Zipcar may expand to Mahoney/Pearson lot, students question car availability

IN WAIT: The only Zipcar lot is located by the freshman dorms. DANNY BULL// Hurricane Staff

Three months after it launched on campus, the car-sharing program Zipcar is planning to expand its service of providing transportation to students in need of rental cars.

“The goal is to place another pod on the Mahoney/Pearson side of campus,” said Richard Sobaram, director of Parking and Transportation Services at the University of Miami.

Sobaram is meeting with Zipcar representatives to determine if students are likely to use this new service on the Mahoney/Pearson side of campus.

“It would be more convenient if Zipcar was over here,” said sophomore Jordan Thomas, referring to the Mahoney/Pearson parking lot. “I don’t have my car here and I would be more likely to use [Zipcar] if it were on this side of campus.”

This year, UM changed its student transportation policy, announcing that the incoming freshman class of 2012 would not be allowed to have cars on campus. Zipcar, a key platform idea of last year’s Committed To U Student Government ticket, led by SG President Brandon Gross, has proven to be increasingly popular among students.

“We exceeded the quota for September and October,” said Sobaram, who added that the quota for November has already been met.

The school must meet a reservation quota with Zipcar each month to have this program on campus.

Sobaram said that he has received mostly positive feedback from students about the Zipcar program but has heard complaints about reserving cars in advance.

Ryan Quigtar, a freshman, is concerned by the availability of the cars.

“A lot of times, like on Fridays or Saturdays, you have to book those [days] a good week or two in advance,” Quigtar said. “You need to have a plan already set up with your friends and have to stick to that plan.

Freshman Carissa Harris said that although she was once forced to reserve a car at midnight because that was the only time available for the night she requested. Still, Harris said she is not bothered by the program because she does not utilize the service often.

“Right now, [Zipcar] is not inconvenient because I am not using it all the time,” Harris said.

The three Zipcars at UM – a hybrid Toyota Prius, a Toyota Matrix and a Honda CRV- were brought to campus on Aug. 21. Sobaram said the program launched successfully the next day on the UC Rock.

Originally, Zipcar offered a Hyundai SUV, but the vehicle was totaled and replaced by the Honda CRV. More cars may be available on campus by January, Sobaram said.

“We did it in conjunction with freshman orientation since freshmen aren’t allowed to have cars on campus,” Sobaram said.

To use this service, students must register through the Zipcar Web site by providing credit card and driver’s license information. Approval is based on drivers’ records and takes up to 48 hours. Once approved, a membership card is mailed to the recipient, who pays a one-time $35 fee.

Hourly usage rates start at $8 and are charged to a member’s credit card on file. This fee pays for insurance and gas. Each car also has a gas card in the left visor that can be used anytime the car needs to be re-fueled.

“I’m not into the whole taxi thing, so I’ll just rent my Zipcar,” Harris said. “When [my friends and I] want to go somewhere we can go wherever we want.”

The cars are available 24 hours a day in the Stanford/Hecht parking via reservations made online ( Students are able to reserve a car for a few hours or, for $65, an entire day.

“Its more convenient than the Metrorail or the bus,” Quigtar said. “I don’t have to rely on other people to take me places.”