Archive for the ‘Week Without a Car’ Category

Day 5: NBC11 Producer Goes Green, Rides Bike

April 25, 2008

Michelle ToyDay 5

I was the kid who really struggled to learn how to ride a bike. It took me a little longer than most kids, but once those training wheels came off, I was hooked. My best friend and I would ride all over the neighborhood, down steep canyons, on gravel trails and in the middle of the street. We would coast down hills, streamers flying from our handlebars until our Mom’s made us come home for dinner.

Then came 6th grade when I ditched the bike for pom poms, Sweet Valley High novels, and the city bus. When I was in high school, my Dad won a bike in a raffle and gave it to me. It went from the raffle, to my parent’s garage, to my storage shed, until today.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about riding my bike to work. Over the past 20 years, I have been on a bicycle maybe a dozen times. As I teetered with apprehension down my gravel driveway, I felt for a brief second, like I was 6 years old again. Once I hit the damp, dark pavement, I picked up speed and some confidence. I was on my way.

The morning air was cool and crisp. The wind rushed noisily in my ears. I glanced at my reflection in the window of a passing store and saw my face 20 years ago, nose and cheeks flushed a rosy pink. I remembered as I glanced over my shoulder how my best friend and I would yell “car!” as a warning to get out of the middle of the street. As I approached a row of low hanging trees, I reached up to flick the green spring leaves. Morning dew rained down on my face, and as I raced toward my final destination, I wondered what Mom was cooking for dinner.

Cost of old bicycle – free
Miles biked – 8
Feeling like a kid again – priceless

Tune in tonight at 6 p.m. to find out how the whole week went and how many carbon emissions were saved by taking just one car off the road.

Michelle Toy
NBC11 Special Projects Producer


Day 4: Gives Up Car, But Gives In and Calls a Cab

April 24, 2008

Michelle ToyDay 4

I’m working down at the ballpark today. NBC11 is now the official home of the San Francisco Giants, so I spend a lot of time working on stories and live productions from AT&T Park.

Since I stayed the night in San Francisco, I simply walked to the Glen Park BART station and then walked from the Embarcadero station to the ballpark. It was a great way to get a little exercise first thing in the morning, especially with my laptop on my back.

After I was done working at the ballpark, it was just another 1 ½ mile stroll along the Embarcadero back to our San Francisco bureau. I am wearing tennis shoes. Those who know me, know that I rarely wear tennis shoes. This week, I think people have been wondering why I look 3 inches shorter.

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A producer from the NBC Network is in town and we need to meet to plan coverage for an upcoming event. She and her photographer pick me up in a Suburban (yikes!) and we run around town to various meetings. I fear the time spent in the Suburban will offset all of my good intentions, but when you are lugging a ton of camera equipment, walking is a very undesireable option.

We finish up tired and hungry around 9 p.m. We stagger into Epic Roasthouse on the Embarcadero for dinner. It’s 11 p.m. when we finally part ways. I am a mile from BART, a few blocks from Caltrain, and just steps from Muni. I‘ve been working for 17 hours now, and I’ve pretty much had it so I step into the street and hail a cab.

I’ll take the train back to San Jose tomorrow. That’s the thing about working all over the Bay Area without your car. You come to rely on a lot of friends for rides or for a place to lay your head.

BART from Glen Park to Embarcadero – $1.50
Walking from BART to AT&T Park to the SF Bureau – 3.91 miles
Chevy Suburban gas mileage – 15 mpg city
Taxi from Epic to Glen Park – $23 w/tip

Tomorrow is a completely car free day. Check in with the breakfast blog where I find out how to feel like a kid again. And don’t miss the special report on my entire week without a car Friday at 6 p.m. on NBC11 News.

Michelle Toy
NBC11 Special Projects Producer

Day 3: NBC11 Producer Breaks Down and Rents a Car, But a Green One

April 23, 2008

Michelle ToyDay 3

It’s gorgeous out and I didn’t have to go into work so I made plans to go to wine country. While I’m sure we could have figured out how to take public transportation, we decided that we’d have a lot more freedom if we rented a car.

I spent the morning online looking for hybrid car rentals. It seems like everyone in the Bay Area is driving a hybrid, so of course I want to know what the buzz is about. I found there are several companies that rent hybrids and settled on Avis. At $55/day, I hope it’s worth it.

Driving the Prius is strange at first. Those of you who drive a hybrid know it is so quiet when you are stopped, it’s almost like the car isn’t even on. We had a good time watching the car’s usage on the dashboard monitor. It tells how the car is being powered, by battery or motor and also monitors your gas mileage. By the time we hit Sonoma County, I was carsick from reading it.

We had a wonderful time cruising through Healdsburg and Sonoma and feeling very green. Trunk space was big enough to hold all of our reds, too!

