Category Archives: Transportation

Car2Go Austin’s newest member…ME

I currently now have FIVE different methods of getting around:

1.) Walking

2.) Riding my bike

3.) Riding my scooter

4.) Driving my car

…and now the newest addition to my fleet of transportation…

5.) Snagging a Car2Go!

But wait…I get to drive around this sexy beast, but I didn’t BUY it.

Car2Go’s are an experimental transportation system that are available in 3 places:

  • Ulm, Germany
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • -and-
  • Austin, TX. USA (yet another benefit of living here)!

Basically it’s 400 Smart Cars scattered randomly through the city.  If I see one, I can freely hop in, drive away, then leave it wherever I want!  EVERYTHING is included in the price….gas, insurance, parking etc.  All you need is a little member ship credit card thingy to access all the cars.

It’s like using a car only when you need it….but without having to return it to a rental place.  The cars are tiny, and you can park them pretty much anywhere, even nose-first style. I’m nearly as big as the whole car!

I can easily wrap my arms around the width of the Smart car:

This is how I parked one night…no parallel parking needed!

Big pimpin’ in one of the Car2Go’s laying around on the street before a quick spin:

Now it’s cool to just stumble around and find one of these, but if you need help, there’s a free Car2Go iPhone app that locates every available Car2Go around you.  It will even tell you fuel levels, how clean it is or if it has any damage.  There’s roughly 400 of them humming around the city:

The test drive was fun, and I know several friends who’ve essentially stopped using their cars because they use these so often.  What a useful concept!

Speeding Tickets = City Donations

I’ve long held a rather odd belief about speeding tickets, which might be why I don’t particularly mind getting them.

First of all, any time I’ve got some sort of traffic ticket I’ve been actually doing something wrong, so there’s really no reason to bitch about it.

When you get a drivers license you clearly consent to following all the pre-set rules, and if you don’t follow them, you run the risk of getting a citation for it.

The other belief is that every time I get a traffic violation it’s like a “donation to the city.”

I like this point of view because 1.) It’s true and 2.) It’s a great way to not get frustrated about getting a ticket.

I’ve been to the Austin DPS many times to pay off tickets, and I must say it’s an exceedingly simple, straightforward and very easy experience (although I’ve tried schemes to get out of tickets before). It’s actually refreshing to see a government entity so on top of its game.

I’ve been to other DPS’s where I’ve had to wait in excess of three hours to give them my money. I don’t care about the money, but making me waste an ENTIRE day….That’s just cruel….very effective in getting me to avoid tickets…but cruel.

In Austin I almost don’t mind getting a ticket because I can easily take care of it over the phone, in person or internet. It’s easy, quick and the revenue goes towards a great city.

It almost makes me WANT to get caught!

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Now what I DON’T like getting caught by is those automated traffic ticketing systems. I wrote about my first one here that gave me a nice photo shoot. It’s so impersonal….although highly effective.

Getting caught by an officer is kind of a fun cat & mouse game. I wasn’t particularly mad about the last one because it clearly shows I blatantly ran a red. However I got another one of these recently, and after viewing the photos online I immediately cried “I DIDN’T RUN THE LIGHT!!” I was simply taking a right turn on a red light, I could clearly see my car turning right. I unfairly got a ticket!!

Turning right:

However unlike my last ticket, this ticket included a link to a VIDEO of my offense. Uh ohh! I immediately thought this would be pretty incriminating, but it really wasn’t. I didn’t speed through this light, I safely slowed down and took the right.

Video:

OK, I didn’t stop 100%, but I slowed down to like 2mph which is damn near stopped. I think this is actually an unfair and undeserved ticket. Yes, I didn’t COMPLETELY STOP AT THE WHITE LINE, but even if a cop was behind me, I seriously doubt he would’ve pulled me over for this.

A little pissed off, I did some research and came across sites like Camera Fraud and others who highlight all the negative and unfair things about these camera lights.

I decided to try semi-fighting this ticket, even though I knew I either pay $75 to get this over with, or drive to Houston, schedule a hearing, then work with a small chance of success to get this dismissed. I called the company in charge of the cameras and spoke to someone about it. I told her the call was being recorded for a news broadcast (just so she wouldn’t start getting snippy or hang up on me) and started questioning the video. Surely enough she started on the “You clearly didn’t fully stop at the first white line…” spiel and I quickly realized fighting this wasn’t going anywhere.

SO while I’ll go ahead and pay this $75, I don’t feel as good about it. I didn’t get the thrill of being pulled over or immediately told what I did wrong….plus I don’t think I did anything wrong.

However it’s easier to pay off the $75 than to actually fight this ticket.

…and like I said earlier in this post:

…any time I’ve got some sort of traffic ticket I’ve been actually doing something wrong, so there’s really no reason to bitch about it.

…and in reality I didn’t fully stop.

