Zipcars came to UR in September to provide those students without cars on campus a mode of transportation. The premise was simple: a licensed driver would sign up online, pay the $30 initiation fee and pay $7 an hour while using the car. An annual fee of $30 would be paid for each successive year. Renting a car was as simple as booking your time slot online.
As word spread, students who were willing to pay the fees instantly logged on to the Zipcar Web site to obtain membership. Over 100 students have signed up to date.
Many, however, are finding that membership is not as easy a few clicks on the Zipcar Web site. Several qualifications for membership include being at least 19 years old and a full time student, having no more than three moving violations or accidents within any three year period and having no more than two of such violations within a 12-month period.
Students have experienced varying degrees of sucess with the program.
“I know a bunch of people who are members, and we go places off campus and have a great time,” sophomore Roger Smith said. “While students may complain about the various fees, they cover insurance, gas and maintenance such as car washes. I think that’s a great deal.”
Sophomore Paul Molta shows minimal interest in the program. He says that his roommate and other friends have cars on campus, so it’s not essential for him to use a Zipcar.
“I don’t see myself needing to go off campus enough to warrant paying for the service,” he said.
Sophomore Lauren Foster has had her license for four years and has only received one citation in her driving career. Subsequent to eagerly applying to Zipcar, she was denied membership.
“When I called them, they told me that they did not have the information to tell me why I’d been rejected, but that I could buy a copy of my driving record and fax it to them for reevaluation,” Foster said.
Foster believes that she was qualified for the membership and wishes that the company could have provided her with a reason for her denial on the spot. Further, in her home state of Massachusetts, accessing a copy of her driving record is a time-consuming and expensive process.
Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf has played an integral role in bringing the program to UR. He is very pleased with Zipcar’s progress on campus.
Though the school has invested a substantial amount of money into the program, Schauf says that UR came very close to breaking even after just the first full month of operation.
“This was a faster start than we anticipated,” he said.
Schauf is optomistic about Zipcar’s future at UR.
“If we continue with the current trends, the program should be very successful,” he said.
Zipcar is working well for the niche of students who can and do directly benefit from it. For others, the membership program has proven to be unappealing, unaffordable or unattainable.
By and large, it may be too early to accurately analyze Zipcar’s success on campus. Because the program is so new, there may very well be changes in policies and student interest in the future.Koeblitz is a member of the class of 2009.