Car sharing program will debut next week
Department of Parking and Transportation wishes to reduce number of cars in Charlottesville area through Zipcar
The University Department of Parking and Transportation will introduce a new car-sharing program on Grounds next Tuesday, in hopes of decreasing the volume of cars in Charlottesville, Director Rebecca White said.
"It's an alternative to owning a car or bringing a car to Grounds," she said. "It might reduce how much you use a car and it might give families [the opportunity to] leave a car at home."
More than 140 universities and 50 cities in the United States and the United Kingdom use the Zipcar sharing program, which the University selected after conducting extensive research.
"We started to become aware of car sharing as a strategy a few years ago," White said. But the idea became a more viable option for the University after car companies worked out insurance kinks, she said.
White's office then shopped for providers, taking into account car technology, the pricing structure for University affiliates, the logistics of car reservations and user convenience.
The office settled on Zipcar, which will place six cars - three hybrid Honda Insights and three fuel-efficient Honda Civics - in pairs across Grounds: on the curb of McCormick Road by Alderman Library, the parking places in front of Gilmer Hall and in the service vehicle lot in front of Courtenay Dormitory, White said.
There was some strategy involved in choosing these locations, White said.
"You can see that we're really placing cars near first-year areas and we're hoping that it proves convenient enough for them to use it [in later years]," she said.
First-year students, who are prohibited from bringing cars to Grounds, will now at least be limitedly mobile. International students, meanwhile, who traditionally do not have cars, will have the opportunity to get behind the wheel in Charlottesville.
"I think it's a god idea," Vanessa Orca, a third-year international student said. "Sometimes I need to go to Target or someplace far and I'd have to beg friends for rides, so it'd be nice [to rent a car]."
While White said critics may argue that the program might simply "increased miles traveled" among more people, she believes the car-sharing option's pricing will discourage this trend.
"The idea is that if people have to pay to use the car when they need it, that people will use cars less," she said.
The program, however, may have arrived too late for some upperclassmen with cars already on Grounds.
"I think if I was a first-year I would definitely use it," second-year College student Lauren Anderson said.
Second-year College student Caitlin Reddy, who does not own a car, also said walking and buses were enough to get her around Grounds.
The Office of Parking and Transportation may expand the program if use is high. The cars will be available to University students, staff and faculty at all times. Zipcar will charge members a $35 annual fee to drive for $66 per day or $8 an hour on weekdays, and $72 per day or $9 an hour on weekends. The fees include 180 miles per trip, insurance and gas.