The College Inn is located in the University District, about 3.5 miles north of The Stranger's offices on Capitol Hill. In order to get there, steep hills must be navigated, a ship canal must be crossed, and traffic must be considered. What mode of transportation, newfangled or oldfangled, would get us to a College Inn drink the fastest at the end of our workday? On Thursday, October 16, eight of us set out at 5:10 p.m. to find out.
Ansel Herz: My own road bike
Trip length: 15 minutes
Worst component: No serious competition among my racing rivals
Best component: Gliding downhill past a line of idling cars stuck in traffic
What the trip was like: Fun times, y'all. I shaved five minutes off what Google Maps says it should have taken to ride my route—up the Broadway cycle track until that street turns into 10th Avenue East, then heading across the University Bridge toward the College Inn. (Even stopping to take a few photos along the way!) During my ride I saw two Pronto cycle share riders—neither of them Eli Sanders, who was in my dust—about ten joggers, a few buses, a seaplane, a boat, and lots of single-occupant-car drivers stuck in traffic. More than anything, the ride made me happy that in Seattle we have all of these things—yeah, even the cars.
When I got to the College Inn, I sat down on an empty bench outside. In the street, a biker rode by on a non-Pronto bike wearing a white Pronto helmet, apparently not honoring the honor system. Then a man holding a bow and arrow walked by and proclaimed loudly to no one in particular, and to everyone: "Man, that salsa kicked my ass. I will never do that again!" I made it for his announcement! That felt special. Christopher Frizzelle showed up, in second place, some minutes later.
Getting a lightweight road bike (instead of getting an $85 annual Pronto membership, or relying on buses, or buying your own car) sure seems like your best bet, by a long shot, if you want a cheap and speedy way to get around town. I've had mine for more than ten years, and it's solid as a rock. Assert your place in traffic but ride defensively, and odds are you'll be fine. The more cyclists on the road, the safer we'll all be. This year, car crashes have killed 242 times more people (almost a million) around the world than Ebola, according to the WHO. The more you know!
Christopher Frizzelle: Lyft
Trip length: 21 minutes
Worst component: Watching Ansel Herz bike ahead of our car through heavy traffic without a helmet on
Best component: When it looked like a car had crashed into Ansel after making a tight turn into the bike lane, and then it turned out the car hadn't actually crashed into Ansel. Also, free gum under the armrest.
What the trip was like: I opened the Lyft app, hailed a car, and the nearest was "one minute" away. Awesome. My driver, Gregg, first thought I wanted a picture of his car because it was a Nissan Leaf. Once I pointed out Ansel on the road ahead of us and explained we were trying to beat him to the College Inn, Gregg became very worried about Ansel's brain. "Tell him to get a helmet on, cutie. We don't want to lose his precious brain." As traffic slowed to a stop, Ansel shot ahead through two lanes of cars, and the driver said, "Oh, there's his advantage." And then: "That car almost hit him. I don't even know if he saw it." And then: "He does need a helmet." Gregg is a good driver and a transit expert—a former bike messenger, bus driver, limo driver, and Uber driver who now drives for Lyft. He's also a freelance photographer. Asked what he liked about driving for Lyft, he said, "The flexibility. You're your own independent contractor." Asked if he had any final thoughts, he went back to Ansel: "Tell him, 'You better be careful, sport, without a helmet.'" I told him I would pass on the message.
