UI, Iowa City kick off car rental collaboration


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University of Iowa students and Iowa City community members may one day see less parking congestion in the wake of  Zipcar kicking off its service Wednesday.

At least that’s what officials hope.

UI and Zipcar officials said by providing the environmentally friendly service, the community can help reduce traffic and CO2 emissions.

“It really enhances alternative transportation,” said UI Director of Sustainability Liz Christiansen.
Zipcar representative Bill Connolly said each Zipcar could take 15 cars off the road, making the campus and the city cleaner and less congested.

UI officials said they look forward to the number of cars it will take off the road — they expect the number of cars on campus to decrease.

“There’s already a trend in that direction,” Ricketts said.

The UI has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of stored cars on campus because of the rising cost of gas, he said, and officials hope to see the number decrease even further.  In 2005, 1,300 stored parking permits were registered on campus; in 2011, there were fewer than 800 permits, Ricketts said.

“We find that once becoming a member of Zipcar, people are more likely to bike … [or] use public transportation,” Connolly said.

Ricketts said he hopes the program will catch on and students will use it to reduce the amount of transportation on campus.

“It’s our hope that we will be successful,” he said. “I think there’s some potential for growth.”

Zipcar is targeted to students 18 years and older and non-students community members 21 years and older. The service provides six vehicles on the UI campus and four vehicles located throughout Iowa City. UI students may rent the car after paying a $25 one-time membership fee as well as an hourly rate between $7 and $66 a day. Iowa City community members are required to pay the $25 membership fee as well as a $60 annual fee.

The new service will provide transportation to students who don’t bring vehicles to campus.

“I think where it makes a difference in the community is not all have to have their own cars to meet their needs,” said Dave Ricketts, the director of UI Parking and Transportation. “Many people my age probably never thought any other way but having their own car.

The service has a variety of cars for customers to choose from, from a Ford Focus to a Toyota Prius. Zipcar has partnerships with more than 250 universities, and every school in the Big Ten except for the University of Nebraska has partnered with Zipcar.

The service website directs the customer to the locations of the cars. In order to use the vehicle, the customer scans her or his Zipcard over the transponder in the windshield. The transponder sends a signal to unlock the doors, the keys are in the car, and Zipcar will charge the customer’s credit or debit account overnight for the use.

“Cost-savings, convenience, and reduced demand for parking are just some of the benefits that we are confident the community will experience by the availability of Zipcar,” Michael Serafino, the general manager of Zipcar University, said in a release.

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