Adventures in a Car-Free Dallas: I Want My Damn Car Back

Categories: Transportation

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This isn't actually Vanessa, but this is probably what she would do once her dream car was acquired.
The revelation last year that Dallas City Hall, in an effort to help its benefactors at Yellow Cab, was quietly working to put Uber out of business sparked a massive public outcry. Transportation hearings have turned into a referendum on the taxi industry. Uber has been called racist. And it's all worked to underscore a simple truth about Dallas: Getting anywhere without a car is a huge pain in the ass.

Much of the city is unsafe for pedestrians. Bike lanes are few, far between and ignored by many drivers. And while most cities saw an increase in public transportation use last year, Dallas saw a 2 percent decrease. We may have food trucks, craft beer and even a park atop a freeway, but we're still driving to them all.

Yes, this remains a city that adores its cars. If you don't have one, or just don't feel like driving it one day, life will be difficult. To find out why, we asked staffers Amy Silverstein and Vanessa Quilantan to put the various options for car-free living -- Uber, Yellow Taxi, DART and others -- to the test. The results are here on Unfair Park, starting with this, Vanessa's story of why she really wants another car. Follow the links to see the whole package. --The Editors

When I turned 19, I walked into a South Dallas car lot and overpaid for my first car. It was a Champagne gold 2001 Alero, the last model Oldsmobile ever made. It had burn marks in the dingy beige interior, required a tape deck adapter/Discman situation to play any of the music I wanted to hear and it smelled slightly of moth balls. But it was all mine, and I loved it for that.

See also: Adventures in a Car-Free Dallas: You Can Take DART to the Airport, but Beware the Coyotes
Adventures in a Car-Free Dallas: Cabbies Find Ways to Survive in a Tough Business
Adventures in a Car-Free Dallas: Which Transportation Alternative Is Right for You?
Adventures in a Car-Free Dallas: Catching a Ride Where Cabbies Fear to Tread

From then on I practically lived behind the wheel. Despite lacking any directional sense, I was always the first in a group to offer to drive. Late at night, when insomnia would strike, I'd cruise around my neighborhood and blast music to clear my mind. I took jobs that required me to commute across North Texas just to explore. I could go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted. The driver's seat was my happy place.

That all changed a year ago, when I decided to forego my lucrative career in corporate relocation to pursue not-lucrative ones in writing and nail art. I had to make certain sacrifices, including my Honda CR-V. (I'd since sent the Alero to join the other Olds in that used lot in the sky.) For the last nine months, I have been living in Dallas with no car, relying solely on rides from friends, car services, DART and taxis. I'm making it work. Barely. Somehow.

My lifestyle and commute are tricky to coordinate. I spend three or four days a week at the Observer's Oak Lawn offices, and about as many nights per week covering live music and nightlife throughout the city. This would be easier and more affordable if I lived more centrally, but I of course went and fell in love with Oak Cliff. I'm lucky to have a roommate who drives, and she's gracious about offering rides and letting me borrow her truck. But she is also a working single mother, so our schedules don't always allow for that. I also have a dog, Yoncé, who needs to be let out every five to six hours. I am not a practical human.

Mornings are relatively easy. I usually ride to work with my roommate or a friend who lives down the street. If I were to get a car, I think I would miss that. There's a comforting ritual to the morning carpool. I always buy coffee in exchange for the lift, and I start my day with audible, hashtag-free conversation.

It's once her car door slams that things get tricky. Around 5 p.m., I get paranoid visions of Yoncé peeing in her dog crate and start checking traffic reports. There is nothing worse than being stuck in a gridlocked rush hour while the meter is running. I probably should take advantage of DART more during evening rush hour, but I usually lack the punctuality or the patience to handle public transit. I've found that keeping a budget for car services is worth the decreased stress level of a point A to point B journey. Maybe I'm just bourgeois that way.

Depending on which has a shorter wait time, I'll take an UberX or Lyft across the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge back home. Another perk of the Ms. Daisy lifestyle is that having someone else drive gives you a few minutes to take care of other tasks. I usually return some emails or make a phone call if I'm confident that my driver knows where he's going. Knowing shortcuts and alternate routes can save money, so I try to keep an eye on the road, too.

After puppy time and dinner time, I usually head back out to a bar, club or concert. For these kind of rides, the only feasible option is UberX. Lyft redlines most of my neighborhood, give or take the occasional Bishop Arts pickup. Cab fares from Oak Cliff to nightlife hubs like Deep Ellum or Lower Greenville are more expensive and less pleasant. UberX is comparable in price to Lyft, and usually comes out about 20 percent cheaper than a cab. On weekends, when surge pricing takes effect, Lyft often wins the night.

If I am in a part of Oak Cliff deemed NSFY (Not Safe for Yuppies) by Lyft, I sometimes use a tip I once got from a friendly driver: Drop your location pin on the north side of Commerce Street, he said. Once your ride request is accepted, the Lyft app gives you the option to call your driver and give the address of your actual pickup location. This process is time-consuming and can be met with accommodation, annoyance or outright refusal from your driver. Three taps of a screen on the Uber app are usually more effective. But it's an option.

So is it doable? Sure. Especially if the city fails to regulate these car services into oblivion, I'll survive without a car.

But is it worth it? No. The perks of not worrying about drinking and driving or upkeep costs are enticing. But I spend about $60 to $75 a week on transportation, which is practically a monthly car payment anyway. Drivers are too chatty, they won't let you smoke a cigarette out the window, and they never laugh when you drunkenly ask them to put the partition up at 2 a.m., despite that being an objectively hilarious joke. One day, when I'm dipping corners in my custom candy-painted Cadillac, I'll flick cigarette butts at every pink moustache I see and chuckle to myself when I think back on my time without a vehicle. For now, I just want my damn happy place back.