David Schmader: car2go
Trip length: 28 minutes
Worst component: Price
Best component: Control
What the trip was like: With previous car2go experiences sending me traipsing ten blocks uphill to find an available car, I was happy to find one mere feet away, on East Pike Street, in front of the wince-inducingly named Poquitos. After reconfiguring the car's seat and mirrors from the dictates of someone else's weird body to the dictates of my own weird body, I hit the road. To avoid the traffic of I-5, I drove up Broadway to 10th Avenue East and over the University Bridge, and still found myself stuck in a wad of traffic where 10th meets East Roanoke Street. Happily, Seattle radio rose up to meet me, with KEXP's Kevin Cole playing Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime" before I switched over to KUBE for Nelly's "Country Grammar" and back to KEXP in time for Patti Smith's "Gloria." Meanwhile, I lurched along in my private-bubble golf cart, which can attain very high speeds once you get past the lurching. After finding a car2go, the follow-up challenge is finding a place to ditch it once you reach your destination. I found an open spot on the street right in front of the bar, breezed past the automated parking machine (cars2go park free), and descended the stairs to the beer-soaked daycare that is the College Inn.
Dave Segal: Metro bus
Trip length: 29 minutes
Worst component: Seeing a man with silver-dollar-sized gauges in his earlobes
Best component: The eerie quiet and absence of olfactory insult on a full bus
What the trip was like: Panic set in early as I walked toward Broadway to catch the 49 bus. I'd forgotten Metro had removed two stops near Seattle Central Community College, and then I spotted a bus already at the East Pine Street station. So to catch it, I sprinted up Broadway to the stop in front of the Castle Megastore. For one stretch, due to construction, I had to run about 12 inches from traffic. I made it in time, but discovered it was the 60, not the 49. D'oh! At 5:16, I boarded the 49. It was full, with about eight people standing, including me. At the East Republican Street stop, enough people exited to allow me to sit. Nearly everyone had earbuds in and/or was looking at a phone. A young woman next to me quietly spoke on hers. Murmurs from the rear of the bus could be heard from the bus's center, but otherwise the riders—mostly under 40—were exceptionally chill. Everyone must've been blunted on legal marijuana. Rolling north, you view Broadway East turning into 10th Avenue East, and things look progressively more affluent as you go. Right before University Bridge, there's a vividly hued work of graffiti adorning a concrete wall, but I failed to get a photo of it. That was the only extraordinary sight save for the vista of Lake Washington. This was a surprisingly pleasant, uneventful experience for a rush-hour bus ride.
Kathleen Richards: My own car
Trip length: 30 minutes (including a 10-minute walk to my car)
Cost: $3.60 (Breakdown: $3.73 per gallon + 26 miles per gallon + 4.2 miles = 60¢ + $3 for parking)
Worst component: Listening to Siri, because she made me take the long and traffic-y route through Montlake. Close second: driving in silence, because I forgot my stereo faceplate at home.
Best component: Discovering the sign for Moroccan sandwiches on 23rd Avenue near East Union Street
What the trip was like: Stressful, because it turns out that I'm intensely competitive. And I was at a severe disadvantage from the beginning, being still fairly unfamiliar with Seattle geography and also having to first walk 10 minutes to my parked car. Then Siri gave me bad directions, and I got caught in traffic and stopped at what seemed like every red light. The only semi-redeeming part of the trip was finding a parking spot across the street.
Eli Sanders: Pronto cycle share bike
Trip length: 32 minutes
Cost: $10.95 (Breakdown: $8 for a 24-hour Pronto pass + $2 for a green key fob I might not have actually needed + 9.5 percent Seattle sales tax)
Worst component: One rubberized green work glove lying in the bike lane on Harvard Avenue East, looking kinda spooky at dusk. Also: adjusting the Pronto bike seat.
Best component: Front and rear bike lights that are powered by the spinning of the bike's tires. Neat-o!