We returned to San Francisco to fill up the tank before giving the car back to Avis. We had driven over 200 miles and used only 4 gallons of gas. At $4 a gallon, we were relieved at the Prius’ efficiency.

Prius rental – $55

Miles driven – 200+

Gallons of gas – 4

Price per gallon – $3.99

Number of Prius’ sold worldwide – 1 million

Check back in tomorrow. I’m back to work, but I’m so tired at the end of the day, I break down and call a cab. Tune in to NBC11 News Friday at 6pm for a special report on how the whole week went.

Michelle Toy

NBC11 Special Projects Producer

Day 2: Week Without a Car

April 22, 2008

Michelle ToyDay 2

I often head to San Francisco after work. One of the things I love about the Bay Area is being able to spend time in different pockets. After all, San Francisco’s great nightlife is just an hour drive away. Ooops, did I say drive? I did spend a few minutes in the car today. My colleague picked me up and drove me to work.

My friend and NBC11 5pm producer Dan commutes back and forth to San Francisco on Caltrain every day. He was going to show me the ropes. First stop: beer. Apparently happy hour starts on the train. What a great idea! Beer and suitcase in tow, Dan and I head to the Caltrain Diridon station and board the Baby Bullet. Caltrain is great and the Baby Bullet is even better since it only stops at a few stations.

The beer was cold, the seats were clean and our ride was much faster than the traffic jammed highways. The transfer to BART in Millbrae was seamless. I was in Glen Park, lugging my suitcase up Chenery Street by 7:15. I remembered to bring a change of shoes so that I wouldn’t have to walk up the hill in heels. I arrived at my destination by 7:30.

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The only problem were the drinks in my system. I haven’t yet worked up the courage to use the facilities on the train. 1 hour and 10 minutes to get from San Jose to San Francisco during rush hour? Not bad at all.

Carpool – 4 miles

Caltrain – 34 miles, $7

BART – 13 miles, $3.65

Walking – .32 miles

Gas money saved – 44 miles at $3.85 gal = $7.27

Time saved by taking the train instead of driving – 30 minutes

2 beers on Caltrain – $2.50 (b.y.o.b)

2 beers at Americano on the Embarcadero – $12 w/tip

Check back tomorrow for day three… and don’t forget to tune into NBC11 Friday for a special report on my entire experience.

Michelle Toy
NBC11 Special Projects Producer

NBC11 Producer Goes Green, Gives Up Car For A Week

April 21, 2008

Michelle ToyDay One

The Bay Area has a pretty strong love affair with cars. We spend hours commuting in them, driving back and forth from work, carpools, errands and drive-thrus. We eat, sleep, sing, laugh and cry in our cars. Some of us baby our vehicles, giving them silly names, washing them weekly and taking care not park them next to shopping carts. Others trash them, tossing the remnants of yesterday’s breakfast burrito in the backseat along with last week’s dirty laundry. Hybrid or Hummer, Mini-Cooper or Mini-Van, we have come to rely heavily on our vehicles.

I was pretty upset when I woke up one morning to find that my beloved car had been sideswiped. Of course the culprit didn’t leave a note. A few days later, I found out my car would need almost $4000 worth of repairs and it would be in the shop for at least a week. My insurance doesn’t cover the cost of a rental car, which is the real reason behind this week’s experiment living without a car.

Our cars are likely the biggest polluters we own. I am taking advantage of this predicament to see just how much I can give up for the sake of going green. Going green is a lifestyle change, so we’ll see if it cramps or enhances mine. I’ll also calculate the costs, the time, and the carbon emissions I’ll save this week. According to, my small BMW uses 625 gallons of gas and produces 12,125 pounds of CO2 a year.

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I realize that a lot of people don’t have cars. A car is a luxury. The Bay Area has a public transportation system that should support my lifestyle. I live in downtown San Jose. I work out of two NBC11 offices, one in San Jose and the other in San Francisco. This week should be a breeze and today was no exception.

I dropped my car off at the auto-body shop down the street from my office. Before leaving it, I opened the trunk to gather some of the stuff I store in there; workout clothes, yoga mat, laptop, extra jacket, all things I can now store under my desk. I wouldn’t need the yoga gear anyway, since my yoga studio in Los Gatos is too far without a car. I hitched a ride home from one of our photographers and since I didn’t feel like walking to the grocery store, I took the opportunity to clear out some of the frozen dinners in the back of my freezer.

Day one was a piece of cake:

Carpool – 4 miles
Miles saved by not going to yoga – 23
Calories NOT burned by missing workout – 600
Calories in a frozen burrito – 700 (yikes!)

Stop by the Breakfast Blog each day this week for an update on how I’m doing… and then tune into NBC11 Friday for a special report on my entire experience.

Michelle Toy
NBC11 Special Projects Producer