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Study Shows Zipcar Having a Sustainable Impact in Baltimore

RP Siegel | Thursday July 28th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Last week, Zipcar, Inc, along with the City of Baltimore and the Parking Authority of Baltimore City celebrated the one-year anniversary of Zipcar’s operations in the city with the release of survey results documenting the program’s impact. Zipcar’s expansion to Baltimore was part of a plan to reduce parking demand, congestion, and emissions, while offering citizens affordable personal transportation.

The program allows registered members to reserve and rent vehicles by the hour, using an entirely automated process. The rental rate includes insurance and gas and 180 miles of travel per day. An RFID card interacts with readers installed in every Zipcar, enabling registered users to unlock their designated vehicle.  Zipcar is intended for the growing class of people who only need a vehicle occasionally and don’t want the hassle, or the expense of owning a car. According to the company website, each Zipcar shared takes at least 15 privately-owned vehicles off the road. Not only does this reduce traffic congestion and parking stress, there is also the avoidance of environmental impacts associated with the manufacture of those additional cars. This is consistent with the idea of car companies moving away from being manufacturers of cars and trucks to becoming providers of sustainable mobility.

The company also claims that “Zipsters” will own fewer cars, drive less and use public transportation more than they would have otherwise. Let’s see how Zipcar did in fulfilling those promises in their first year in Baltimore.

According to the data:

  • Eighteen percent of respondents have sold their vehicles since joining Zipcar, and 46 percent stated that they have avoided buying a car.
  • Seventy-two percent said being a Zipcar member made it less likely they would buy or lease a car in the future, which could result in fewer personally owned vehicles across the city competing for parking spots.
  • The number of Zipsters taking five or more car trips in a month has decreased from 38 percent to 12 percent, and the number of respondents driving fewer than 500 miles per month has increased by more than 17 percent.
  • Fourteen percent bike more, 21 percent walk more, and 11 percent use public transportation more.  More than a third of respondents say they use public transit to get to a Zipcar.

This appears to be a win-win all the way around (unless you earn your living selling cars). Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, “We’ve shown that by working together, the city and Zipcar can make a positive impact on city life for our residents and businesses. Fewer cars on the streets means less competition for limited parking spaces. It means fewer vehicles in rush hour traffic. And it means less pollution in the air. But best of all, this program offers affordable and convenient transportation at a time when many people in the city are looking for cost-saving options.”

Since the program launched in June 2010, Zipcar has expanded to 100 vehicles now parked in convenient locations across the city. Zipcar has agreed to place vehicles in specific neighborhoods of low-vehicle ownership. Working with the Parking Authority of Baltimore City and neighborhood associations, Zipcar was able to exceed this commitment within just five months of arriving in town.

“Baltimore’s commitment to making car sharing thrive has been evident every step of the way,” said Mark Norman, president and COO of Zipcar. “By being a customer, providing highly visible and convenient parking spots, and by evangelizing the service, the city has accelerated the program, bringing more Zipcars to more people.”

RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water.  Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.


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