What the trip was like: If I hadn't had to hassle with my Pronto bike's seat, which after a few pedals I discovered was set for a 7-year-old, I would've shaved many minutes off this ride. (Possibly beating Kathleen Richards in her car, Dave Segal on his Metro bus, and David Schmader in his car2go—I hate losing at rush hour to a bunch of gas-powered vehicles.) But the quick-release seat adjustment situation was unfortunately challenging to work with, and so I set off (for the second time) with a raised seat that was swiveling a bit as I rode. Let's just call it user error. On my head was a snug helmet I'd pulled from the Pronto bin. It came wrapped in plastic—no Headbola!—and offered an "owners manual," which was a little confusing since I was supposed to give the helmet back at the end of my ride. At 10th Avenue East and East Aloha Street I blew past alleged walker Paul Constant as he was running across an intersection. I was getting into seventh gear (the largest gear on a Pronto bike), and I was feeling sturdy on the bike's wide tires and battleship-like frame, so I shouted, "Suck it, Constant!" (By which I meant the smoke from my tires.) Down a long hill that taught me the bike's brakes were kinda soft, then a little "off-roading" through Roanoke Park, then across the University Bridge, and soon I was at another Pronto station. The walk from the station to the bar added some minutes, too. What I'm saying is, I coulda come in second.
Bethany Jean Clement: Yellow Cab
Trip length: 39 minutes
Cost: approximately $19
Worst component: Instead of being told when the cab would arrive, being told to call back if it didn't arrive in 10 minutes
Best component: Extremely nice driver and incredible view from I-5 bridge
What the trip was like: My trip began with the phone number listed on the internet for Yellow Cab giving me a "cannot be completed as dialed" message. Upon realizing the number had a 253 area code and was for the South Sound, I located the Seattle number, then enjoyed three minutes of jaunty classical hold music. The friendly operator denied the existence of an 11th Avenue with no cardinal directions in Seattle; I looked out the window at the corner sign—"11th Ave"—and said I was pretty sure it existed. Eventually, she found it in the system, then told me that if the cab didn't arrive in 10 minutes, I should call back, which was not reassuring. Nine minutes later, the cab pulled up. It was well heated, with an abundance of unscarred black pleather; the floor mats were askew, but otherwise, it was impeccably kept, if utilitarian. The extremely personable driver and I discussed how long he'd been driving a cab (three years), where he was from (Ethiopia), and—this was at Charles Mudede's earlier urging—what he thought about Ebola ("Bad... very bad. It doesn't give you time, even"). He took the freeway, which was congested and doubtless added time to our trip, but also provided a sky-high view. I rolled down the window and thought of cab rides past—anticipatory rides to airports, blurry rides across late-night New York City, rides filled with kissing. My driver drove pleasingly fast, flooring the gas when given the chance. The cost above is approximate because the cab's swiping system wasn't working and the cabbie used Square instead, and my e-mail receipt seems to have vanished into the ether.
Paul Constant: My own two feet
Trip length: 55 minutes
Worst component: A tie between violently stubbing my toe on a jutting hunk of concrete outside the old Broadway Grill and accidentally swallowing a bug on the corner of East Galer Street and 10th Avenue East
Best component: There's a surprising amount of striking foliage between Capitol Hill and Broadway at this time of year. Also, watching Eli Sanders struggle with the gears of his Pronto bike as he blew past me was gratifying.
What the trip was like: Walking is my preferred mode of transportation. I walk to relax. I walk for fun. Two weeks ago, I walked 22 miles from Northgate Mall to downtown Bellevue. At the beginning of this summer, I walked around Lake Washington, a two-day 60-mile trip. So there was nothing surprising about this straightforward jaunt straight down Broadway to 10th Avenue East and over University Bridge.
This is a safe and uneventful stretch of road for pedestrians; the sidewalk is wide and fairly level most of the way. You get some beautiful views off the University Bridge. The number of intersections is low enough that you don't have to interact with too many stressed-out commuters.
The great thing about walking is it allows you to take in the rhythms of the city at a decidedly human pace, from the progress of various construction sites (they're just about to start in on a major overhaul for that old building at the corner of Harvard Avenue East and Eastlake Avenue East) to the change in the color of the leaves, which are turning a stunning fiery orange this year. I never notice details like the new chill in the air from the inside of a bus. Sure, I got to the College Inn dead last, but I guarantee you I had the least stressful trip.
This article has been updated since its original publication.