On Tuesday, UR became one of 33 colleges and universities nationwide to provide a car-sharing service known as Zipcar. The program makes four cars available for all UR community members to borrow. The cars are available for all students 19 years old and older. UR’s program is unique in that it is one of four universities in the country with programs that allow students under 21 years old access to cars.
“We started with Wellesley College in 2004 with an 18 and over program,” Business Development Manager of Zipcar Christine Laurence said. “Over the past few weeks we launched programs at Smith and Amherst Colleges, which are 18-plus and here which is 19-plus. The remainder of the universities are 21-plus.”
Zipcar is the leading car-sharing corporation in the United States.
“The car-sharing concept is not something that is new,” Laurence said. “It has been in Europe for years, but essentially our founders took the concept and added this really great technology to it.”
The technology that Zipcar developed was a card that makes borrowing the cars completely self-serviced. Similar to using a UR ID to gain access to a University building, the Zipcard unlocks the car, enables the engine and records what time use of the car began.
Students who are interested in signing up for a Zipcard must sign up at the Zipcar Web site. In order to be eligible, students must be over 19, have three full years of driving experience and have an acceptable driving record. Once students pass the online registration, a Zipcard gets mailed to them and they can begin reserving cars online.
The initial yearly fee to become a Zipcar member is $30. After that, students borrow cars for $7 an hour, or $60 a day, a fee which includes the cost of gas.
UR became involved with Zipcar at the end of last semester.
“We first learned about the Zipcar through an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education,” Wilson Commons Information Center Coordinator Bryan Rotach said. “It reported that campuses were looking for unique solutions to their parking and transportation obstacles and Zipcar seemed to be a successful tactic for many.”
But bringing Zipcar to UR took collaborative work over the course of the entire summer.
“Student Activities, Facilities and Auxiliary Operations saw this opportunity to work with Zipcar, became aware that it existed, and talked about if it was something that would be of value here,” Director of Campus Dining Services and Auxiliary Operations Cam Schauf said. “All departments agreed that it was something of interest. Since then it has really been a collaborative effort to figure out how are we as a campus going to bring it here, and how many cars should we have. We spent a good part of the summer going through all of the steps and working with Zipcar to get them here.”
The result of this work is four cars that will be parked on Library road. The cars are a Mazda 3, a Honda Element, a Toyota Prius Hybrid and a Toyota Matrix. The first of the four cars coming to the River Campus is already here and parked on Library Road. The remaining four cars are expected to arrive by Friday and be fully functional and ready to use by Tuesday.
While it would seem that such a program would come with a great financial risk and liability, according to Schauf, UR expects to break even.
“In order to get the Zipcar program started there is a very minimal financial liability,” Schauf said. “It’s a contract that if it’s not working for the school we can both agree to part ways, so the school is not making a huge financial commitment no matter what happens. We are making a small financial commitment to get the program off the ground with the full belief it will be self-sustainable.”
Thus far, students are really excited about the Zipcar program.
“My parents wouldn’t let me bring a car to campus this year, and initially I was really upset,” sophomore Lauren Foster said. “It’s nice to have the freedom to go grocery shopping or make quick mall trips without having to pay high prices for cabs or wait for busses.”
Some students are a little more skeptical about whether the program will affect the campus in the long run.
“I think the Zipcar program is great because it offers kids without cars the ability to go on extended trips into the city,” junior Brad Goldberg said. “However, I don’t think it will deter the kids from bringing their cars to campus or alleviate any parking problems.”
Schauf is more hopeful that Zipcar will change the way students view their cars.
“The one thing we are sure enough of to get this started is that there are people with a need to find alternative ways to get into the community and do different things and we thought this was a good alternative,” Schauf said. “We hope that over the long haul that it starts to change people’s thinking. So, it may not effect a junior this year that is thinking about getting a car as a senior, but we hope that a freshman that sees this program as something that is here may be thinking maybe I don’t need to be looking forward to when I can get a car on campus, maybe this is a better alternative.”Jarrett can be reached at email@example.com