Zipcar.com offers memberships entitling customers to 24-hour automobile access, with only one-hour minimum advanced reservations. The beauty of the plan lies in the hourly rather than daily rates that make short-term rentals practical. An annual membership fee of $75 gives clients the flexibility to drive away with a set of wheels from any one of the over 50 parking spots in the Boston area with a simple swipe of their Zipcar-card. Robin Chase, CEO of Zipcar and a native of the Boston area, saw the city and its popular public transportation system as the perfect target for this type of enterprise. She points to the “hassle factor” of car ownership saying that, “owning a car here is more of a pain than its worth.”
The company also emphasizes the “green benefits” of their operation, noting a possible fifty percent decrease in individual car usage if all targeted drivers—those who don’t jump behind the wheel every day— were to participate. Zipcar.com also considers public transportation a partner in their environmentally conscious crusade and places many pick-up/drop-off points near T stations.
With a growing fleet of Honda Civics and trendy Volkswagen Jettas, Beetles, Golfs and Passat Wagons (perfect fit for the futon), this is a company with high hopes of meeting the transportation needs of every urban dweller by supplementing the subway and bus systems. The rental group plans to expand its operations to New York City in the near future and eventually create its vision of utopia: cities with few privately owned vehicles.
Unfortunately, only upperclassmen who are 21 and older can become full-fledged members of the Zipcar community. Although Zipcar is a company that relies heavily upon its young clientele (a huge percentage of Boston is between the ages of 25 and 35), many students will have to hold back despite their rental readiness.