Edits: AER kz
Headline: Zipcar starts its engines at UC Davis
Layercake: Alternative transportation to alleviate carbon emission
By NICK MARKWITH
Aggie Associate Editor
The need for an alternative method of transportation for UC Davis has finally arrived.
Zipcar, a rental service aimed at reducing carbon emissions, is now available on-campus for student and faculty use – all for the low price of eight dollars per hour.
Cliff Contreras, the director of Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS), who helped bring Zipcar to Davis, said he hopes that Zipcar will encourage students to use alternative methods of transportation.
“We are trying to stop the unnecessary use of single riders,” Contreras said. “Not just for the campus, but we want to help the environment [too].”
Contreras’ plan revolves around Zipcar, Zimride – an online ride share program – and goClub, TAPS’ incentive program for students who use alternative transportation.
“[TAPS’] goal is to increase the number of alternative transportation users on campus by decreasing the number of single occupants [in cars],” Contreras said. “This would reduce carbon emissions, lessen parking congestion and cut the cost of parking on campus.”
Contreras first became aware of Zipcar when it was under the name Flexcar, during a conference between all ten TAPS directors in the University of California system. Their presentation interested the directors, but certain obstacles – such as the age requirement to rent a car – prevented the UC system from signing a contract.
That all changed when Zipcar took over, Contreras said. They overcame those obstacles and developed a systemwide contract with all the UC campuses and signed it this past summer.
Zipcar allows people over the age of 18 to have all the freedoms and benefits of owning a car without the hassle and cost, said John Williams, a spokesman for Zipcar.
“Zipcar uses environmentally friendly vehicles – emitting a low carbon footprint,” Williams said. “UC Davis has Toyota Scions and Toyota Priuses at their disposal.”
Currently, Zipcar has eight cars in its fleet on campus. Four of them can be found in the Activities and Recreation Center’s parking lot, two in the parking lot next to the Silo and the last two next to Mrak Hall. Each car has its own respective parking spot with a Zipcar sign overhead.
Renting a Zipcar is as easy as renting a movie from Netflix. Like the Internet movie rental, Zipcar requires students and UC Davis faculty to sign up for membership online. A “zipcard” will be mailed once members have signed up.
The zipcard is the metaphorical key of this operation. After reserving a time on the Zipcar web site, students have to approach the car they reserved and swipe their zipcard over the reader on the dashboard, opening the car.
Zipcar is not conveniently located on campus, but is affordable as well. For an hourly rate of eight dollars or a daily rate of $66 dollars, students and faculty can use a Zipcar. Rates increase slightly for weekends, nine dollars hourly and 72 dollars daily.
Zipcar’s fees cover gas, insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance and 180 free miles. Each additional mile over that limit costs a few cents.
“Students are used to buying things by the hour, music by the song so why not car by the hour,” Williams said. “It fits with the student lifestyle.”
In order to promote Zipcar, TAPS has agreed to allow students using Zipcar to park anywhere on campus that requires a permit, excluding handicap and emergency vehicle spots.
As of now, 77 students and faculty have signed up for Zipcar in only the few weeks it has been on campus.
Tyler Paxton, a recent UC Davis alumnus, used a Zipcar when he was in Boston and found it convenient for his needs.
“[Zipcar] allows people the freedom of being able to travel as though they have a car without the financial responsibilities of owning their car,” Paxton said. “It’s a fun alternative to both private and public transportation.”
Following Zipcar’s success on college campuses, Zimride followed suit. A ride-sharing program, students and faculty can post when they are travelling to places, offering empty seats to people who need rides. With Zimride using Facebook as its platform, around 500 students have already registered for the program.
Encompassing Zipcar, Zimride and the rest of the campus’s alternative transportation, TAPS’ new program, goClub, provides incentives and benefits from a variety of sponsors. By turning in single-vehicle permits and registering online, students, faculty and staff can enjoy the rewards for lowering carbon emissions and traffic congestion.
With “go” from goClub standing for “green opportunities,” the program aims to do just that – provide a means to travel in a more green way. The program includes Unitrans, Amtrak, biking, walking and even carpooling. By doing one of these activities, students and faculty are reducing their carbon footprint, Contreras said.
“[UC Davis] has saved over 40 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the air through the use of alternative transportation,” Contreras said. “We are proud of that, but we aren’t resting on it.”
To encourage everyone to join goClub, TAPS has arranged sponsors such as the UC Davis Bookstore and Bike Barn to donate goods or offer free services. TAPS will hold a bi-monthly random drawing of free goods to those enrolled in the program.
NICK MARKWITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.