Over the summer, I worked in Milwaukee and purchased my first car. It seemed like a necessary, but frighteningly expensive, experience that continues today with insurance, gas and car payments.
In July, I was driving said car to my apartment after work when I spotted a Honda Civic in front of me with white writing all over the back. Intrigued, I drove closer (only a little closer) to read it.
Huh. Fortunately for me, I lived in UW-Milwaukee housing and was able to pick up a brochure because of the university’s Zipcar
partnership to learn more.
Zipcar is a European-inspired carshare company and its goal is simple: redefine the way people think about transportation, according to the company’s website, www.zipcar.com.
I was sold within minutes. The vehicles are available for anywhere from a few hours to an entire day and the company handles insurance, maintenance and gas.
If I had known of the company’s existence pre-car purchase, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have bought my car.
Here’s how it works, thanks to the handy guide on the company’s website.
Step one: Apply online. If you’re on your own, you have to be 21 years or older and possess a valid driver’s license to apply. If your university has partnered with Zipcar, 18-year-olds can join, too!
Step two: Once you’re approved, you’ll receive a Zipcard and you can reserve cars online or over the phone.
Step three: Hold your Zipcard in front of the Zipcar’s windshield and voila! You’ve got a car for the time you need.
I think it’s financially reasonable, too.
For example, the occasional driving plan for Zipcars in Minneapolis runs at $50 annually, with a $25 application fee if you join, according to Zipcar.
When you drive, it’s about $8 per hour, or $66 per day.
It’s about the same for Milwaukee, too, with special rates available for students. Zipcars are also an option for international drivers, faculty and staff. And, there’s Zipcar for Business. Neat, right?
Despite my obvious preference for the carshare program, I won’t be trading my car in just yet to join a carshare program as the Zipcar phenomenon hasn’t reached the Chippewa Valley.
It’s a necessary addition, though, because of student need and the lack of parking at the university.
How often do UW-Eau Claire students make trips to the Twin Cities or just need a car to get groceries or for some other reason? The answer is: often enough to justify the need for a carshare program. UW-Eau Claire’s agreement with Eau Claire’s transit system that allows students to ride the bus for free with their Blugold is an excellent setup, but a carshare program such as Zipcar would be another positive addition for students.
Plus, I’m sure many students have noticed the lack of parking, courtesy of construction.
With a carshare program like Zipcar, UW-Eau Claire could cut back on the number of cars students bring to the university every year and instead let incoming freshmen and returning students know that there’s a carshare program to join. Fewer vehicles mean less space used for parking.
Finally, a carshare program is financially better for us and healthier for the environment. By sharing cars, we could be saving money (the average Zipcar user reports that they’re saving … wait for it … at least $500 per month, according to Zipcar).
We’re college students. For those of us driving our own cars now, think of what could be done with an extra $500 per month.
I could get used to that.
A carshare program also takes more vehicles off the roads. According to Zipcar, one shared vehicle removes an average 15 cars off the road, which means we’re consuming less gas and oil. Those effects are all positive, especially as fuel consumption is a concern that continues to plague the United States and the world.
With all of the benefits that come along with it, why not bring a carshare program to the university and the city?
If anything, it just propels the area to the future of transportation.
Breann Schossow is a senior journalism major and the Projects Editor at The Spectator.
Illustration by Ana Holtman.