Getting around the Twin Cities

Car2Go, Hourcar, Nice Ride, Uber, Lyft. Five Twin Citians share their experiences with transportation 2.0.

BY SHEILA REGAN | PHOTOS BY COURTNEY PERRY
Updated 4/29/2015

With all the new modes of transportation popping up, getting around the Twin Cities has never been easier. Gone are the days when you “had” to own a car in the city. Instead, welcome to a new multimodal landscape, where public transit and bicycling easily blend with car sharing, bike sharing and taxi-like services you access on your phone.

Let’s call it transportation 2.0, where you pick the way of getting around that serves you best — possibly different methods throughout the day. Not owning a car means you are driving less, which is better for the environment, but now it doesn’t have to be a huge sacrifice.

Don’t worry about finding an apartment with parking. With Car2Go, you can leave the car in any approved parking space and stay at your destination. You can take a Nice Ride bike to work and return by bus if starts to rain. Or you can rely mostly on light rail and walking, only using Hourcar for weekly errands. And the presence of taxi alternatives Uber and Lyft mean that it’s even easier to go out on the town without worrying about getting a DWI on the way home.

With these freedoms come certain parameters, depending on the service. You might find yourself vying for the local Hourcar with your neighbor. Car-sharing services tend to congregate in denser areas, so you have more options if you live in downtown Minneapolis than in eastern St. Paul. Certain trips might take more planning than others. If you have accounts with more than one service, keeping track of the different fees can be cumbersome. And, of course, you have to watch out for Uber and Lyft’s notorious price surges during peak times.

It comes down to flexibility. Alternative transportation models give you a whole range of options, but require you to be flexible, as well. Here are five city dwellers who get around with a unique combination of services tailored to their individual needs and preferences.

 

Ed Kohler

Web developer and “The Deets” blogger (www.thedeets.com)

Lives in: Longfellow, Minneapolis.

Uses: Nice Ride, Car2Go, Uber.

Three times since 2010, Ed Kohler has set out to bike to every Nice Ride kiosk in the Twin Cities in a day. The last time he did it, in 2013, there were 170 kiosks, so he’s pretty familiar with the metro’s pilot bicycle-sharing system. Most of the time, though, the Longfellow resident uses Nice Ride to go to bars and restaurants in his neighborhood. “It’s very convenient,” he said.

NiceRide is also great for creating “hybrid trips,” Kohler said. “If I’m going downtown, I will park [my own car] on the St. Anthony side [of the river] and use a Nice Ride to get to the Government Center. I park for two dollars instead of 20 bucks. It’s not tedious to bike over the Stone Arch Bridge.”

Kohler also enjoys using Car2Go. “It works really well,” he said. “I just pay for the time using the car.” Rates are 41 cents per minute, up to $14.99 per hour maximum, plus tax. When going to the airport, Kohler will drive a Car2Go to the 50th Street light-rail station and take the train the rest of the way. “It’s a more consistent way of getting there,” he says. If he’s going to a party in the evening, he’ll take a Car2Go there and then Uber home.

Of the app-driven Uber and Lyft, Kohler notes, “The technological change in dispatching is game-changing. It’s something taxi companies should adopt.” One of his favorite features is being able to see where the car is on a map. “I can watch it drive to me. I know it’s a 16-minute drive from the Guthrie — I get those 16 minutes back, I don’t have to stare out my window.”

“They really do have cleaner cars” than conventional taxis, he said. “They all accept credit cards, and the tip is built into the bill. It creates a better experience.”

Kohler does prefer Uber over Lyft. “Lyft tries to be overly cute — that doesn’t do anything for me,” he said.

“They have a thing where you fist-bump the driver. Everyone’s super-energetic and smiley. It’s a summer-camp mentality. If you show up on time and get me where I need, that’s all I want.”

 

Joe Halvarson

Technical analyst and improv performer

Lives in: Northeast Minneapolis.

Uses: Metro Transit, Car2Go, Lyft.

Joe Halvarson and his wife share one car, so he often uses public transportation to get to and from work in St. Paul from their northeast Minneapolis home. He also uses Car2Go and Lyft.

“I tend to prefer Car2Go when I’m planning to get somewhere,” Halvarson says. He checks out the Car2Go app and finds a nearby car. “Usually I can find one in a few blocks,” he says. It’s gotten even easier since Car2Go expanded to St. Paul about six months ago. His Car2Go trips average around $12.

