Life without a Car

Before going into my car-less experience, I want to give you a brief overview about myself. I grew up in a suburb in North County San Diego. Living in an area where the bus only runs once an hour, everyone uses their car for transportation, and the only bikers on the road are cyclists who aren’t biking for commuting. Needless and unfortunate to say, I barely used any public transportation until I went to college and didn’t have a car. Growing up, the most of public transportation I ever used in San Diego was the Coaster.

Working in Economic & Neighborhood Development in San Diego has showed me that there is a big lack of public transportation users, which is something that needs attention. A big goal of the East Village Business Improvement District is to help promote alternate & public forms of transportation. Types of transportation include public transportation, ride sharing, car sharing, biking, walking, etc. It’s easy to market these options however; I wanted to engage in these activities before mass marketing them so that the East Village Association could be a good resource for all transportation questions. This is where “Life Without a Car” week came in. I would go a whole week without using my car, going from Del Mar to my office in East Village every day, to gain more knowledge about the transportation options that are available in the neighborhood.

Transportation options vary for everyone and depend on location. Sometimes there isn’t a bus route close by, then biking, car sharing, or walking may be the only available options. For my week without a car, the forms of transportation I used were the Coaster, DecoBike, car2go, San Diego Free Ride, Zipcar, walking, carpooling and Uber. Below I explain each of these services, my experience with them, and tips to keep in mind.

Please note: All “about” sections are from the business’ website.


About: The COASTER commuter train provides breathtaking coastal scenery as it runs north and south through San Diego county, serving either stations between Oceanside and downtown San Diego. More than 20 trains run on weekdays, with additional service on the weekends. It takes about an hour to travel the entire COASTER route.

Website: http://www.gonctd.com/coaster

Experience: There were way more people on the train than I expected, I found every other seat was taken. This form of transportation had the prettiest views.


  • The app makes using the coaster a lot easier
  • There is a small pressure to make the train. If you miss the train, you may not be able to catch another one for 30-50 minutes.
    • Always arrive 10 minutes early.
  • Beautiful views & onboard Wi-Fi make the traveling very enjoyable.
  • The ride from Solana Beach to Downtown San Diego was 45 minutes.
  • Prices:
    • $120-$165 for a monthly pass depending on how many zones you travel through
    • Monthly passes can be purchased at participating Albertsons, online, and at the train station.
    • Single ride for 3 zones cost $5.50 and can be purchased on the app which is very convenient
      • Single trips range from $4 – $5.50 depending on how many zones you travel thru



About: DecoBike is operated in partnership with the City of San Diego. It is an alternative mode of transportation that provides bicycles for shared public use.

Check out a bicycle for an exhilarating ride, tour San Diego, meet friends, run errands, or get to your office or hotel. There are two ways to utilize the DecoBikeprogram, either as a Bike Share Member or an Hourly Rental. Bikes are available 24 hours, 365 days a year! Enjoy San Diego as you never have before.

Website: http://www.decobike.com/sandiego/

Experience: What I found most enjoyable about DecoBike was the easy process of picking up and dropping off bikes. Personally, I used to find locking up a bike a bit of a hassle and with DecoBike, you just push the bike into the station, latch and walk away. So easy!


  • Registration was very easy
  • There is a station located right by the train station which was awesome for Coaster users (like me)
  • DecoBike stations are conveniently located so keep an eye out for stations near big landmarks, major intersections, etc.
    • All bike locations can be found on their website
  • East Village Bike Map has all of the DecoBike locations as well
  • You get the most bang for your buck with a yearly membership
  • Returning the bike is super easy and quick.
  • I never had an experience where a station was empty
  • At the moment, much of Downtown San Diego doesn’t have bike shops to rent or buy bikes from so DecoBike fixes that problem




About: Get in. Go. Park. It’s as simple as that.

To find a car2go that’s close to you, use one of the many smartphone apps, access the Car Finder map on the car2go website or contact the customer call center.

Once you’re at a car, just swipe your member card, answer a few questions on the touch screen and drive as little or as long as you like. When you’re done, find a parking spot in the Home Area and end your trip.

Website: http://sandiego.car2go.com/

Experience: car2go was a very fun experience. It’s an invigorating feeling being able to drop off a car somewhere and not have to go back to pick it up.


  • The car2go experience is easiest when using the app
  • All of the cars have navigation & AC
  • Price: $0.41 per minute or $14.99 per hour (maximum)
    • There is a small insurance charge
  • Great for around town
  • 100% electric
  • Seats 2 people
  • Parking is included!
  • car2go is best used for short distances
  • Cars are everywhere! I never had an issue trying to find a car

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About: What’s Zipcar? Glad you asked. It’s a smarter way to get around the city. Drive cars by the hour or day. Gas & insurance included. Zipcar is located in neighborhoods, cities and airports across the globe. Save hundreds over car ownership. Choose from sedans, hybrids, vans and more. Membership starts as low as $7/month.

Website: http://www.zipcar.com/

Experience: Zipcar saved me. The one day that I had to be in Point Loma (from Del Mar) and would have to spend over 2 hours in public transportation, I used Zipcar to make my travels a quicker and smoother process. It’s a great tool for those wanting to test out other types of cars because you can pick from a variety of Zipcars. I drove a Jeep Wrangler for the first time and was very impressed with the vehicle.


  • Very spacious
    • Great for traveling with big parties
  • Easy to use
  • Great for long distances
    • There are no restrictions on where you can drive the car
  • All gas is paid for! The gas card is an awesome amenity
  • Prices for Zipcars depend on the vehicle you check out
  • Register for the car online or through the app



The Free Ride

About: The Free Ride is an environmentally friendly shuttle service that uses GEM electric vehicles.  Best of all, the service is supported by its sponsors and completely free to ride. Whether you’re in the Hamptons, Santa Monica, San Diego or South Florida, you can wave them down and hop on and off as you wish. It has never been easier or more exciting to get around town! Chances are you’ll walk away with a free water, giveaway or discount to your favorite spot!

Website: http://thefreeride.com/san-diego.php

Experience: All positive, Free Ride actually picks you up and drops you off for FREE. There is absolutely no catch. The open windows make it for a fun city feel.


  • Easiest form of transportation to use
  • Free Ride can only pick up and drop off in certain areas (mainly all of Downtown San Diego)
  • Text the app for a ride or flag it down
    • (619) 821-0520
  • All of the drivers are super friendly
  • Sometimes you can get freebies (like coconut water) just for riding

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All in all, I would say that commuting is a lot easier than I expected. It is definitely time consuming but it’s a fun way to see San Diego. I would encourage everyone to try going car-less. Going car-less for even just a day will open your eyes to so many things. Through this experiment I found out that I spend over $233 just on gas and parking per month! Everyone could save money by either car-pooling or using alternate forms of transportation. Check out all of the transportation options on the EV website: http://eastvillagesandiego.com/mobility/ and if there is anything about transportation that you have a question about, email Natalie at nmendell@eastvillagesandiego.com.

Interested in going car-less? Check out the iCommute challenge: http://www.icommutesd.com/commuters/ridesharecorpchallenge2015.aspx