By STEVEN NALLEY
Zipcar doesn’t just rent out its cars, it names them.
Richard Paisner, university account manager with Zipcar, said each of the more than 8,000 cars Zipcar has at over 200 universities has its own unique name. This week, Paisner introduced Mississippi State University students, staff and other guests to “Illustrated,” the Honda Insight, “McWhite,” the Mazda 3, “Ina,” the Honda Insight Hybrid, and “Steggy,” the Nissan Sentra.
Mississippi State University launched its Zipcar car-sharing program Thursday morning with a public demonstration on Lee Boulevard near the Colvard Student Union.
Several MSU representatives were on hand to discuss the program, including Executive Director of Campus Operations Amy Tuck, Transportation Services Manager Everett Kennard and Student Association President Rhett Hobart. Zipcar representatives, including Paisner, also came to give demonstrations to those in attendance.
Paisner said members of Zipcar’s program can reserve the automobiles online. Also online are the parking locations of all four of MSU’s Zipcars, he said. Those parking spots are reserved exclusively for their respective Zipcars.
“It’s just like you’re bringing it home,” Paisner said. “It gives students the freedom to get off campus and do what they need to do but then come right back to a reserved parking spot. Zipcars are about the ability to live car-free or car-light. For instance, rather than being a two-car family, maybe you can be a one-car family with Zipcar.”
Paisner said MSU students, faculty and staff must be 18 and older to join, and they pay a $35 annual membership fee with additional fees of $8 per hour or $66 per day to drive a Zipcar. MSU members’ rates are discounted, he said. Anyone 21 and older from the local community can join, but they must pay a $25 application fee and a $65 membership fee.
However, Paisner said, users do not have to pay to refuel Zipcars. Each Zipcar contains its own unique gas card, he said, and insurance for the car is included in the hourly and daily rate. The vehicles lock and unlock by holding Zipcards up to a windshield sensor.
Kennard said he was grateful to Hobart and his predecessor Thomas Sellers for partnering with Transportation Services to bring Zipcar to MSU. In searching for a car-sharing company to partner with, Kennard said, they sought the one that would work best with international students.
“We investigated four to five companies that do this,” Kennard said. “Zipcar was the best, we thought, for our students.”
Barring initial costs, such as putting up signs and marking Zipcar parking spots, Zipcar has zero cost to the university for its on-campus service, Kennard said. Any plans to increase or reduce the number of vehicles on campus are in Zipcar management’s hands, he said.
“We are in agreement that if they need more space, we will give it to them,” Kennard said.
Hobart said the student body is excited about the Zipcar program because student body population has grown since the Student Association pursued the program.
“Mississippi State recently became the first university in the state to pass the 20,000-student mark,” Hobart said. “When you look at this, you start looking for ways to make life better for them on campus.”