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On another note:
Despite me being slightly fumed about this latest ticket, I have to admit these traffic violation companies have an EXCELLENT business model!!

The cameras and infrastructure might be a little costly, but they constantly generate revenue for the company and the city. I imagine the biggest drawback to that business would be having to deal with government entities to get permission to post the cameras….and getting governments to give you long-term contracts so you can make your money back.

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On even another note:
I remember hearing about a couple of products that help distort your license plate from those cameras. I imagine as technology gets better it will make these methods obsolete, but for now I’m seriously considering buying this spray:

It seems like a great (and legal) way to say F*CK YOU to the speed cameras (although purposely running a red light one day with a middle finger out the window might be more fun)!

From now on I’d prefer my traffic tickets to come from an actual officer.

License and registration please…..

Red Light Photo Shoot

So I got another traffic ticket….except this time it was more high tech than all my previous ones:

One of those red light traffic cameras caught me running a light “slightly” after it turned red. To my defense, this particular light EVERYONE runs….although that excuse didn’t really help at court (seriously, I tried).

I must say, I’m a little jealous my ticket didn’t have a cool picture like David’s Viper. At least for the price of his ticket he got a nice, frameable picture!

From now on I’m only going to run red lights at scenic intersections.

How Gas Prices Do and Don’t Affect My Life

All this talk of rising energy prices, just for fun I decided to see how this affects me personally. Since everything has some correlation to transportation which is directly related to gas and energy prices, the prices of pretty much everything has (or will) rise.

I want to see what areas of my life are affected more than others in respect to rising energy prices.

How They DON’T Affect Me (much):

  • Driving in Austin. Thankfully most things where I live are pretty close. My gym is 5 miles away and I usually ride a bike (bicycle) there. Downtown is also about 5 miles away.
  • The Scooter. I bought a scooter a while ago to bypass traffic and parking when I was in college. That scooter gets 122 MPG (Yes, one-hundred and twenty two miles per gallon), and I can comfortably ride anywhere within about an 8 mile radius (can’t use freeways). Full tank of premium gas (1.9 gallons) used to be about $4.30, now about $7.80. However it’s still negligible. 200+ miles of travel for less than $10 is pretty good.
  • Groceries. I know all the prices have gone up, but I eat a very simple diet of mainly fruits and a few other things, so each trip to the grocery store (about once per week) costs me roughly $20. Simple trick: use one of those hand-carry carts instead of a normal shopping cart. It’s hard to stuff that little thing with more than $20 worth of food and it forces you to only buy the essentials, no junk. So while rising energy prices DO affect this area, it’s not extremely significant yet.
  • Going to work. I wake up, walk to the next room and BOOM I’m in the office. Zero commute time = zero transportation costs.

How They DO Affect Me:

  • Prices on my websites go up. For example HouseOfRave’s shipping prices have literally doubled in the last year. Many products have also gone up in price to correlate with higher shipping costs from Asia. People accustomed to paying $5 for shipping are sometimes surprised to see $10+ shipping charges on relatively small orders.
  • When I drive to Houston. My family and lots of friend live in Houston so I try to go back often. It’s exactly 150 miles from Austin to Houston, so a 300 mile round-trip (Roughly one full tank of gas in my GS300). Each trip to Houston equates to about 450 miles of driving which equates to nearly $110 in gas per trip.
  • When I drive IN Houston. This city is huge, and no matter where you go, I’d say it’s at least a 15-30 minute drive. There’s really no way around this in Houston.

Conclusion: So far rising energy prices are more of an annoyance to me than a real issue. They haven’t really had too much effect on my lifestyle, although I’m pretty sure this is something that will slowly become more of an issue in the coming years.

*By the way…this article really tested my grammatical ability to differentiate between ‘Effect’ and ‘Affect’!

Car Broken Into – New Account

Since I bought my Lexus last year I haven’t had a single problem with it. It was due time something happened, but it wasn’t Lexus’ fault.

Someone decided to break into my car.


Passenger side quarter-window


Glass slipping into every crevice. You can see police fingerprinting dust on the seat.


Cops found a decent fingerprint on the door…unlikely it will lead to anything though.

I always keep my cars absolutely devoid of anything visible in the cabin, so they didn’t have anything to take. The Lexus dealership is charging me $209 for the parts and labor….which actually isn’t a bad price, however I quickly realized something: Where will this money come from?

I’ve got the money to cover it, but here’s the breakdown of my regularly used accounts (sans the savings and stock accounts):

  • General Account - $1,000 balanced debit card. Money goes in and out from this account, but the balance always remains constant and isn’t spent.
  • Bills Account - Pay rent, gas, groceries and other everyday bills.
  • Spending Account 1 - Money for going out.
  • Spending Account 2 - For trips & holidays.
  • House Account - Money for buying house.
  • Investment Account - Used for anything that helps me make money. Usually keep roughly $6k in here.
  • Permanent Savings - Accumulate money here to later put in various savings accounts.

