How to Get Around Without a Car

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How to Get Around Without a Car

Students walking at Sheldon High School.

Students walking at Sheldon High School.

Photo courtesy of Monica Hernandez.

Students walking at Sheldon High School.

Photo courtesy of Monica Hernandez.

Photo courtesy of Monica Hernandez.

Students walking at Sheldon High School.

Vivien Orellana, Staff Writer

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One of the most important milestones in any high schooler’s life is receiving their driver’s license. This simple plastic card unlocks a world of freedom, allowing students to frolic across the city to their heart’s delight. Now they easily cross long distances with the aid of a car. Drive yourself to school and stop having to worry about if your parents can pick you up after your extracurriculars. Pick up a donut before the start of morning classes. 

Unfortunately, some of us are unable to obtain our own car. This can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from being too young for a license to being unable to obtain one due to occasionally forgetting which side of the road to drive on and all manners of reasons in between. If us poor souls need to get somewhere, we are going to have to employ alternative modes of transport. There are a couple of different options and they all have their own pros and cons. I have tried to give a summary of some of the more important ones, based on my many years of begging friends for rides and vastly underestimating how long it will take to walk to a restaurant. 

 

Photo by Vivien Orellana.
Street View on Google Maps can be used to determine if a street is easy to walk on.

 

Option 1: Walking

  This is the obvious one. A classic going back to the earliest days of humanity, walking is a mode of transport available to most people. It can be done at almost any time and is completely free. I’m not going to devote a lot of time to this option because I feel most people have probably figured out walking by now. There are, however, a few possible wrinkles. 

While major roads are often the quickest way to a location, they do occasionally lack sidewalks. If tightrope walking along a thin white line as cars speed by at 50 m.p.h. isn’t your idea of fun, then consider using street view on Google Maps to check if a street is easily walkable. It may seem obvious, but also make sure you check the distance of the route you are planning on walking ahead of time to make sure it’s manageable. A location that is only a few minutes away in a car may turn out to be a five-mile walk. I recommend walking if you are very close to somewhere and do not have to carry anything particularly heavy. I’d recommend not walking if your location is across town or you are going to have to carry a dozen bowling balls or one school backpack. 

 

Option 2: Carpool

If you are going somewhere with a school team or a group of friends, carpooling is a good option. Try to arrange carpools two or three days in advance of the day you actually need to carpool. Friends and teammates have a tendency to be annoyed if you call them up at 6 a.m. asking if they can pick you up sometime in the next twenty minutes. Carpool is recommended for when you have the exact same itinerary as somebody else and they are willing to give or be bribed into giving you a ride. It is not recommended if you don’t have a friend to carpool with. 

 

A map of all the Marta Stations.

 

Option 3: Marta

If you are trying to navigate the metro Atlanta area, then Marta may be a decent option. They provide fairly cheap train and bus service to some portions of the city. Places such as Ponce City Market, Centennial Olympic Park and the High Museum of Art are all within walking distance of a Marta station. There is even a website, martaguide.com, that provides navigation guides for how to Marta to different places around the city. These come with fairly clear directions, as well as occasional tips about the safest ways to walk. Marta is not a particularly dangerous mode of transportation as long as one does not go wandering down dark alleyways at night. The system does, however, come with some fairly significant drawbacks. 

First of all, it covers a fairly limited area. Many places towards the outskirts of the perimeter are not close to a Marta station. Secondly, trains can run inconsistently at times. I have experienced 25-minute gaps between trains and delays are fairly common. Marta also brings with it all the stereotypical joys of public transportation, including run-down buildings, crowded platforms, and the occasional crazy person. I recommend Marta for when you need to travel long distances to an area in downtown or midtown. I don’t recommend it in basically any other situation. 

 

Photo by Vivien Orellana.
The ride selection screen for Uber, showing the prices for a three and a half-mile ride.

 

Option 4: Uber

Uber is easily the most versatile method of getting places if you don’t have your own car. Unlike Marta, Uber can take you to almost any location your heart desires, with the possible exception of Europe, active military bases and the moon. Unfortunately, Uber is also rather expensive, particularly during rush hour. Uber also involves fun times being trapped in a small car with one or more complete strangers. Drivers can also vary wildly in quality. Some of them are awesome, greeting you politely and offering you a phone charger. Others blast their music so loudly you can feel the vibrations. Some even ask your opinion on current US politics. 

There are several different types of Uber rides you can take. UberX is the standard option. You open the app, call a ride, wait for five to ten minutes and get taken exactly where you want to go. Comfort is similar to UberX. It is more expensive, but it means you will get a driver with a nicer car. Pool is a cheaper option. When you call a pool, you have to share a ride with other passengers. This means that there are extra strangers in the car and that the trip is going to take more time, as the driver also has to pick them up and drop them off. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal and the detour only takes about five minutes. Sometimes though, you are reminded that you live in Atlanta, and nothing involving cars is ever going to be quick. I’ve had detours that add a half-hour to a ride. 

I’d recommend Uber if you need to travel somewhere quickly and directly. I wouldn’t recommend Uber for short trips that can easily be walked. I’d recommend ordering UberX rather than pool if you have to get somewhere quickly, if there is likely to be heavy traffic or if you really dislike strangers and don’t mind paying extra to limit how many people you have to interact with.