Zipcars open up pay-as-you-go opportunity at Norwich

One of the two new Zipcars parked in the Hayden parking lot. They offer a pay-as-you-go transportation option for students who don't have cars.

One of the two new Zipcars parked in the Hayden parking lot. They offer a pay-as-you-go transportation option for students who don’t have cars.

Norwich University has instituted a car rental program called Zipcar, bringing two zippy looking Ford Focus cars onto campus. They are located at the south end of campus in the laundry parking lot.

According to the program’s system administrator and purchasing agent, Bill Vivian, it was brought to the campus in order to help alleviate the problem of limited parking and to provide out-of-state students with transportation.

“I have never heard of Zipcar,” said Christopher Earle, 20, a mathematics-education double major and junior from San Francisco, Cal. “I know (about) Uber, but you don’t rent them,” Earle said, like others on campus admitting he is not aware of the Zipcar program.
Zipcar, which bills itself as “the world’s largest car sharing and car club service,” is very different than Uber. It gives students without vehicles the ability to travel around the surrounding rural area as needed.

“Essentially Zipcar has a fleet, a pool of cars that they obtain through other rental companies,” said Vivian, emphasizing,“it’s not an Uber.”
Vivian explained that the reason Zipcar is not like Uber is because drivers can’t offer their personal vehicles for use through Zipcar. Only the vehicles purchased through the program are authorized as Zipcars.

According to Vivian, “They’re all branded by Zipcar, they all have Zipcar enabled devices that will allow (registered members) to use their Zipcar cards to enter into the vehicle.”
The way Zipcar works is that if any student desires to use one of the two Zipcars currently at Norwich, the individual would have to register with Vivian. The student would then be given a Zipcar card that would allow the student to access either of the two vehicles and use the Zipcars for whatever their purpose was, such as going to see a doctor or a shopping run.
Vivian said that students authorized as Uber drivers may try to “utilize (Zipcar) as Uber” as long as Uber and Zipcar made an agreement for such action. As of now, that is not an option with the two cars.

Earle said that he felt the program was overpriced. For one hour, a student may rent the vehicle for from $8-10. “I know enough people that if I really needed to do something, I can just borrow a car,” said Earle.

But others welcomed Zipcar. “I think Zipcar is a really good idea,” said senior Erin Gats, 22, a communications major from Livermore, Maine, and Regimental Commander for the Corps of Cadets. “It’s a really good idea (to have Zipcar) on campus for people that really need it.”
Gats pointed out the difficulties some individuals have who come out of state without cars to drive, and brought up a really good point for having Zipcar. These vehicles allow out-of-state students to enjoy the areas surrounding Norwich, like other students who are able to have their vehicles on campus.

“We know how hard it is to have (personal) vehicles around here,” Vivian said, adding, “We figured the program would be great for those who don’t either have a vehicle or have limited access to a vehicle.” The cost of renting the cars, depending on one’s view, may be the main factor in whether they are used. Students like Earle questioning whether or not it’s worth it, but others may think sharing an hour or two of rental time is worth it.
Earle, being an out-of-state student himself, even said that if the price were to drop he may consider utilizing the cars. With the program in its early days, that may not happen before the close of the semester.

“If I was going with a bunch of friends, maybe I’d get (Zipcar).” Earle said. According to Earle, it would be cheaper to just borrow a friend’s vehicle for the day and pay them gas money rather than renting a Zipcar for $8-10 an hour.

On the topic of economics, gas and insurance were also main points of discussion. The two Zipcars on campus are already fueled when the registered user first enters the vehicle, but it is up to this same driver to refuel the vehicle should the need arise. The vehicle is also insured through the program, so if any damage or vandalism befall the vehicles the program’s insurance would take care of it.

Another huge reason Zipcar came to campus was to help address the parking issues here at Norwich University. “One of the main reasons (Norwich University) approached Zipcar was to kind of alleviate some of the parking issues that are on campus,” Vivian said, adding, “The program is for the students primarily.” Faculty cannot utilize the function currently, yet it has not been ruled out for the future of the program.

Lawrence Rooney, Chief of Security at Norwich University, said that there is “a limited amount of space” in terms of the parking situation. “There are only 650 student parking spaces,” Rooney continued, stating that if less students brought their cars to campus the more parking availability would increase.
“If less students bring (their) cars to campus that opens up more parking spaces.” Rooney said, continuing, “The idea is to hope to save more spaces from student cars than have Zipcars.” Rooney explained further by saying that the program cannot simply replace student cars with Zipcars, just that a single Zipcar may service many students.

As the Chief of Security at Norwich University, Rooney also commented on the function security has in correlation to the program. Simply put, security at Norwich generally provides surveillance on the vehicles to make sure nothing happens to them.

However, if something were to happen such as a vehicle being stolen or vandalized security would notify the Northfield police department in order to take care of the situation. “We would notify the police and work with the police.” Rooney said, stating that security would work with law enforcement as their department would on any case demanding the involvement of police.
Rooney did not know how Zipcar works himself, which is also true about a majority of people on campus like Earle. He knew that the program was here for people to use on their own accord and that the program would be treated by security and everyone else as any other normal service on campus.
Rooney, like Vivian, agreed that transportation off campus to the surrounding areas was vital to Norwich University, and that other cheaper forms of transportation existed should students similar to Earle find the program too expensive.

In fact, Rooney said that the University was working with Green Mountain Transit (GMT) in an attempt to “advertise the bus rides more”, as the fare for a bus ride plus transfers to the airport would only amount to $5.75. Any transportation to the surrounding area for students on campus as whole would be beneficial period.
For the recruit audience reading the story, Zipcar is not available until recognition, and even then the individual must be 18. However, should an emergency arise perhaps something could be worked out.

“I don’t see an issue in (a recruit) needing to use (Zipcar) in an emergency event or if they have to pick a prescription that they couldn’t get at the infirmary,” Gats said, adding,”Zipcar allows them to be able to go and take care of their (emergency or medical) needs.”
Gats stressed the importance of making sure that the wellbeing of a recruit is noted and taken care of. Should their safety or wellbeing come into question, “the title of recruit” goes away in order to help them like any other human in need of help.

The process by which a recruit would go about requesting the Zipcar for such an event would follow the same route on the program side. The recruit would sign up for membership, talk to Vivian about the card needed to enter the vehicle, and pay the fees due at the end of their trial. On the Corps side of the spectrum, however, a rook would have to pass the request up the proper chain of command.

Should an emergency rise for a rook under the age of 18, that individual could not use the Zipcar program. According to Vivian, the registered individual must be over the age of 18 to be able to use any of the vehicles provided by the program at Norwich University, or for that matter at any of the 500 campuses it also services.
The program offers one way to try fixing parking issues on campus. According to Rooney, one car can service many students and therefore helps open space for those students who genuinely need parking, especially out of state students. Vivian also hopes it begins to “alleviate” the issues parking presents to many who struggle trying to find open spaces.

Rooney hopes students will also consider GMT as an alternative for those who may not be able to afford the Zipcars. For some students like Earle it may remain cheaper and easier to rely on other forms of transportation in terms of social outings. Yet, students like Gats agree to some extent that the program will definitely help in certain ways to improve the travel needs of students who attend travel at Norwich.

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