Expanding transportation options

University car sharing program a positive idea

Story by Rachel Streich, Chief Copy Editor

Before my last semester on campus, I won the residence hall parking lottery as I have each of the last three years. But this fall was the first time I didn’t change my mind about bringing my car. I decided to keep the permit and drove my Chrysler Sebring the three hours from Mankato, Minn.,  Eau Claire for the first time.

 I haven’t regretted this choice or the past decision to leave my car at home when I didn’t need it as much. Yet, as I think back sentimentally on my car-less years, I know there were several times I would have loved to have been able to use a car on campus for just an hour to head across town.

 That’s why I support the car sharing program, which Student Senate approved in September. If the university approves it, the program would benefit students who don’t need their own car on campus but could use a set of wheels in desperate situations.

 The Enterprise CarShare program gives students who do not have access to a vehicle the opportunity to rent a car for hours at a time. UW-Stout’s program currently allows students to drive up to 200 miles per day with a $5 an hour rental fee, a free one-time rental fee and an annual membership fee of $35.

 This current cost is reasonable and seems worth it to me as opposed to paying by the meter for a taxi or, if you live on campus, paying the $227 yearly residence hall parking permit to drive your car only a few times over the course of a semester.

 In these few unusual circumstances when I didn’t have my car and needed to go off campus for an interview or an errand, I walked in the blistering cold from a bus stop and pestered my friends multiple times to borrow their car or catch a ride. The car sharing program could have kept me from getting frostbite and frantically trying to coordinate my off-campus interview times with friends’ schedules.

 The program gains points with me because the two mid-sized sedans would sit on upper campus ready for students to use right away, whenever they need it.

 Along with the convenience, the car sharing program could be a more sustainable option. With how prevalent cars are as a source of transportation in the U.S., colleges seem to be one of the rare environments where people often choose to walk instead of drive. The program could make more students feel a bit better about leaving their vehicles at home and saving the environment from a little more pollution.

 With another option for transportation to use in dire situations, students might think more about how much they really need their cars.

 International students without cars, some who might be accustomed to public transportation stopping right outside their doors, could benefit as well.

 Although it may be an  unfamiliar concept to rent a car on campus for an hour or two, I think UW-Eau Claire should follow in the footsteps of other universities like UW-Stout, UW-River Falls and UW-Lacrosse that have implemented car sharing programs.

 If it can save students some of the time and stress I experienced without a car as well as benefit the environment, it’s worth giving the program a spin.