Halvarson also says Lyft is a good option for getting home late at night. His average Lyft trip is around six miles and $17. “My Lyft usage is much higher than my cab usage was,” he said. With cabs, “You could sometimes call at 1 in the morning and you might wait for half an hour. That’s a painful thing.”

Halvarson also enjoys talking with his Lyft driver. “Usually it’s about conversation,” Halvarson said. “I’ve had a few good conversations with various people, hearing about their different backgrounds and life experiences.”

So far, Halvarson has only had one bad experience with a Lyft driver. “It was probably not the industry that the person should be in,” he said. “I was cramping his style like I was a hitchhiker, instead of a person paying for a service.”

 

Deb Ervin

Arts administrator and stage manager

Lives in: Whittier, Minneapolis.

Uses: Bicycle, Lyft.

Deb Ervin, who lives in Whittier and works in the Seward area, uses Lyft at least once every two weeks, mostly relying on the bus or her bike. “There was a point this winter where I had booked gigs back to back. Even with a car I wouldn’t have been able to do it because parking downtown is such a bitch,” she said.

With Lyft, “I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes,” Ervin said. “Usually it’s 5 minutes or less, and they take me straight there.” She got turned on to Lyft in November after hanging out at the Turf Club with some friends. “We kept missing the light rail,” she said. Then a friend gave her a gift certificate for Lyft. “It was amazing,” she said. “I’m completely addicted.” Lyft trips generally cost Ervin $10 to $30.

Prior to using Lyft, Ervin would take cabs home late at night. “The main difference is if you call a cab, they may or may not show up. And then when you get in a cab, it’s always this feeling like, ‘I may die in this car on this ride.’ Drivers can be all over the spectrum in terms of how socially adept they are.” Once a cabdriver refused to drive down her back alley.

“Lyft drivers give you candy,” she said. “You can even sit in the front seat.”

 

Rachel Joyce

Publicist, Walker Art Center

Lives in: Lowry Hill, Minneapolis.

Uses: Walking, Uber.

Rachel Joyce lives within walking distance of Loring Park, downtown and Uptown Minneapolis, so she gets around just fine on her two feet, for the most part.

In the past, Joyce took cabs when she needed to venture away from her immediate area, but now it’s Uber all the way. “Uber is cheaper and it’s such a better rider experience,” she said. “I have more control.” Like Ed Kohler (page 19), she likes that she can see the car coming on her app.

Eighty percent of her Uber trips are $5, but she always checks to see if there’s a price surge. “You can get a quote,” she said. “I’ve never been surprised.” Her favorite drivers are “people that either are just doing it to supplement their income or are new to it,” she said. “It’s exciting for them.” In general, the interaction is relaxed and friendly. “Its just a different thing — it doesn’t feel so much like customer service.”

She uses Uber about once a week, and walks the rest of the time. She gets her groceries delivered from Lunds once a month for $10.

“I love walking. I love my neighborhood,” said Joyce, who has a collection of umbrellas and rain boots to get her through bad weather. “When you’re walking, you run into friends you haven’t met yet,” she said. “I’ve had several people approach me and say, “You’re that girl that walks around.”

 

Julia Nekessa Opoti

Journalist

Lives in: Whittier, Minneapolis.

Uses: Walking, Metro Transit, Hourcar.

Julia Nekessa Opoti relies mostly on walking and the bus, but for errands, she and her boyfriend turn to Hourcar. Once a week, she uses the service to drive to Eden Prairie, because the bus is too inconvenient and a cab would cost $40 each way. “I’m obviously not doing that,” she said.

They also use Hourcar for grocery shopping. At $6 an hour plus 25 cents a mile, it ends up costing them $15 to $30 a week, on top of the $35 annual fee through her boyfriend’s undergraduate plan.

One thing she’s learned is to always overestimate how long she needs the car. The first time they used Hourcar, “we didn’t read the fine print,” Opoti said. “We were over by an hour.” If you use less time than you reserve, Hourcar won’t credit you. But if you go over, it’ll cost you $10 every 15 minutes, plus $25 if the car is reserved after you. If you do run late, “you can call or use the app to extend your time,” she said.

There are a number of Hourcar hubs to choose from near Opoti’s Whittier home. “We can [pick up cars near] the Wedge, Huge Theater, Intermedia Arts,” she said. She usually tries to book the night before. If she waits until the day of, it’s likely to be taken. “One time I had to walk all the way to Hennepin.”

