U rolls out rental car service

Derrick Biney

University students without cars might not have to rely on public transportation anymore.

University Parking and Transportation Services has teamed up with Zipcar, a car-sharing program that allows members to use cars when it is convenient.

Zipcar is a self-service car-sharing program that comes with gas, insurance, parking benefits and XM Satellite Radio.

Since its inception in 1999, Zipcar has attracted more than 50,000 consumers, including business professionals and students. The company operates in 10 states and 29 cities with 1,000 vehicles on the road.

On Tuesday, Transportation Services and Zipcar launched the program with an ice sculpture of Zipcar carved by local ice sculptor John E. Franks.

Transportation Services and Zipcar representatives set up a table on the ground level of Coffman Union to make the public aware of the new service.

Mary Sienko, marketing director for Parking and Transportation Services, said her department is always looking for ways to satisfy the transportation needs of the community.

Interested University students, staff members and faculty members pay a $30 membership fee to use the Zipcar services for a year, Sienko said. Non-University people are also able to use the services, she said, by paying a $50 membership fee for a year and a $25 application fee.

Members must be 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Also, drivers can’t have had more than two incidents (moving violations or accidents) in the past three years and no more than one incident in the past 18 months, according to the company’s Web site. Anyone with “major violations” in the past three years or alcohol-related violations in the past seven years also need not apply.

Six Zipcars (models Honda Element, Toyota Matrix, and Mazda3) will be available at the 21st Avenue Ramp on the West Bank, the Washington Avenue Ramp on the East Bank and the Gortner Avenue Ramp on the St. Paul campus, with two cars at each location.

Members of Zipcar are able to reserve cars for as long as they need, Sienko said.

Members are given an electronic key that allows them to access the cars. They are also able to use Zipcar in other cities where the program is located, such as metropolitan Boston and New York City.

Matthew Malloy, vice president of marketing for Zipcar, said the program is a demand-based service and is an inexpensive alternative to car ownership. He said members report saving an average of $435 a month using the service.

University graduate student Steve Peterson said he is excited to see the new transportation service launched. Peterson, who lives in Melrose Student Suites, said it will give him the freedom to run errands whenever he wants.

“I don’t have to rely on the bus or rely on friends to take me where I want to go,” he said. “It’s a good deal.”

The ability to go off campus to shop for groceries or clothes or do other errands was something that appealed to students, said Christine Laurence, manager of business development for Zipcar.

With the new program, the University will reduce the number of cars on campus, said Bill Roberts, associate director for Parking and Transportation Services.

“For every Zipcar on the road, there are 20 cars taken off of the road,” Malloy said. “The goal here that we are all trying to see is fewer cars on the road.”

Van-Go!

Parking and Transportation Services is also launching a new vanpooling service,

Van-GO!, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Council.

The service is an alternative mode of transportation for commuters, said Jeff Arnold, manager for Vanpool Services, which pairs members with other customers who live near their residence.

Roberts said that if public transportation does not work for commuters, Van-GO! is the right program for them.

The department will have informational sessions for Van-GO! to discuss the program.

The first sessions will be Jan. 25 from 7 to 9 a.m. at the St. Paul Student Center and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Coffman Union.