HOURCAR to replace Zipcar on U campus

10 new cars will be on the Twin Cities campus by Aug. 1.

HOURCAR to replace Zipcar on U campus

Roy Aker

After winning a competitive bidding contract, the car-sharing program HOURCAR will replace Zipcar at the University of Minnesota in time for fall semester.

The St. Paul-based HOURCAR has signed a two-year contract and will have 10 new energy-efficient cars on campus by Aug. 1, according to a press release.

Jacqueline Brudlos, University Parking and Transportation Services spokeswoman, said HOURCAR, Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare and Hertz 24/7 all submitted bids to the University in the spring.

Of the four services, HOURCAR is the only one based in the Twin Cities.

The service, which is run by the local nonprofit organization Neighborhood Energy Connection, is the largest car sharing service in the Twin Cities, said program director Christopher Bineham.

Zipcar, which was founded in Massachusetts, has had a contract with the University since 2005. In January, the New Jersey-based Avis Budget Group bought Zipcar for $500 million.

Brudlos said the bidding contract was based on services rather than cost. She added that one of the reasons HOURCAR was chosen over Zipcar was because it’s locally run.

The Minneapolis City Council also approved two-year agreements with both HOURCAR and Zipcar in June, allowing the companies to use on-street parking. 

Geography graduate student William Lindeke has had an HOURCAR subscription for more than a year.

“Car sharing is kind of like an insurance policy or a backup plan for people in those times where you really need a [car],” he said.

An increase in city dwellers, higher costs of owning a car and an overall cultural shift toward more energy-efficient modes of transportation has caused car sharing to grow nationwide, Lindeke said.

“One other useful thing about these cars is that you can go on dates with them,” he said. “Not everyone is willing to jump on a bus with you.”

Lindeke said HOURCAR fits in perfectly with student lifestyles.

“At a place like the [University], with so many people in one place,” he said, “it’s kind of the ideal solution for reducing the need for everyone to park and drive their car every day.”

Rental rates for University students will include an annual fee of $35, in addition to hourly rates of $8 during the day or $5 for non-peak hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. This cost is higher than HOURCAR’s standard student plan, but about the same as Zipcar’s previous University rate. Gas prices are included.

HOURCAR hubs will be in the same places as Zipcar’s were, with vehicles in the Washington Avenue Ramp on the East Bank, parking lots near the Superblock and the 21st Avenue Ramp on the West Bank.

Cars available to students will include compact vehicles as well as vans and trucks.

In addition to expanding at the University, HOURCAR is growing its fleet throughout the metro and plans to have more than 80 vehicles by early 2014.