Program rents cars to students

If mom and dad won’t let their student bring a car to campus this fall, there is an another way to get behind the wheel — Zipcars.

According to Zipcar’s Web site, Zipcar is the world’s largest car-sharing and car club service: an alternative to traditional car rental and car ownership.

Jay Rank, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (CUMTD) transportation analyst and unofficial Zipcar program manager, said an interagency group comprised of the University, CUMTD and the cities of Champaign and Urbana brought the Zipcar program to town in order to enhance mobility in Champaign-Urbana.

Rank said the program arrived in Champaign-Urbana in January and has seen membership grow each month. He said usage numbers have declined in June and July because the students are gone.

“We are expecting a big boom in August once students return,” Rank said.

The Web site notes that the annual fee for a University student is $35, and, depending on the model, students can drive from $8 per hour to $66 per day. It also states that gas, insurance and 180 free miles are included.

Bill Volk, managing director of CUMTD, said students are not limited to Zipcars on campus.

“We’ve got students living around town, you just need to check which cars are available,” he said.

The original fleet of Zipcars servicing Champaign-Urbana stood at six, but two additions in late June brought the total to eight.

Volk said there are two Zipcars located in downtown Champaign off Main Street, two cars on Wright Street on campus, two cars at the I-Hotel off First Street and two cars downtown Urbana at the Lincoln Square Mall.

Morgan Johnston, transportation demand management coordinator for the University, said that students under 21 years old, but at least 18 years old, can only rent Zipcars through the University partnership program with Zipcar.

She also said car sharing is a good way to reduce traffic and congestion and stressed that Zipcars promote a healthier lifestyle and a healthier environment.

“A lot of times, students who don’t have access to cars end up spending their money on fast food,” she said.

Johnston understands students might not want to spend $8 dollars an hour to rent a Zipcar, but she said if you get several people together, you could always split the cost of the rental.

“For the price of a fast food meal, you can get to the grocery store,” Johnston said.

“Students could leave their car back at home and save money on insurance, and permit parking.”