I first learned about Zipcar at the ALT.NET conference a couple weeks ago. I was talking with a developer from Toronto who told me a little about the company. I meant to look it up when I got back to Edmonton but of course, I forgot. Then when I was in Vancouver this past weekend, I noticed a bunch of advertisements for the service. I made a note in my Moleskine to look it up.
I think the concept of carsharing is fantastic:
Carsharing is a model of car rental where people rent cars for short periods of time, often by the hour. The organization renting the cars may be a commercial business or the users may be organized as a democratically-controlled company, public agency, cooperative, ad hoc grouping. Today there are more than six hundred cities in the world where people can carshare.
Zipcar, founded in 1999, operates in nearly two dozen cities. Currently they are available in just two Canadian cities – Toronto and Vancouver. They claim to be the world’s largest carsharing operation.
In Vancouver, there are two plans. The “pay as you zip” plan costs $55 per year, and you can then rent from $9.75 per hour, gas and insurance included. The other plan is a monthly fee for people who use the service more frequently. The way it works is you become a member, then you can reserve a car online or on the phone.
I am not sure how well Zipcar would work in a city like Edmonton, but it makes total sense in a place like Vancouver. Sharon and I took public transit everywhere we went over the weekend, and it was always really efficient. Sometimes a car is quite handy though, such as when transporting something large or awkward. In those instances, Zipcar could be really useful.
Here’s a comparison with rental cars, and here’s a comparison with owning a car. You can definitely save a lot of money with Zipcar, but I think it would work best in cities with really well-developed public transit systems. That certainly seems to have been their strategy given the cities in which they currently operate.
ETS is constantly improving, so maybe we’ll have Zipcar or something like it here in Edmonton one day.