Solutions for Stressed Seattle Commuters
Charging stations are popping up all over the city, making it easier for Seattleites to turn to green, clean electric-powered cars.
Perhaps you’ve considered buying an electric car, only to be haunted by “range anxiety”—the fear that your battery will die without a charging station in sight. In Seattle, that’s becoming less and less likely by the minute; there are more than 100 public charging stations around Seattle, with another 800 or so in the works. They’re easy to find, thanks to San Francisco–based Blink, an electric charger manufacturer, which offers a map of its car-charging stations (blinknetwork.com). The EV Project, managed by Ecotality, is a federally funded project to install 14,000 chargers in 18 cities—including 900 in the Seattle area. Plug-in Olympia (pluginolympia.com/plugins.htm) also lists Metro “plug and ride” station locations in Seattle and around the United States. For now, plugging in is free—but that’s expected to change by the end of this year.
If you own a Nissan Leaf or a Chevy Volt and you’d rather charge at home, you may qualify for a free home charger in exchange for providing data to the EV Project. Visit theevproject.com for more information.
Seattleites save big money by opting into one of these car-sharing services.
The yellow taxi may endure as the ultimate symbol of a car service, but Seattle is full of options, each offering a different—and sometimes, more efficient—way to get around town. New high-tech taxi company Uber (uber.com) takes requests from texts or iPhone and Android apps; simply text your location or use the app to let the company know where you are. A car will arrive in five to 10 minutes (you can track its progress on the app). The company keeps your credit card on file, so you’ll never have to scramble for cash. Modeled after European-style car-share programs, Zipcar (zipcar.com), which merged with Seattle-based rival Flexcar in 2007, allows users who occasionally need a car (moving furniture, bus service cancelled, your car won’t start…) to reserve a vehicle online. For environmentally minded commuters, Seattle-based Rideshare Online (rideshareonline.com) matches drivers and riders for commutes, connecting people living in the same area or working at the same company. Rideshare Online also provides vanpool-matching services and biking partners, meaning you’ll never have to ride alone.
Locally developed apps elevate bus riding to an art form.
In the Dark Ages (i.e., before smartphones), many a commuter anxiously wondered when their bus would actually arrive. Luckily, bus apps have brought us into the light. One Bus Away (onebusaway.org), created by University of Washington grad (and now Google employee) Brian Ferris, and seattle bus (deallus.com/seattlebus), from Deallus Software, provide real-time information on bus arrivals and departures, help users locate the nearest stop, and store frequently used stops for easy access. The Transit Time Map (from Walk Score, walkscore.com) makes calculating a trip easy by showing how far you can travel on public transit in 15, 30 and 45 minutes. If a move is in your future and public transit is your priority, head to Estately (estately.com; use the advanced search) to search for houses close to transit stops.
BIKE SHARING: COMING SOON?
For some Seattleites, bikes are a major part of the transportation solution, and we’ll take a close look at that in a future issue. But we couldn’t resist this update on a possible bike-sharing plan: With a business plan completed, the Bike-Share Partnership, the group tasked with establishing a bike-share program in Seattle, is now looking for money to make it happen. The group hopes to receive grants and corporate sponsorships. When the project launches, it will put bike share kiosks into place in the University District, downtown, South Lake Union and Capitol Hill, and then will spread to other Seattle ’hoods.