To say that there are minimal good intercity transit options in Southern California is probably too polite. On a recent trip I needed to get between Palm Springs and Los Angeles and faced rather pathetic options. A combination bus+train service from Amtrak is most readily available with few alternatives. I was resigned to take that ride until a conversation with someone from the Palm Springs tourism board tipped me off to Tesloop. The concept is compelling: share a ride in a Telsa rather than sit on a bus or drive yourself. With a competitive price ($40 v $20 for Amtrak) I changed my plans and got excited for my first ride in a Tesla.
Alas, I probably should’ve stuck with Amtrak.
The Tesloop booking experience is slick and entirely online. Pick your start and end point from the lists (I’d prefer a map-based option given that I don’t know landmarks around either Palm Springs or Los Angeles very well) and then pick trip date/time and even your specific seat in the car. That’s all good news. The process is quick and easy and I was ready for the trip.
The Tesloop Ride Experience
I headed to the designated pick-up location in Palm Springs to await my pickup. Tesloop uses hotels and other popular landmarks as its stops. My pickup location (Hyatt Palm Springs) was easy to find but I was not a guest so hanging out in the lobby is slightly strange. But having that as a place to wait was a good thing given the delays that arose. At the appointed hour I received a SMS message from the Tesloop concierge informing me that the driver was running 30 minutes late. When the revised pickup time came I received another message letting me know that the driver was close but not quite there yet. After 40+ minutes of waiting in the lobby of a hotel I was not a guest at the Tesloop finally showed up. My concierge promised to email me a coupon for 50% off my next ride to make up for the delay. That was a great customer service gesture, spoiled by the fact that the email never arrived. If I planned to ever use the service again I suppose I would have followed up on that, but I don’t.
The Tesloop booking process includes seat selection so I knew the car would be close to full (only 2 options remaining when I booked). Turns out we were fortunate to have one unoccupied seat in the back; beyond that the car was packed full. I had my 20″ suitcase and messenger bag with me, well inside the baggage guidelines the company provides. Me and my belongings barely fit in the car. I ended up with my messenger bag wedged in at my feet and the spare seat in the back was used to hold bags as well. I cannot imagine what we would have done had that seat been occupied with another person who also had a suitcase.
And so, squeezed in to the car, we headed off on the highway to Los Angeles. The promised 4G Wifi hotspot comes in the form of streaming from the driver’s phone. In our case it conked out a few times and getting that reset while cruising at 65 miles per hour in traffic is far from an ideal scenario. Fortunately I had my own hotspot with me to help fill in the gaps.
The ride was smooth and quiet, as I expected from the Tesla. I enjoyed most of the experience being in the car. But it was tight. There wasn’t much in the way of leg room in my seat and no space to slide back thanks to another adult sitting in the third row seat behind me. And at the end of the day if I’m not comfortable sitting there for a couple hours then it probably isn’t the right option for me.
I try to not pass too much judgment on a product based on a single interaction, especially when outside factors could have undue influence. In that context I will forgive Tesloop the delayed pickup. I also will forgive the somewhat bizarre operations schedule (lots of VERY off-peak ride times). But I will not get over the lack of follow-through on the promised credit for a future trip. And I cannot get over the lack of space in the Model X for the bags and the people. That car is just not made to carry 6 adults and their stuff.
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