Driving around the District will be a bit easier for students now that a car rental company has stationed two of its vehicles on campus and plans to place a third at GW in a few weeks.
The company, Zipcar, charges students 21 years and older an hourly rate to rent a car. The rate and age requirement represent a departure from many of its competitors, which charge a daily fee and require customers to be 25 years of age and older.
Zipcar, which buys permanent parking spaces for its fleet of 44 vehicles that are located throughout the District, has a Honda Element parked near 20th and H streets and a Mini Cooper on the corner of 23rd and H streets. A third car, a Toyota Prius, could be moved on campus in a few weeks, said Oded Weizmann, Zipcar’s director of business development.
“You get in it, you zip away and you’re gone,” Weizmann said. “You can reserve a car in 30 seconds and get in it in 10 minutes.”
Becoming a Zipcar member costs $20 a year, and GW students receive a $10 credit after joining because of an agreement between Zipcar and the University. Members have 24-hour access to cars in Zipcar fleets in Boston, New York and D.C.
After reserving a car by telephone or on the Internet, members can unlock it with a card provided by the company. Hourly rates range from $7.50 to $10.50 depending on the car and drop to $2 from midnight to 6 a.m. Members pay charges for only 10 hours if they rent a car for a full day. Zipcar pays for mileage maintenance, insurance and gas.
To sign up, prospective members must be at least 21 years old and have a current driver’s license and driving record without major violations, which include drunk driving and multiple moving citations.
“We don’t like to have criminal drivers,” Weizmann said.
Bill Mayer, assistant University librarian for information technology, said renting from Zipcar prevents the necessity of depending on staff members’ personal cars to haul equipment or respond to an emergency.
Previously, getting to a computer emergency “was a big pain,” Mayer said. With the Zipcar program, his department can reserve a car as soon as necessary.
“Now we can at least try and provide support,” Mayer joked. He said the library has used the service for three months.
Mayer said that his department also often uses the cars to travel to the Mount Vernon Eckles library.
“You can’t take the shuttle and lug two big computer servers,” he said.
Students said Zipcar’s accessibility makes it an attractive to traveling on buses or trains.
Senior Michelle Biena, who became a Zipcar member last week, said she does not expect to use the service very often but that on the “rare occasions” she needs to go somewhere, “it’s nice to have the option.”
“I’m going to Vegas this weekend and need a way to get to BWI (airport),” she said.
Weizmann said that even though the University is close to public transportation, Zipcar is still useful. He said more than 100 District residents signed up in the first 11 days of September.
“It’s not to replace another means of transportation, it’s just an additional means of transportation,” he said