If I have to get routine maintenance on the car like an oil change, tire rotation etc. I send it to the “Bills Account” but this charge doesn’t justify coming from there.

What I need to do is open an unexpected situation account. I’m going to nickname it the “Oh Sh!t Account.”

As I get older and have more stuff/responsibilities I have a feeling this account will prove to be pretty useful. This account will slowly accumulate money month after month that can be used for any of those unexpected things life throws…in this case, a brick!

Buying a New Used Lexus GS300

After my last accident I needed a new car, and I finally got around to buying one….my new (used) black 1999 Lexus GS 300.

WHY A LEXUS?
I was thinking of buying another Toyota Camry because it was such a great car, but I decided to step it up a notch and go with a Lexus…..same great quality with a little more luxury. The rational thing to do was buy a relatively cheap new car for the same price, but many times the rational thing isn’t the most fun! I’ve saved up a bit of money over the years, and I was prepared to drop around $16k on a car…..which doesn’t exactly afford the nicest of new car.

I decided I wanted a used 1998+ Lexus GS 300 with under 100,000 miles. Research showed me this is a very long-lasting and reliable car….not to mention Lexus has been the consistently rated the #1 most reliable car for years.

On a very superficial level, your car says something about you. I wanted to go for the young professional look (not sure how professional I am) but I didn’t want to spend $45,000+ on a BMW or new Lexus.

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SEARCHING FOR THE PERFECT CAR:
Perusing Craigslist, AutoTrader and Yahoo Autos for a few weeks made it clear that all the good deals on private party Lexus’ in Texas were in Dallas which is about 3 hours away from Austin.

I passed on a few deals I shouldn’t have because they were in Dallas, but finally I found a good one and rented a car to Dallas. Patience was key here. I was getting a little hasty at first because I just wanted to get this whole car thing over with. I’m glad I waited a little bit longer for another good deal to come along.

— — — — — — — — — —

RENTING CAR, WITHDRAWING CASH:
I got a one-way airport-t0-airport rental car from Austin to Dallas, so I could ditch the car if the deal went through and had to drive the Lexus back from Dallas. Since I’m under 25 there was a fee, there was also a fee for one-way drop off, and I also got upgraded insurance (juuuuust in case) which brought my total to $113 for the entire rental car, plus a $30 tank of gas in the end.

The night before the car rental I went to my local Bank of America and withdrew $15,000 in cash. That $15,000 involved a lot of hard work and savings over the years, yet it fit snuggly inside two small envelopes. I just HAD to play around with it!


$15,000…..Not as impressive looking as it sounds.

Money smells funny.


I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do this!

Years of saving and hard work = Half inch stack of paper.

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BUYING THE CAR
I finally met up with the guy in Dallas after visiting several Lexus dealerships and viewing some other private party cars around town. Did a quick test drive, went through my check-list of things to look for and decided to seal the deal. In the end it came to $15,000 in cash even.




Sitting pretty on the driveway. 1999 Lexus GS 300 with 65K miles.

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BEING FORCED TO GET A LOAN
I wanted to pay for this car in cash, and I did…..however I DON’T want to miss this opportunity to put a loan on my credit report. Therefore I’ve already arranged to have a $10,000 loan taken on the car from a Federal Credit Union. All I have to do is transfer the car title to the credit union for collateral, they write me a $10,000 check and I make monthly payments which looks good on my credit.

I wish the whole credit system worked in favor of people who pay off their cars in cash, otherwise I would never take this step.

— — — — — — — — — —

INSURANCE
I’ve got GEICO insurance which was a pretty pleasant experience, and since I was in two wrecks in the last 3 years (My fault or not), my insurance for the Lexus is $1,080 for 6 months….yikes. The original quote they gave me was for $650 for 6 months….until that pesky little driving record was pulled up.

— — — — — — — — — —

So I finally get to cross “Buy a new car” off my to-do list. So far the car has been wonderful, and I’m very glad I bought it. For some reason the most fascinating part of this whole experience…….I have seat warmers!

Car Accident – Car Totaled

Last week I TOTALED MY CAR. Correction, an uninsured guy ran a red light as if it didn’t exist and totaled my car.

I planned on having my flawless 2004 Toyota Camry for a very long time, but thanks to “Mr. Crossed Six Lanes of Busy Traffic on a Red Light” that’s not happening.

It was a pretty bad wreck (The pictures don’t capture the damage very well), but I fortunately walked out of it without a scratch. It’s not yet 100% sure what’s going to happen with the insurance, all I know is I’m going to be over $8,000 poorer after it’s all done.

I’ve been in two wrecks where a car was totaled, both not my fault, and both times the other person DIDN’T HAVE INSURANCE.

