You walk up to the hybrid car, pull out your iPhone, open the green app on your home screen, and press the screen to unlock the Toyoto Prius sitting before you. Press another button, and you can honk the horn to locate the car more quickly. Need a quick run to Taco Bell between classes? Forget your books at your apartment? Boise State University students can now borrow a car on the cheap, when and where they want it. Sound like the future? It’s not.
The concept is simple. With ZipCar, Boise State students can sign up for a ZipCard, their all-access pass to two Scion Xbs and two Toyota Priuses parked right on campus in designated spots. These ID cars, or the aforementioned iPhone app, get you into the car, which you start with a remote hanging from the ignition. At $8/hour, or $66/day take either model (given cutesy monikers like “Bozovich” and “Poole”, respectively), and travel up to 180 miles—gas, insurance and roadside assistance built-in. Just make sure to fuel the tank back up to at least 1/4th with the handy car slipped into the driver’s visor. And unlike traditional rentals, participants with the University only need by 18 years or older.
“Traditionally, members of the Boise State community have been limited in where they are able to travel if they choose not to bring a personal car to campus,” Casey Jones, the Transportation and Parking Director at Boise State, said.
Car sharing isn’t a new idea. Frugal Europeans, adverse to the high costs of owning a car across the pond, have enjoyed the benefits of car sharing for years. In the United States, where we own just shy of 300 million vehicles, according to the Department of Transportation, we’re a bit wary of the idea. In fact, we’ve maintained a surplus of cars on the road to people capable of driving them. Increasingly, the high cost of purchasing and maintaining a car has become a hard pill for cash-strapped Americans to swallow.
Enter the age of the ZipCar, one of the first car-sharing programs to catch traction in the States. In an on-the-fly society, the ease and convenience of renting a car with your mobile phone, in mere minutes, is part of a new future of transportation. Zooming in on a ZipCar map, downtown Seattle hosts hundreds of available cars. New York: just about every street corner.
Back in Boise, ZipCar hopes to play into a more sustainable array of transportation options. “Our partnership with ZipCar, along with our innovative partnership with Valley Regional Transit and planned programs to further encourage bicycle commuters, is just part of an ongoing comprehensive program to promote sustainable choices for our campus and members of the community,” said John Gardner, Boise State’s Associate Vice President for Energy Research. With four hybrid cars, each seating five people, students could even split the cost of the ride, making a trip to the mall much faster than the bus, and just as eco-conscious.
Signing up took nothing more than a driver’s license, a credit card, and about five minutes. Once approved, ZipCar will send me my card in the mail, or I can go pick it up from a regional office.
While signing up was a cinch, this reporter is still waiting on approval from ZipCar before he can hop into a vehicle. Expect a blog in the near future about our experiences.