Car sharing isn’t just for college kids anymore.
Zipcar, the world’s largest car-share and car club service, will expand its presence in Raleigh and offer local drivers what it calls “wheels when you want them.”
People sign up for memberships online. When they want to use a car, they choose from a network of self-service vehicles available for rent by the hour or day.
Zipcar promotes the concept as a green initiative that also helps reduce traffic congestion in urban areas. Each Zipcar takes at least 20 personally owned vehicles off the road, the company says.
The City Council agreed Tuesday to create a new category of parking spaces designated for use by car-share vehicles. These spaces will be located in lots around the city. That way, when somebody finishes using the Zipcar, they have a place to leave it until the next driver comes along. Customers go online to find the nearest car.
The car-share model can help Raleigh offer more mobility options, said Councilman Russ Stephenson, an advocate for the program.
“This is a way for people trying to live affordably to share the expense of an automobile,” he said. “It’s an idea we should be promoting as we grow toward walkability and sustainability.”
Zipcar already operates on college campuses at UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, N.C. State and Meredith College.
In November 2010, City Hall began recruiting companies to bring a public car-share project to Raleigh. A committee rated Zipcar the highest in a field of four vendors that applied to work with the city.
Worldwide, the network has more than 730,000 members and 10,000 vehicles in urban areas and college campuses throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain and Austria.
Zipcar markets itself to people who take public transit but occasionally need their own car; those who need to rent a truck for a big move; and even those who need a fancy car to impress a boss or client.
The company says hourly and daily rates include gas, reserved parking spots, insurance, roadside assistance and up to 180 miles of driving per day. Generally, rates start at $8-$10 per hour or $60-70 per day (24 hours), according to Zipcar’s website.
Popular among young people
The car-share concept holds special appeal for young people, especially as more choose to avoid the hassles of owning a car, said assistant city manager Dan Howe.
The decline in teenage drivers has been occurring for years, as described in a story that appeared this year in The Wall Street Journal.
Fewer than two-thirds of 18-year-olds had licenses in 2008, compared with more than 80 percent in 1983, a 2011 University of Michigan study found.
“Cars just aren’t as important to people in the new generation,” Howe said.
“As the Triangle continues to urbanize, you’ll see more and more uses like this. How much it grows, it’s hard to predict. We’re just clearing the way for it to be successful.”
This isn’t the first time Raleigh has experimented with a car-sharing initiative.
In 2010, the city partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car on the WeCar program, which offers round-the-clock car rentals for people with short-term driving needs.
WeCar was launched in 2008 as a program for colleges and corporations but later spread to 17 states. Raleigh followed Nashville and Enterprise’s home base, St. Louis, as the only cities with a public version of the program.