Suppose this wreck was my fault, my insurance would taken care the other guys expenses….but when the tables are turned and it’s HIS fault, I get nothing? Doesn’t sound fair at all, and therefore I’m pressing charges against this guy. All he gets is a minor ticket for driving without insurance?? NO WONDER so many people don’t get insurance, there’s really no urgent need for it.

Here I display my Flash design skills and have recreated a crude version of the accident:

The second I saw him cross into my lane (I had a green light and was going the speed limit) I swerved & braked, but it was too late. He almost hit a bunch of other people going through the light also, and more than 4 people turned their cars around to yell at the guy….two of them stayed to testify for me.

The thing is, I can’t really afford to pull more than $8,000 (Possibly more than $10,000) from nowhere. I also refuse to take a loan for a new car. I will buy a car for cash, even if I have to drive a low-end Kia. In an extremely regrettable decision, I might have to sell off a lot of my stock to pay for this….or start making a lot more money, really fast (I like the latter option)!

I’m grateful this is a financial impact rather than a health impact. I remember seeing the door handle of the truck slamming into my car not even two inches from my face…so this situation could have been MUCH worse.

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Now I need to do the (im)possible and find a NEW Toyota Camry for under $10,000. That car holds it’s value so well that it’s very difficult.

New scooter, Paid Writing, Increasing HoR Sales

I bought yet another scooter, same year, same brand. I saw it on Craigslist going for a great price, so I withdrew cash from the bank and bought it.

It hardly had any miles on it, and it runs like brand new. The guy selling it was a successful lawyer who stopped riding after he and his wife had a son. He just wanted it out of his garage, hence the great price I got.

I now own two 2003 Aprilia Scarabeo 50′s. My original one is awaiting a part from Italy that will arrive sometime this month. Once the work is complete, I will sell one of the scooters. I might also wait a few months for it to get warmer and then sell it (You get better prices).
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Recently I have been getting a lot of offers to write for stock market websites. One offer I got was from ADVFN.com that pays $500 a quarter or $2,000 a year. According to their agreement I must write a one paragraph post on their website about the stock market every day.

SO I would get $8 a day for writing one paragraph a day, 5 days a week….this sounds too much like a job.

…and honestly, I don’t want stock advice from someone doing it for the pay. I’d rather get advice from Kirk. He’s one of the few stock market writers that makes his money by actually trading stock. I’ve done ADVFN a favor and disqualified myself by discussing the terms:

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Ever since I made up my mind to increase profits for House Of Rave, it has worked.
Here was my hopeful profit chart:

I set my October profit goal at $975, and I slightly surpassed that goal with a total profit of $1,120 for October. Over the next three weeks I will be making more changes that should hopefully boost my profits even more. I enjoy the ease of running HoR, and I know I can increase profits enough to completely cover all my monthly expenses after graduation.

Bought a 2003 Aprilia Scarabeo 50 Scooter

I wanted a cheap, quick and easily parkable form of transportation, so I bought a 2003 Aprilia Scarabeo 50cc last weekend.

I’ve been looking to buy a used one for quite some time now, but they are very hard to come by. I was ONLY interested in buying the Scarabeo because:

  • I wanted a big wheel scooter for more stability.
  • I wanted something quick enough to handle traffic, yet not fast enough to get me into much trouble.
  • Gas mileage. This is the only 50cc scooter in the world that gets 122 MPG.
  • 1.9 gallon tank x 122 MPG = 230 miles for every $5 of gas.
  • I can park anywhere. 2-foot wide parking spaces.
  • I can use sidewalks or small spaces to avoid stand-still traffic.

After some negotiating I got the scooter + tax + title for exactly $2,000 out the door. If I bought the same scooter out the door brand new, it would have been about $3,600.

Just like a car, the real cost of ownership is much higher. However, gas, maintenance and insurance are extremely cheap for the scooter unlike a car. The larger costs came in the form of safety equipment. In the end, this is what I spent:

  • $2,000 – Scooter out the door
  • $50 – Matching helmet found on Craigslist
  • $55 – Battery trickle charger
  • $13 – Chain lock
  • $40 – Motorcycle gloves from Craigslist

Commuting to campus or around Downtown during rush hour is a cinch now. I am doing everything I can to be safe and always take low-traffic roads to avoid cars. Small trips are much quicker since there is no concern about parking and they are definitely much more fun!

The Bike Project

Have you ever asked yourself if you could fit a full size bike into the trunk of a 2004 Toyota Camry???

Well the answer is yes.

I bought a bike from Wal-Mart last night…It cost me $118

Surprisingly, it went straight into my trunk without any problem. I put the back seats down and it slipped right in.

Thursday after school, I’ll see how long the four mile ride to campus takes.

For now, the bike is sitting in my music room (a.k.a. the 4th bedroom of my apartment)