Rev it up! Zipcar rolling out at NIU

On-demand car sharing puts NIU students behind the wheel

ZipcarEverything from running errands to planning road trips is about to get much easier for NIU students who don’t own a car.

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, NIU will join the list of more than 350 universities across North America that offer access to the leading on-demand car sharing service, Zipcar. The program allows members to borrow cars at an hourly or daily rate.

Representatives from Zipcar will be in the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commons Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. to explain the program. They also will give away T-shirts, pens and other promotional items in the College Grind coffee shop on the main level of the Holmes Student Center.

“We think this will be a great benefit for students who don’t come to campus with a car,” said Laura Lundelius, NIU director of Campus Services. “It provides them access to a car to go shopping, travel to off-campus appointments or take a weekend trip without the expense of monthly car payments, insurance, gas or maintenance.”

Students can sign up for the program by using an online registration form.

There is a $25 registration fee, and new members will receive a $35 credit toward driving time during their first month. A valid driver’s license and credit card are required to register, and applicants must submit to a review of their driving record – a process that 94 percent of applicants successfully pass.

Laura Lundelius

Laura Lundelius

Once registered, participants can reserve a car by going online or using a mobile app that can be downloaded to their smart phone. When they show up for their reservation they scan a special “Zipcard” that allows them access to the vehicle and ensures that only the individual who has reserved the car will have access at that time.

The cost of using the car is as low as $7.50 per hour or $69 a day for up to four days (up to 180 miles per day). Those rates include gas and insurance. Charges are placed on the credit card used to register. Extra fees for returning a car late, exceeding mileage or canceling a reservation will also be automatically charged to the card.

The service offers text alerts to remind drivers when their time slot is about to expire and offers them the opportunity to extend their use, assuming that no one has reserved the car immediately after its scheduled return. The car also comes with a credit card that can be used to purchase fuel at almost any gas station.

At set of videos that explain procedures in detail are available online, along with answers to an extensive set of frequently asked questions.

Another benefit of the program is that membership allows participants to reserve Zipcars not only at NIU, but at any other Zipcar location around the world – though rates may vary.

The program will roll out with two cars – a Ford Focus and a Ford Escape – which will be parked in Lot D, just north of Neptune West along Lucinda Avenue. Rates for use of the Focus are $8.50 per hour, and the price of either car increases by $1 an hour on weekends ($8.50 for the Escape and $9.50 for the Focus).

zipcar for universities logoBased on experience at other universities, the program has the added benefit of reducing the number of vehicles on campus by about 15 per Zipcar available.

That prospect is very attractive to NIU, Lundelius said, and if the program proves to be popular, NIU is prepared to quickly add additional Zipcars to meet demand, perhaps setting up Zipcar stations at various locations around campus.

“We look at this as something that could be a tremendous service to students,” she said, “and if the demand exists we will expand to meet it.”

For more information, call (815) 753-9391 or email lundelius@niu.edu.

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