Centuries of history connect Philadelphia and New York City, and quite a few roadways do too, as one busy tech founder recently found out.
Martín Varsavsky, an Argentinian entrepreneur, tweeted that an Uber he took from Manhattan to Philadelphia cost him a whopping $140 in tolls and taxes. For this he was swiftly ratioed, by bewildered transit users generally mocking his choices.
It wasn’t pretty: One described Varsavsky’s receipt as “taxes on being too stupid to take Amtrak,” noting it was cheaper and quicker. Another cited the tweet as a “case study in Wankerism,” while a different commenter figured that Varsavsky’s hefty Uber fee was a just outcome: “This is an appropriate cost to doing something so weird,” they wrote.
Varsavsky, being a very busy entrepreneur type, followed up and explained that he had to hop on a few Zoom calls to conduct interviews while moving between cities.
Forbes estimated Varsavsky’s net worth at $300 million in 2016, so he’s just the kind of guy who would be willing to take on these expenses — he said the total trip was $273 — and then complain to the TL about it.
At the same time: That’s a pretty annoying trip for that Uber driver, and one wonders what compelled them to make that drive. Maybe they got their revenge by taking him on a circuitous route, which some Twitter users mapped out to prove was possible. Or maybe he was charged for two directions, as some Twitter replies suggested.
There are many questions that could be asked.
But really, there are many cheaper ways to make that trip — even by car. The easiest and usually fastest way, however, is public transit — the prime option for the regular folk among us.
Just to clarify that a transportation tragedy like this need not occur, here are some better ways to get from Manhattan to Philadelphia.
Take the bus!
There are tons of buses that can take you from NYC to Philly, with varying quality and endpoints. A trip via the cheapest option, OurBus, would run you under $10. (Caveat: Some OurBus routes terminate in the far reaches of Northeast Philly.)
Staples like Greyhound and Megabus routinely come in around $20, when accounting for the associated fees. Even charting a route with the NJ Transit bus system will undoubtedly cost less than half of what our friend Varsavsky paid in tolls alone.
Or, a train!
You can get from NYC to Philly using NJ Transit and SEPTA Regional Rail with only one transfer, in Trenton. This will cost you $26, and can be the fastest way to make this trip if the times align with your needs.
As someone who has taken this exact trip a few times, this writer can assure you there will be cars quiet enough to conduct most business interviews right then and there — even on the verge of rush hour on a Monday, when Varsavsky chose to Uber. That’s partly because NJ Transit officials say midweek ridership is around 75% of pre-pandemic levels, and don’t expect to see 2019 numbers until the 2030s.
Or a more expensive train!
Amtrak, though more costly than the route above, is still way cheaper than Ubering. A coach car ranges anywhere between $40 and $100 (tidily, the sum of the whole trip, no tolls or fees added).
Varsavsky noted in a follow-up tweet that he usually does take the train. Anyone who’s taken it knows there are plenty of people working and during Amtrak trips — especially easy if you choose business class, which runs a bit more but still costs less than his now-viral trip.
How did you make an Uber trip more costly than business class rail travel? Multimillionaire behavior for sure.
The subtext of the original post makes it seem that Varsavsky wasn’t really upset about the cost, so much as the idea of paying fees that governments might use for the upkeep of roads, including paving and other maintenance, in lieu of raising other taxes.
Varsavsky certainly didn’t mean to get clowned on America’s unhealthiest website, but very few do — the gods chose him to be a minor main character of Twitter, a sick fate.
After trying to tweet through it in his mentions (note: he just got clowned more) all he could do is marvel at the reach his tweet had and the vitriol it spurred.
That’s tri-state area transit discourse for you: fury-fueled, yet surprisingly generative.