Opoti has considered using Car2Go, but it “doesn’t make sense” for longer round trips, she said. She adds that she actually likes the relative inconvenience of Hourcar. “It helps us — you have to plan.”

 

Taxi alternatives

Uber

Cost: Four tiers of service. $0.60-$14 base fee plus $0.17-$0.35/minute plus $1.30-$3.80/mile. $5-$20 minimum; $5-$10 cancellation fee.

Cars: Range from Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords to Lincoln Town Cars, Cadillacs, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and SUVs.

Pros: Access via your smartphone; can be cheaper and quicker than a cab. 

Cons: Surge pricing during peak periods; some controversy about lack of regulation. 

Best if: You can afford the lifestyle.

Range: Minneapolis, St. Paul, surrounding suburbs.

Info: www.uber.com.

 

Lyft

Cost: $0.68-$1.02 base charge plus $0.22-$0.33/minute plus $1.71-$2.56/mile. $6-$9 minimum, $5 cancellation fee. 

Cars: Driver-owned vehicles, mostly sedans.

Pros: Drivers hand out candy and are encouraged to be friendly. Convenient, quick. 

Cons: Surge pricing. Some areas in north and northeast Minneapolis and eastern St. Paul are not covered. 

Best if: You need a taxi-like service that is cheaper and more convenient. 

Range: Minneapolis, St. Paul and inner-ring suburbs.

Info: www.lyft.com.

 

Car sharing

Car2Go

Cost: $0.41 per minute, $14.99 max per hour, $84.99 per day. $35 one-time signup fee. $0.45/mile after 150-mile trip. Free 20 minutes for filling tank with prepaid card. Insurance included.

Car type: A one-size-fits-all Smart Fortwo.

Pros: One-way trips, no appointment needed, can park in any approved parking spot. 

Cons: High cost per minute, must end trip in Minneapolis or St. Paul. 

Best for: One-way trips. 

Range: Roughly 350 cars in Minneapolis and 185 in St. Paul. Highly congregated in downtown Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota area, Uptown Minneapolis and Grand Avenue in St. Paul. 

Info: 1-877-488-4224 or www.car2go.com.

 

HourCar

Cost: $25 application fee, $5-$15 monthly fee, $3-$8/hour, $0.25/mile, $55-$75 daily. Discounts for students, businesses and nonprofits. 

Car types: Hybrid cars, subcompacts, pickups and vans.

Pros: Low cost per hour compared with car2go, variety of vehicles, abundant locations. 

Cons: No one-way trips; must make an appointment. 

Best if: You need the car for a couple of hours, you need a truck/hatchback/van, or you live near an Hourcar hub.

Capacity: 42 Minneapolis hubs, 18 St. Paul hubs.

Info: 612-343-2277 or www.hourcar.org.

 

Zipcar

Cost: $10-$250 per month or $70/year. $25 application fee. $7.65-$10 hourly or $62.90-$79/day. Gas, insurance and 180 miles included. 

Cars: A mixture of sedans, hybrids, vans and more.

Pros: Cheaper per hour than Car2Go. 

Cons: Limited number of hubs; confusing plans. 

Best if: You commute and need a car regularly. 

Capacity: 19 hubs in Minneapolis, three in downtown St. Paul, one at MSP airport.

Phone: 612-278-2278 or www.zipcar.com.

 

Enterprise CarShare

Cost: $5/hour plus $0.25/mile, or $7.90/hour with 200 free miles per day. $40 annual fee. $25 application fee.

Cars: Choices include Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu.

Pros: One of the cheapest rates per hour. 

Cons: Limited locations. Requires reservation. 

Best if: You live in downtown Minneapolis. 

Capacity: Four locations in downtown Minneapolis, one in Uptown. 

Info: www.enterprisecarshare.com.

 

Bicycle sharing

Nice Ride

Cost: $15 for 30-day pay-as-you-go, or $65/year. Usage: First 60 minutes free (30 minutes free with pass), each additional half-hour $3. Passes $6-$15.

Pros: Great way to get exercise. Don’t need to worry about your bike getting stolen. 

Cons: Can be a pain to check in your bike under 60 minutes to avoid $3 charge. There might not be a kiosk where you are going. Not available in winter months. Helmets not provided (but 20-percent-off offer available).

Best if: You live near a kiosk and frequent areas where kiosks exist. 

Capacity: 170 stations in the Twin Cities (mostly in Minneapolis), 1,550 bicycles. 

Info: 1-877-551-6423 or www.niceridemn.org.

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