June 15, 2009

U. of Illinois expands Zipcar program



The University of Illinois will be adding two more Zipcars on campus in August, bringing the total number of vehicles for its car sharing program to eight.

“The company has been pleased with the uptick in use, especially this last month (May),” said John Williams, a spokesman for Zipcar. “They are so confident in the success of the program that they are adding vehicles in the fall when, obviously, there are more people on campus.”

The two new vehicles join the current vehicles located on campus (two) and in the communities of Champaign and Urbana (two each).

Despite being started in January, a month that Jan Kijowski, marketing director for the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD), said could be the most difficult month to start a car sharing program in the Midwest, growth has been steady. To this point, the Zipcar program has attracted at least 225 members, including University of Illinois staff, faculty and students as well as citizens from Urbana and Champaign.

The program is a joint effort between MTD, the university and the two cities.

“We formed a committee with representatives from each of those four partner organizations, looked at different options available and eventually settled on Zipcar,” explained Kijowski. “Then, we all had to take on the monumental task of having an intergovernmental agreement signed between the four groups. The MTD, as the lead agency, actually entered into the contract with Zipcar representing the four partner organizations.”

Morgan Johnston, transportation demand management coordinator for the university, said that the need for the program arose because of limited availability of parking on campus, – many lots simply serve as “holding spots” for future buildings on campus – a need to be more sustainable and a desire to discourage vehicle traffic as a way to increase pedestrian safety. She also added that there are health benefits as well.

“Not just our campus specifically, but in general, people are not walking as much as they should, and Zipcar is considered an active mode of transportation because you do have to walk to get to them,” she explained. “Also, if you don’t bring a car, then you’re more likely to take short trips by walking, biking or taking the bus.”

 

 

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