Eco-friendly Zipcars arrive on campus

Students are just settling back onto campus, but those looking for some Gothic-free scenery will have a new option this semester, costing $8 an hour.

The University's Zipcar program was officially unveiled Thursday in front of the Chapel. Four new Toyota cars are now available for use by students, faculty and staff.

Student leaders and University administrators took turns being photographed with a shiny, silver Toyota Prius hybrid in front of the Chapel Thursday afternoon as reporters from The (Durham) Herald-Sun and other media organizations looked on.

"I think it is going to provide students with a real alternative to bringing their own cars to campus," said Kemel Dawkins, vice president for campus services. He noted that the program gives students the opportunity to access cars conveniently without worrying about parking.

Each car costs $8 for an hour rental and $66 dollars for a daily rental, with gas and insurance included. Students must first create an online Zipcar membership-which costs $35 dollars and is used as credit for the first month-before they have access to the cars.

Matthew Malloy, Zipcar's vice president of new market development, declined to discuss how much the program cost Duke, but said it would not be a source of revenue for the University.

"Our collective goal is to create a cost-neutral program for all of our schools," he said. "Obviously, there is a significant cost-saving benefit, and the environmental benefits are huge."

Malloy added that users have estimated that they save more than $160 per month by using Zipcar-a for-profit "carsharing" company based in Boston-instead of owning a car.

The program also serves as a sustainability initiative because it promotes carpooling and saves gas, Dawkins said.

Senior Carina Barnett-Loro, who lives off campus but does not own a car, said she is unsure how popular the program will be with students.

"Duke students in general seem to like to have their own cars. But I think it is the right sort of publicity," she said, noting the environmental benefits of the program.

Barnett-Loro, a member of Environmental Alliance, said she thought the program could have a positive long-term impact by changing cultural attitudes about transportation and making students more comfortable with the concept of "community vehicles."

The University purchased two hybrid Toyota Prius cars in addition to two Toyota Matrix models, which get more than 30 miles to a gallon of gas.

"At Duke, we have an incredible commitment to being environmentally friendly," Dawkins said.

Duke Student Government leaders were also on hand to promote the launch of the Zipcar initiative. All funding was supplied by the University, said DSG President Jordan Giordano.

Zipcar was one of three initiatives DSG considered this Fall to be subsidized from a proposed increase to the student activities fee. DSG had proposed to bring 10 Zipcars to campus at a cost of about $180,000. A Sept. 15 student body referendum to raise the fee, however, did not pass.

Giordano and DSG Executive Vice President Sunny Kantha, both seniors, also noted the emerging presence of international students, who cannot bring cars to school.

The revitalization of downtown Durham should make the Zipcar program more attractive to students, Kantha said.

"It's a waste of your $300 [parking pass] to have a car here," he said.

DSG has been working with Dawkins for months to bring the program to Duke because of its implementation at other schools like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Elon University, Giordano said.

"It's been a trend across other universities in the United States," he said, adding that he did not own a car during his first two years at Duke. "I probably wouldn't have even had a car junior year if Zipcars were here."

Dawkins said he hoped use would be high enough to expand the program in the future.

"There's a pretty good demand that we can tell, so we're pretty enthusiastic about it," said Beth Campbell, an information systems manager with Duke Parking and Transportation.

Elon University senior Chase Rumley, Student Government Association executive president, said Zipcar is popular on his campus. Elon owns two Zipcars and they are typically both in use, he said.

"I haven't heard much in the way of complaints," Rumley said. "The only discussion I have ever really heard is about expanding the program."


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