Since its founding in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2000, Zipcar, the world’s largest car-sharing service, has worked to expand its reach. Now, the company that popularized the idea of renting a car for as briefly as one hour — or for up to four days — has begun targeting the college and university market. In particular, it’s going after so-called “Millennials” — those aged 18 to 29 years old, who are driving less to save funds as well as to protect the environment.
At present, three local colleges — Vassar, Bard, and Marist — use the Zipcar service. Since last October, Marist students in Poughkeepsie have been able to “rent” a zipcar on campus, as long as they are at least 18 years old and join Zipcar online for a $25 annual registration fee (www.zipcar.com). The college’s decision to permit the company onto its campus reflected in part a desire by students for more mobility, since freshmen aren’t allowed to have a car at school. But the administration also liked the idea of reducing the campus carbon footprint of all students. “Many don’t need a car all the time, and we want our students to know there are alternatives to bringing their cars to campus,” says Steve Sansola, associate dean of student affairs. Junior Brian Gelok, cochair of the Student Government Association Transportation Committee, learned about the program at Vassar last year, and “fell in love with it immediately,” he says.
The idea of having students rent cars periodically has been part of a broader effort by Marist to make its campus more sustainable — as well as walkable and bikable. To achieve that end, the school recently completed a new underpass so students don’t have to cross busy Route 9 when moving between the east and west campuses. The college also has encouraged the greater use of bicycles. “We’re currently reviewing a program to rent bicycles, too,” Sansola says. The Zipcar option at Marist offers a choice of a hybrid Honda Insight or Mazda 3. Both cars are available for as low as $8 per hour or $66 per day, which includes gas and insurance, and each reservation is limited to a maximum of 180 miles. Students earn credit toward rental time. So far, about 130 have signed up. “They’re using these cars predominantly in the evening and on weekends to explore the area, enjoy restaurants, do cultural activities, and shop. And since most students travel in groups, this is a cost-effective way to get off-campus. The cars are also well-maintained for safety,” Sansola says. And the program has been successful during its early stages, says Gelok. “Both cars are steadily rented out.”