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Zipcar Revving Up on Campus

By Jessie Fredlund ’07

Now entering its fourth month, Smith’s contract with Zipcar, the nation’s largest car-sharing service, has put more than a hundred Smith community members in the driver’s seat.

The two Zipcars at Smith -- a Toyota Matrix and a Honda Civic -- stay busy with several trips almost every day of an average four to five hours each, says Christine Hopkinson, business development manager at Zipcar.

“Usage at Smith has met and exceeded our expectations,” she said.

Smith’s Department of Athletics has its own account, becoming the first Smith department to become a Zipcar member.

The Zipcars are available 24 hours a day to Smith students who are 18 and older, and to Smith faculty, staff and local residents who are 21 and older for rent by the hour or day. Gas and insurance are included in the hourly rate of $7 and the daily rate of $55.

About 80 percent of Smith Zipcar reservations are made by those in the college community, the remainder made by Northampton residents.

One reason for the program’s success may be the lowered minimum age for student membership. (Most Zipcar locations and auto rental agencies require drivers to be at least 21.)

College administrators hope that, in addition to providing a resource for members of the Smith community and the public, the Zipcars help address the need for parking spaces.

“We certainly expect that, as the program continues to grow, it will reduce parking demand,” said Laurie Fenlason, Executive Director of Public Affairs at Smith.

The company estimates that each Zipcar eliminates the need for more than 20 privately owned vehicles.

On a broader scale, those at Zipcar endeavor to contribute to a healthier environment by reducing traffic congestion. According to the company’s Web site, more than 40 percent of Zipcar members sell their cars or opt not to buy one. As a result, many older cars are being replaced by the newer, cleaner Zipcars. Zipcar members also cut down on the time they spend driving by as much as 50 percent.

Those interested in joining Zipcar may register online. Once they receive their “Zipcard” in the mail, members can then reserve cars online or over the telephone up to a year in advance. Once a car is reserved, the Zipcard unlocks the doors.

Smith joins more than two dozen colleges and universities throughout the country, including Harvard, Boston College and Columbia, in partnering with Zipcar.

“Assuming the program keeps performing as it has been,” said Hopkinson, “the only change we would hope to make is to work with the college to add [additional] Zipcars to campus.”

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