Undriver #1,376: Charlie Faddis: Undriving™ by iPhone

January 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogroll, Undriver Stories

I first met Bainbridge Island-based engineer/inventor/musician Charlie Faddis on the bus a couple years back.  “Y’know,” he said, “I just haven’t needed my car much since I got this iPhone.”  “Tell me more,” I said – and he did.  -Julia Field

In 2009, while my youngest son was doing his second tour in Iraq, I came to realize that every time I stuck the gas nozzle into my tank I was in effect funding both sides of this mostly pointless conflict. So I decided to quit driving my car and see just how inconvenient life could get. I went 15 months on just three tanks of gas. And as for inconvenience?  It turned out that it didn’t make one whit of difference. I did everything and went everywhere just as before. In fact, I had more energy and got more done than any previous year of my life.

I live in a rural area, Bainbridge Island, WA; I run multiple high tech businesses, the main one being 15 miles from home; I play in more than one band, work in Seattle as a goldsmith, and as a hobby I build houses. In that same year my wife and I went to Scotland where we enjoyed traveling without a car. So it’s not like I don’t get around just because I don’t drag 5,000 pounds of metal along with me. I have several cars and when I want to use one I use it, but I’d rather not be burdened with it on a daily basis. True, Detroit and Madison Avenue have gone to great lengths to convince us that these cars are the ultimate convenience, but that doesn’t make it so!

One tool that’s become indispensible for me while Undriving is my iPhone. You’ll notice on my Undriver License™ I list it as alternative transportation, and I treat it like a magic carpet.  How so?  Let me count the ways (most of these will work with other Smartphone too):

1. Call Ahead. Whether driving or Undriving, it really helps to call ahead, and make certain the trip is not a waste. Is the person I seek really going to be there? Does the store really have the item I wish to buy? Maybe they can send it by UPS, etc.

2. Plan Trips. When Undriving, I need bus schedules, ferry schedules, rail schedules, taxis, maps, etc. All of this is on the web now and, therefore, in my pocket.  Usually I plan my trips ahead, but it’s great to be able to get information on the fly as needed.

3. Capture Transit Options as Screen Shots. While all those websites are available on my iPhone, it can be hard to use them while walking, biking, busing, etc. especially if the signal is weak. Not to mention that I’m looking at a website through a “keyhole.”
By accident one day, I discovered an iPhone feature that’s become very useful to me for Undriving.  Did you know you can take screen shots on your iPhone? Just hold down the “home” button while clicking the top button. The shots arrive in your photo library.
So now, before I leave the house I check out various trip planners and maps on my iPhone, taking screen shots of the itineraries, schedules, etc. that apply to my adventure of the day. Then while traveling, I just go to my photo library and page through those options as the trip progresses. No signal required! I’ve left home with as many as 15 screen shots stashed away, and they’re stored there for future reference too.

4. Follow Buses Online: With One Bus Away, my iPhone will tell me when the bus is arriving, or if I just missed it. I know whether to walk or run when I get off the ferry. I know whether to bolt from a restaurant or have a refill on my coffee.

5. Use GPS. When I’m on an unfamiliar bus route, I can use GPS to track my bus’s progress and know when and where to get off.  I also use GPS every morning to plan when to leave the house:  Kitsap Transit #90 is sync’d to the ferryboat’s arrival, which sometimes gets delayed by fog. So I track the ferryboat with GPS at the WSF website, and predict when the bus will pass my stop on the highway.

6. Sync Up with Transit Time. This might not help where you are, but here in Kitsap County the buses run very close to their published schedules due to the lack of traffic. I learned the hard way that Kitsap Transit time is about one minute different than AT&T time – so to keep from missing buses, I set the clock on my iPhone to Kitsap Transit time.

7. Play. When I do drive, I usually take my $1 car. Yes, that’s what I paid for it, and I call it my “luxury” car because I have the “luxury” of NOT driving it.  Having paid that little for the car it really doesn’t bother me to leave it sitting for days or weeks without being driven or even washed. It only has one shortcoming: If it’s shut it off when it’s half warm it won’t start, even if you crank it ’til the cows come home. Fortunately, there’s an app for that: one game of solitaire. When it’s over, win or lose, the car will start – every time.  - Charlie Faddis

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