When it comes to car companies, you won’t find me singing the praise of many, or any for that matter. However, Zipcar the largest and most efficient car sharing service in the world deserves our respect, if not our courtship, because they value automobiles as they should be: A modern utilitarian device, not a modern necessity.
In a time where everyone is concerned about high gas prices and carbon emissions, Zipcar has some remarkable secondary environmental and urban benefits. See the short list from their website below.
- Each Zipcar is capable of replacing over 15 privately-owned vehicles
- Zipcar replaces older cars with new ones that have more stringent pollution controls
- Green space and urbanity is preserved as fewer parking spaces are required to meet the driving needs of the same number of people.
- Less strain on urban parking infrastructure - saving businesses, governments, and universities money.
- Lower fuel consumption means fewer greenhouse gas emissions and particulates.
- And yes, less congestion on the roads
However saintly Zipcar may be environmentally, their real success comes in convenience. They make car ownership unneccessary by making car-sharing so easy and affordable. After paying a low annual membership fee, one never has to pay for insurance, maintenance or gasoline ever again.
While living in Boston I found it impractical to keep my car in the city. Boston is inherently walkable, well-served by transit and parking is an expensive, time-consuming nightmare. Fortunately, Zipcar was expanding at a rapid rate within the city. I obtained a membership through work and promptly abandoned my car at my sister’s suburban house. On the rare day that I needed a car, I had a choice of vehicles conveniently located down the street in designated Zipcar parking spaces. All I had to do was wave my keypass in front of the windshield and off I went. Upon returning, I just left the car right where I found it. A stark contrast to the days where I would drive around in circles for upwards of an hour just to find a parking space within a mile of my apartment.
After leaving Boston, I ended up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Another great city, albeit much smaller, which shares the same urban attributes car-sharing services find appealing. Just as I left that city, they too received Zipcars, allowing even more University students, employees and citizens to lessen their car dependence. Same story for Lewiston, Maine, the small Maine city where I went to college. Will South Beach be next?
At one point Zipcar listed Miami on their web-based location expansion map. Although the map seems to be missing now, Miami Beach’s tourist throngs, weekend visitors, employer/ees, dense mixed-use urban structure and notorious parking crunch make it the logical south Florida city in which the Cambridge, Massachusetts based company should expand. Downtown Miami, the Biscayne Boulevard corridor, Coconut Grove, downtown Coral Gables and the University of Miami should follow. If you agree, call them up and say “Dude, where’s my Zipcar.” With enough support, we may be able to jump start their inevitable south Florida expansion.
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