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UBC’s new car-sharing program puts UBC student Steve Jones behind the wheel of 126 vehicles around Vancouver - photo by Martin Dee
UBC’s new car-sharing program puts UBC student Steve Jones behind the wheel of 126 vehicles around Vancouver - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 53 | No. 11 | Nov. 1, 2007

Car Sharing Comes to UBC Students

Service Handy for Groceries, Daytrips… and Dating

By Basil Waugh

Steve Jones remembers the day he snapped.

He was traveling to the outskirts of Vancouver, like so many other days, to purchase materials for engineering projects and transport them back to UBC.

“I was standing in the rain at a bus stop in Burnaby,” says Jones, a fifth-year UBC engineering student. “I had these heavy 10-foot metal bars under one arm and sheets of fibreglass under the other.”

“When the bus came I could hardly get on with all that stuff,” Jones says. “It was ridiculous. I thought: ‘There has to be a better way.’”

That’s when Jones began taking advantage of car-sharing at UBC. He joined Zipcars, a car-sharing company that, since August 2007, has partnered with UBC to make a Toyota Yaris and Matrix available to students who sign up as members.

Now when the bus won’t do, Jones simply books one of UBC’s two Zipcars online or using his cell phone. Then he walks to Totem Park or Walter Gage student residence to pick up his car from its designated parking spot, uses his key-like “Zipcard” and drives away.

Jones’ $30 annual membership fee gives him a license to drive not only UBC’s two Zipcars, but also the company’s worldwide fleet, which includes 126 automobiles in Vancouver. He pays $9.75 per hour for the time he uses the cars -- up to $69 per day -- which includes gas, insurance, maintenance and reserved parking.

Cost and convenience makes car-sharing a good alternative to renting or owning a vehicle, says Jones. “It is cheaper than taxis or owning or renting a car, and it’s a lot less work,” he says. “It’s nice not to worry about maintenance, things like brake jobs or tune ups.”

Jones says that he and friends pile into a Zipcar for daytrips and to shop for groceries or big ticket items at Ikea and Home Depot. Zipcars also come in handy on the dating scene, Jones adds. “Let’s just say renting a car for a date would be pretty weird. Somehow it’s not so weird if you’re car-sharing.”

Car-sharing is part of an overall strategy to make UBC one of the world’s greenest campuses, says Carole Jolly, Director of the UBC TREK program, which works to provide sustainable transportation options at UBC, including the U-Pass, a universal bus pass initiative that has increased transit ridership by 40 per cent since it was introduced in 2003.

“On average, shared cars replace 20 privately owned cars,” says Jolly. “So by reducing the demand for parking, they leave more room for the important stuff such as institutional buildings and greenspace.”

Although the minimum age for Zipcar membership is usually 21, Jolly’s office negotiated a reduction that makes UBC the only university in Canada where students as young as 18 can become members. “We wanted to make the Zipcars accessible to as many students as possible,” she says.

While Zipcar is the newest car-sharing initiative at UBC, it is not the only one. Six other shared cars are available to students, staff, faculty and campus residents through a partnership between UBC and the Cooperative Auto Network (CAN) that began in 1998.

UBC is also preparing to launch an innovative car-sharing pilot project with CAN for university departments, Jolly says. It is designed as an environmentally friendly, money-saving alternative to purchasing more vehicles.

UBC’s Shared Vehicle Program (SVP) will be an opportunity for vehicle-owning administrative units to defray costs by maximizing the use of existing vehicles. It will provide departments with access to a variety of vehicles, whether or not they own one, at a reasonable rate.

“To my knowledge UBC is the only university in North America to take car-sharing this far,” says Tanya Paz of CAN, which will manage the car-booking software and billing for SVP. “To date, only companies and municipalities have tried to maximize their fleets like this.”

For more info on sustainable transportation options at UBC, visit www.trek.ubc.ca. For more information car-sharing, visit www.zipcar.com and www.cooperativeauto.net.

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Last reviewed 31-Oct-2007

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