For those at UT who lack their own transportation, the opportunity to borrow a car from campus has arrived through the Zipcar car sharing service.
Having arrived at UT on Feb. 21, Zipcar is a worldwide car sharing service that came to the U.S. about ten years ago to provide a more environmentally sustainable form of transportation. The company provides members with access to cars stationed around the world, including gas and insurance in the rental price.
UT’s drive to become a Top 25 public research university is reflected in this latest campus innovation by taking another step toward making campus a desirable place for students to pursue their education. Zipcar will also help UT further its progress toward becoming a more eco-friendly campus.
“I think this could be in line with our master plan for the campus of being one that’s less about having a car on campus or a garage smack dab in the middle of it,” Adam Roddy, senior in political science and current SGA president, said. “I think being able to rent cars is a big step toward that.”
The car sharing resource seems to be mostly geared toward freshman students, since they tend to be the demographic most commonly without cars.
“I think it will go a long way, especially toward freshmen on campus who are not commuting,” Roddy said. “It will be a good option, and I think many will choose not to have a car on campus.”
Resource sharing programs are becoming more commonplace in today’s society, as evidenced by popular bike sharing programs, but some consider car sharing to be a bit implausible.
Alex Gainer, a senior in accounting, expressed skepticism about the feasibility of a car sharing program and how well it can be implemented.
“I just think liability would be a big concern,” Gainer said. “I’m sure they have extensive waivers, but an issue is liability as far as students getting into accidents, causing accidents and damage done to the vehicle.”
One of the students intended to benefit from the system, undecided freshman Carson Jones, has similar concerns.
“I don’t know how safe it is to have so many people sharing one car,” Jones said. “It also seems a bit expensive.”
Roddy disagrees, pointing to growth in product sharing services as evidence that Zipcar can succeed at UT.
“We’re seeing more and more things like this sprout up across the nation,” he said. “I don’t think small car sharing programs are anything crazy at all.”
Ordinarily, students, faculty and staff can join their campus Zipcar program for a fee of $35 per year, but the first year’s fee is currently being waived for UT members thanks to a grant from the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization.
Upon joining Zipcar at UT, members will receive a unique Zipcard allowing access to the vehicles. The cars — one a Ford Focus and the other a Honda Civic — can be reserved by phone or online for $7.50 per hour and $69 per day for up to four days.
Despite the convenience of having a car on-demand, some students find the price for that convenience a bit steep.
“It depends on how badly I need it,” Jones said. “It’s kind of pricey, and I can usually get a ride right now.”
In contrast, Gainer thinks the price is reasonable.
“I think going to the grocery store, or just being able to run errands around town and not always having to find rides through friends, is worth $7.50,” Gainer said.
Though there are manifold concerns about Zipcar and how well the program will actually work, Roddy maintained that it will prove to be a great asset to UT.
“I think it will be incredibly successful,” Roddy said. “Any kind of cheap, accessible transportation, students are going to jump on.”
For students, faculty and staff who join now, Zipcar is awarding $35 in free driving. To join, students and faculty can go to the Zipcar website at www.zipcar.com/utk