On Thursday, Jan. 26, Zipcars were made available for the first time on the RIC campus. Offering a discount just for RIC students, the Zipcars will provide an easier and greener way to be mobile.
The Zipcars are rentable on an hourly or daily basis, and can be used for whatever the driver wants or needs to do.
While unveiling the cars, President Nancy Carrioulo was honored with the first test drive, and she said that she hoped students would “be very enthusiastic” about the new cars.
The two rentable cars, named Francesca and Flick, are both Ford Focuses, and will be made available to any RIC student qualified and registered for the program.
“Anyone can just take off,” said Zipcar employee Katy Pirolli, who urged people to take advantage of the free gas included with the program.
In order to drive a Zipcar, the driver must be approved by applying online to become a member. They will then receive a “Zipcard” in the mail, or they can pick it up at a local office. The card is used to unlock the car by placing it over the windshield.
The company usually charges a $25 application fee and $60 annual fee, which covers both insurance and gas. Rates are $8 an hour, or $66 a day on weekdays, and $9 and $72 on weekends. The rates allow for 180 free miles of gas, which can be paid for by using a gas card located in the Zipcar.
Over 230 colleges and universities have discounted rates for the program. The RIC student rate is a $25 annual fee and forgoes the application fee. After that it is $7 an hour, or $66 a day. If a student were to have an hourly rate that ended up costing more than the daily rate, Zipcar will automatically charge the lower price.
“It’s really convenient,” said Student Community Government, Inc. Secretary Kyla Pecchia.
RIC students be receive a $40 credit, and student organizations also receive additional discounts. The cars available on campus are located in parking spaces in the Student Union Loop (K-Lot) in front of the Student Union, which were formerly 15-minute parking spaces.
Anyone using the cars will also have the convenience of not needing to look for a parking space on campus, as there will always be designated spots for the Zipcars.
There are potentials for other fees, however. An accident may incur a cost of $500 as a deductible. Smoking in the cars is prohibited, and being late can cost $50 an hour. Tolls and tickets must still be paid the driver. Some cars come with an E-Z Pass, and the tolls are charged to a member’s account, but no additional charges are attached for processing the tolls.
Reservations can occasionally be extended as long as no one has already reserved the car for later in the day. Zipcar also offers road service and a 24-hour phone number to call for whatever issues or questions may pop up.
Zipcar was founded in 2000 in Cambridge, Mass. by local residents. The business has expanded rapidly and now has over 9,000 cars with 30 different models, 650,000 members, and is available in 28 states in the U.S. It can also be found internationally in urban areas like London and Vancouver.
Once someone becomes a member, they can make reservations for a car anywhere services are available. There are almost 40 in Providence alone, and the service has become popular among area colleges such as Johnson & Wales University.
Besides being a growing business, the company also says it is environmentally friendly, boasting fuel-efficient models and hybrids in their fleet. One company statistic claims that for each Zipcar on the road, 15 to 20 personal cars are taken off the street, reducing traffic and emissions.
Other campuses across the U.S., such as the University of Michigan, have as many as 1,000 vehicles, since public transportation has been struggling to meet the needs of commuters. In Rhode Island, RIPTA services are limited and being scaled back, but the public transportation gap may be filled by Zipcars.
With the potential for fewer cars on the road (and with parking spots already guaranteed), congestion on the RIC campus may be alleviated to an extent.
Given the enthusiasm at RIC and their success elsewhere, plans are already in the works for expansion. To take advantage of this new service, anyone can apply and register by visiting zipcar.com.