BY REED SHELTON
In a bid to expand the campus’ environmentally-sustainable practices, Salisbury University has partnered with Zipcar, a low-cost car-sharing program.
Getting behind the wheel of a Zipcar has been streamlined into a few steps.
An SU student (or faculty or staff member) submits an online application to verify their age and driving record, then pays a discounted membership fee to acquire a “Zipcard.”
A car is selected from those available and reserved online or via the Zipcar app for a specified time and duration at $7.50 per hour, or $69 per day. That cost includes both gas and insurance, and allows a mileage of up to 180 miles per day.
Once reserved, the student swipes their Zipcard across a sensor on the windshield, which unlocks the car. The keys and a card to pay for gas if necessary can be located inside.
At this point, the car is the student’s to drive until the end of their reservation, at which time the car is returned to its original, marked parking space.
Wayne Shelton, SU’s director of campus sustainability and environmental safety, advocated for this service as a way to reduce the carbon footprint of students, staff and faculty, while simultaneously reducing demand for coveted parking spaces and helping to alleviate congestion.
“Beyond the benefit to the campus itself, it’s a feature that could allow students to feel comfortable coming to campus and living in Salisbury without feeling the need to buy their own vehicle,” Shelton said. “There’s a lot of local transportation (between buses, bicycles and the trolley) that can take care of their needs, so with the addition of these available cars, maybe that’s all that’s needed.”
Shelton said that according to Zipcar’s calculations, one shared Zipcar can potentially replace upwards of fifteen vehicles on campus. Beyond the immediate environmental benefit and extra parking spaces, this could save students (or their parents) the financial burden of paying for the initial cost of a personal vehicle, plus the expenses of gas, insurance and inevitable maintenance.
“I think we’re going to start to see some of the demand (from new students) to bring their own cars start to decline as they start to rely on this,” he said.
Aside from the designated parking for the campus Zipcars, SU is neither paying for nor profiting from the program, and is only investing in actually promoting the service to students.
The cars themselves were provided by Zipcar, who are solely responsible for the associated costs and maintenance.
The Boston-based company has already taken off in most major U.S. cities and has partnered with over 300 universities across North America.
Bill Nelson, an adjunct lecturer in SU’s environmental studies program, is not surprised by their success.
“I think it fills a real need,” Nelson said. “A lot of people don’t need or don’t really want ownership of a vehicle and all the costs that come along with it. So for the growing number of people that just need a car occasionally, it’s fantastic.”
It is not just a pragmatic solution for that subset of people, he said, but a responsible one that fits in SU’s commitment to making changes that favor environmental sustainability.
“A lot of it is because it’s the right thing to do and that it’s a teachable moment for the kids,” he said. “But being the first to have a thing in the area, you get your foot in the door to change your culture. And our hope is that it will expand quite a bit, that there’ll be Zipcars downtown and all over the area. It’s one little piece of the puzzle, but it’s a cool piece.”
Junior and business management major Hannah Schweikert owns a car of her own but still finds Zipcar to be an attractive choice.
“I have a bigger car that’s horrible on mileage, and the fact that renting a Zipcar includes gas makes it a great option for me,” she said. “It’ll probably take time to have a real effect on the campus’ carbon footprint, but it’s a great plan for the future.”
Currently, there are two Zipcars available on campus—a Ford Focus and a Ford C-Max hybrid—with Shelton saying that the university would most-likely be agreeable to increasing that number if the program progresses as anticipated.
Both vehicles are in their marked spaces in parking lot F off Camden Avenue behind Blackwell Library. For more information about Zipcar or to apply for a membership, visit http://www.zipcar.com.
(Editor’s note: Wayne Shelton is of no relation to the writer)