Using a car, without all the hassles

August 26, 2008 5:36:58 PM PDT
How does free gasoline and no car payments sound? Of course, there is a catch, but the idea is one you may be interested in. For the first time, fractional car ownership has hit Houston.Fractional car ownership is not a new idea, but it is new to our area. Those who sign up can use a car without all the costs.

At Rice University there are a lot of people and very few parking spaces. It's the perfect environment for the Zipcar.

Kristina Kennedy, a Zipcar spokesperson, said, "Zipcar is the world's largest car share organization and what we do is offer cars on demand by the hour or day for people who can't or don't want to own a car."

Car sharing? It is already happening around the nation. Rice student Meghan Miller heard of it in San Francisco.

She said, "I have had friends who have had it. I did not have a car in San Francisco and it was a great option."

Here's how it works. Drivers pay $35 a year to be a member. That gets them an access card that unlocks the Zipcar. Members reserve the hours they would like to drive and then park the car back in its designated spot when they are done.

Members do not pay for gas; instead they use a gas card to fill up the car after every use. But members do pay for the time they reserve the vehicle.

"It's $7 an hour or $60 a day and a day is a 24 hour clock, so if you get it today you bring it back tomorrow," Kennedy explained.

Right now Zipcars are only available to Rice University students, faculty and staff. Only two cars will be available as the program starts and that concerns some students.

Student Daniel Jong said, "It's not bad if you don't already have a car, but if you have one it is not going to save you. Plus the whole reservation thing -- you are not going to be guaranteed to have it whenever."

Zipcar officials say one car can serve up to 50 people and more cars can be added. Rice University students can sign up now. The university is underwriting the annual fee for students

Elizabeth Gbordzoe with Rice University said, "This is an alternative way to come to Rice University, instead of riding in your own vehicle and it reduces the number of parked cars that we have to deal with here."

Zipcars could be coming to other Houston universities, but right now Rice University is the only place that has the cars in our area.

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