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Through Car-Sharing, IU Wants Students to Leave Wheels at Home

Many students have zip drives to carry files from computer to computer. But now Indiana University officials hope students get zip cards.

“I just got my Zip Card, so I’m a zipster now,” Bill Brown, IU sustainability director, said. “People have this psychological barrier that they’re trapped on campus, and have no way to get off campus.”

Brown says the car-sharing program is aimed mainly at freshman, whom university officials hope decide to leave their cars at home.

“I don’t think most students would disagree with the logic of that. That hey, ‘I’ll get you’re a Zipcard instead of a car on campus.’ And I think the impact could be pretty amazing. But we won’t know until we go through a few cycles with new freshman classes.”

Brown says the program, when clicking on all cylinders, will result in fewer miles driven on campus, less congestion, and a more favorable parking climate. But, he admits, for the impact of car-sharing to be felt, the program will have to expand over time.

IU Transportation Services Director Kent McDaniel says the existing car-based culture on campus pushes students toward a certain transportation mindset.

“A lot of people are reluctant to rely on public transportation and carpooling, certainly to the extent where they don’t have a car because then they feel trapped,” McDaniel said. “I think this gives them an option that they will not feel trapped because they know that if it’s not convenient to ride the bus this day or if I missed my carpool, it’s much cheaper than paying for a car.”

Most universities with service from Zipcar – a private car-sharing company – have between eight and ten vehicles on campus. IU will start by sharing four Honda Civics among the more than 40,000 people on campus.

Even though the program is small, McDaniel says it’s still a good investment. Besides the service fees Zipcar users pay to rent the cars, no money changes hands between the university and Zipcar itself.

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