01 August 2014

My Parking Dances are Morphing into Uber Confusion

A few days ago, while parking my car on Valencia Street, I was mistaken as an Uber or Lyft car. In those short moments of trying to back into a parking space, I wondered if this was going to happen a lot more often now that taxis don't always look like taxis anymore.

Firstly - I'm neutral on the issue of the 21st Century taxis - the Ubers, Lyft, Sidecar and other taxi-like "rideshare" or "start-up taxi" services. The other night, on a weekday around 10pm, I was doing my "parking dance" (more on that later) looking for a parking space. I found a space in front of The Chapel on Valencia Street - a legitimate parking space that was not a passenger loading zone space that many restaurants and businesses take "control" of during parts of the day. In that short moment when I was stopped, switching from forward into reverse, I was approached by a well dressed 40-something inebriated woman from the curb asking if she and her friends could "get a ride" and "get us out of here".
Image: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press
For the first moment I was confused, wondering why someone was tapping on my car window. I rolled down my passenger window to improve communications. The first gal walked away as her friend (who looked similar enough to be a sister) walked up, somewhat more coherent, asking why I wouldn't let them in.

My reply: "I was trying to park - right here - for the night."

She responded, "That's hilarious." and walked away from the car back to the sidewalk.

All this while I had been blocking either the vehicle traffic lane or the bike lane (I can't remember which). Luckily there was little bike or vehicle traffic, and all of this transpired over 20 seconds.

As I pulled my car into the space I overheard their male seemingly non-drunk friend say something about, "He's not an Uber car."

For full disclosure, I drive a boring looking nearly black Subaru Impreza, which looks similar to a boring looking Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. I didn't know that it would be mistaken for a web-based start-up rideshare-ish 21st century taxi car. In addition, I have no mustaches on my grill, orange colored rear-view mirrors or a glowing icon on my windshield.

I just wonder how often this is going to happen. I'll keep you posted.

Lastly, is there an app for telling folks that I do not pick up forlks? I didn't think so.

Image: Urban Life Signs

Parking Dance

Every few days I do the parking dance - the dance my family performs to park our car on the street. Here are the moves.

  1. I'm at home with the baby. My wife is about to drive home. 
    1. We don't have a private garage space. We park on the street.
    2. We also don't have a washer/dryer, dishwasher, or good place to park our bikes.
  2. My wife arrives in the neighborhood and looks for parking at 6pm.
  3. After 10 minutes she parks at a nearby hydrant - calls me to do a swap
  4. I come down with the baby - hand it to my wife, and then I get in the car.
  5. I look for parking for 5-25 minutes. I will take any legal space whether metered, loading, or neighborhood on-street space. It's all available after 6pm (except those passenger loading zones in front of restaurants and some music venues.)
  6. Often I park at a place that has street cleaning the next morning. As mentioned earlier this doesn't matter at night so I come home and have dinner with my family.
  7. Since the car is often parked at a 6am street cleaning space, I have to go back out, sometime between 9 and 11pm, and move the car - effectively reparking it. This is better than moving it at 5:45 am when the streets are empty.
  8. Finding a space in the late evening is pretty easy since most folks have left the restaurants so more spaces have opened up in our parking crowded neighborhood.
  9. Repeat the next day my wife drives to work - which could be two days later since she walks 1/2 the time.
If you know of any variants or trick moves that would help make a better dance, please pass them along.

(Regarding the term ridesharing and companies like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, etc, who am I sharing my ride with? the driver? That either means classic taxis are rideshare since you "share your ride with a taxi driver, or these new services are simply taxi services, but with new operational models using new online tools. Ridesharing is a form of carpooling whether its a vanpool, carpool, or even taxipool, but to me it implicitly means that you're arranging to share a ride with folks to either get to or come from a specific regular location, not a requested A-to-B drive like taxis. Maybe I'm missing something, or folks just haven't come up with a new term, such as "taxi" or "neuvo-cab service".)