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Zipcar booms in Iowa City

BY SHIANNE GRUSS | SEPTEMBER 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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Following a more than one year local presence, a European car-sharing service with national roots continues to draw in University of Iowa students, staff, and faculty and Iowa City residents.

Zipcar, which operates its American headquarters in Boston, launched in Iowa City in August 2012.

It is the world’s largest car sharing and car-club service, and it offers transportation alternatives for businesses and universities.

“Since this was a new venture, trying to decide where best to place the Zipcars was a challenge,” said Michelle Ribble, the commuter-program manager for UI Parking and Transportation.

Although UI officials originally thought to place the vehicles near students, Ribble said, an additional location was added because of demand from university staff, in addition to problems associated with the construction of the new West Campus residence hall.

Currently, there are four Zipcar locations in Iowa City, the newest being located at the Newton Road ramp metered area.

Iowa City Transportation Services Director Chris O’Brien said the service allows individuals without a primary vehicle option to navigate the area.

“It fills a transportation gap that exists within Iowa City,” he said.

The Iowa City City Council unanimously approved the three-year contract with Zipcar Inc. in July 2012 and will opt for a two-year extension based on its initial popularity.

UI students who are at least 18 years or older can reserve any of the vehicles, while non-UI students must be 21.

“We hope that people would use transit and then have that Zipcar as kind of a backup,” said Mark Rummel, Iowa City’s associate director for Transportation.

Zipcar manages both the vehicles and member registration and subscription, so there is virtually no cost to the university or City of Iowa City, Ribble said.

Michael Serafino, the vice president of sales and market development for Zipcar University and Fast Fleet, is excited about the local service.

“The program exhibits all of the activity and potential of our Zipcar programs at similar Big Ten schools,” he said. “Membership is strong, and students and the local community continue to show us that Zipcar and Iowa together is a great car sharing partnership.”

UI junior Catherine Hoover said she likes that the vehicles — which come in five different models — are up-to-date with built-in iPod docks. She used the service for a four-month period during her sophomore year, although she suggests renting with a group of friends to split the cost.

“Everything was super easy,” she said. “I got my key in the mail and went online or on the Zipcar app to schedule when I wanted my car. Then I picked it up right outside of Burge, which was right across the street for me.”

Zipcar rental prices are around $8 per hour, depending both on the model of the car and the day of the week it is rented. There is also a $25 yearly subscription fee. Zipvans are as yet unavailable in the area.

“As of right now I don’t have an active account, but if I ever needed it again I would not hesitate using Zipcar,” Hoover said.


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