done eating, and since she was not an inveterate bar-hopper, (as I had been until not too recently before that night), she had no idea of the wait that would be in store for us.

            I was hoping for at least two or three hours before I would have to end the evening and drive her home. And Denny’s not only didn’t disappoint that night, it exceeded expectations.

            Even after we were seated, we waited interminably for a menu. Then another interminable wait to see a waitress. Ditto the first cup of coffee, the placing of our order, the arrival of the food, and on and on.

            Long after, when had been happily married for some time, I explained the reason why I had taken her to Denny’s that first night, but had never returned for sentimental reasons. She thought that was a clever move on my part, and fully understood why our memories of our “first restaurant” center around the fine Italian restaurant I took her to the following evening, and not around that Denny’s near her house.

            But remembering how we waited and waited for our breakfast, while I spent the time getting to know the fascinating new lady who had just come into my life, is one of our little jokes about life in general, and our life together.

            Thanks, Denny’s. If the rest of your restaurant excelled equally well, we would have been regulars for the last two decades plus.

            But to say that your restaurant reviews were worse than a Denny’s menu, Bark, isn’t even a marginally credible insult, much less true.


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