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30 comments
benjamincgooding
benjamincgooding

Vanessa, your "writing" is complete garbage that readers can only hope lasts longer on the planet than you. Good luck in your "career"

You're a moron. 

msitarzewski
msitarzewski

And here's where the rest becomes jibber jabber: "This would be easier and more affordable if I lived more centrally, but I of course went and fell in love with Oak Cliff."

Being car free is simple if you're willing to make a reasonable sacrifice and live where transit is. In fact, anywhere there's rail is a good start.

A loft in Deep Ellum, or an apartment in Bishop Arts (on the D-link) is way more logical.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

You should probably quit smoking.  It's not good for you and all the other trendy, cool kids are vaping now.  Vaping, to me, looks just as stupid as smoking but has the advantage of not really creating any litter.  


Are you sure you don't work at DMN?  Smoking, littering, driving all sound like their culture, not the DO's culture. (with the exception of maybe Buzz and Schutze)

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

You really need to get up close and personal with Bus 29.  It runs up and down Maple, a few hundred feet from your office.  Your airport trip could have been walk to corner of Maple/Oaklawn, catch 29 to Bachman Station and then Orange Line to DFW.  Going other way you go downtown and hook into any number of buses to Oak Cliff. 

I cannot believe you walked from Remote South to a terminal.  I'm surprised security did not get you.  As you walked from 409 drop off point, you had to walk past the huge yellow buses going to the terminals labeled DFW Terminal X every few minutes plus the huge signs overhead. 


Maybe that is an Apple thing, rely on your phone for everything excluding real world views.  We old school type get out a map first and plan our routes, maybe do a search on "How to get to DFW on Transit".

dfwheathen
dfwheathen

I own a car and used to commute from Fort Worth to Dallas daily. Nowadays, I live close enough to bike to work. Best decision of my life! Anyone want to buy an old Mustang?

Los_Politico
Los_Politico

This series is not about being car-free, this is about being poor. We all know being poor is hard, but what if you are trying to actually be car-free? That would mean no borrowing your roommates car, no cabs, no uber. Just your bike, your shoes, and your dart pass. How would that work out? Much more interesting, IMO.

Lorlee
Lorlee

It may be a car payment (barely) but then you need to factor in the insurance, gas, maintenance and you are still ahead.  Of course, that doesn't put a price on your sanity or inconvenience. 

lebowski300
lebowski300

How is it in any sense "car-free living" if you live with someone who has a car who carts you around lets you borrow their car? I tuned out after that. I don't want to read about a parasite who thinks she's the host.

Edit: It's not really a "carpool" if you never contribute your car. That's like saying one carpools with the taxi driver. This whole story is about sponginess wrapped in a veneer of emperor's new clothes of coolness. 

d.andrew.jones
d.andrew.jones

As a recent transplant to Dallas, even joking about flicking cig butts is not cute at all. I see this all the time in the South and you guys really need to wake up. Keep your self destruction trash to yourself.

ruddski
ruddski

Unless commenters go off-topic, this series of posts promises to be among the least-interesting and least-commented-on batch of writing to appear in UP in quite a while.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@Los_Politico It should have been a story on I have to spend more time and planning to get there, not I cannot get there.  Dallas has very few places you cannot reach via transit.  You do have to arrange your day around it.  It might mean arriving earlier at work or staying a little later.  If you have other errands after work, you have to work out a solution before doing it.  Poor people do not get to wing it.  The author evidently thought winging it made a better story.  Not very likely, at least after first screw ups, by anyone really car free.

dfwheathen
dfwheathen

@Los_Politico  It does reflect just how hard it is for a poor person though. Going even partially car-free in Dallas requires paying something at some point. The freedom of walking or cycling to work isn't realistic in many parts of DFW.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @MikeWestEast Yes.  It sometimes gives the same stupid solutions her Apple phone did.  For a multi stop trip, you still should take a look and ask does it make sense.  A solution that has you walk into the 3rd or 4th largest airport on the planet, after Patriot Act and 9/11, is dubious at best.

leftocenter
leftocenter

@ruddski

Change your handle to Shlumperdink -- love it!

ruddski
ruddski

@Myrna

What makes you think I haven't?

It's all about me.

ruddski
ruddski

@leftofcenter

You may if you wish. However, the blog masters of UP have never, to my knowledge, changed the topic of a post.

A large percentage of comments appearing on this blog are off-topic, and are done with no element of democratic process that you suggest, but if you are as free as anyone to go off-topic.

May I suggest that we discuss test hot babe illustrating the post? She's a helluva lot more interesting than "how I rode the bus to the bar".

I have several really interesting experiences to recount on London's Tube, or the NYC subway system, or Multi-day AMTRACK journeys, all ya gotta do is ask.

ruddski
ruddski

I always had great luck with dyslexic chicks at Fuddrucker's.

leftocenter
leftocenter

...no sense of humor...so "wit" in any form can probably bhe discounted

it sounds funny, rhymes with Humperdink...

ruddski
ruddski

@Leftofcenter

I have no idea what it means, don't really care, and anonymity is not my thing.

However, if Myrna originated it, I'm sure it means something along the lines of Someone I desperately want to outwit, but continually makes me appear witless

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@leftocenter  Babe, shmabe!  She needs a few pounds on her.  Myrna's delicious cheese blintzes would do the trick.

leftocenter
leftocenter

The hot babe not my type but nonethe less the most interesting part...maybe 'll be transformed when I get my dream car...

Other than "Speed" I can't think of any interesting public transportation threads...

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