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Zipcar service zooms into Stony Brook’s parking lots

(MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN)
Zipcars made their appearance on campus on Oct. 22, or Campus Sustainability Day. The cars can be found in two locations on campus. (MANJU SHIVACHARAN / THE STATESMAN)

Stony Brook University’s Office of Sustainability introduced Zipcar, a rental car service that has partnered with universities throughout the United States, to campus, allowing cars to be rented on an hourly basis.

The service was officially rolled out on Oct. 22, Campus Sustainability Day. The plan, however, has been in the works since the start of the 2014 spring semester and was based on feedback from the Transportation and Parking Student Advisory Group, according to Director of Sustainability and Transportation Operations James O’Connor.

“We are aware of the higher education market where Zipcar happens to have a significant market share, and we also had to be familiar with what other SUNY campuses are using Zipcar,” he said in an interview. “We then met with Zipcar…and at that point in time we decided that Zipcar was the right model for us.”

The Zipcars currently have been allotted two parking spaces at each of two locations, the first being the lot near Mendelsohn and H Quads and the Wang Center, and the second being the West Apartments’ lot near Greeley College. Cars can be returned to any of the four spaces and can also be parked there during the rental period.

According to Sustainability Coordinator Greg Monaco, standard university parking regulations are still in effect with the Zipcars, so only students with the proper permits or metered tickets can park in the other parking zones.

The first step in using the service is to sign up for a membership with Zipcar through zipcar.com/sbu. After being approved by both Zipcar and the Office of Sustainability and paying the usage fees, one can rent a car for any period of time from a few hours to a maximum of four days.

The approval process has two steps, with Zipcar taking care of the licensing aspect prior to the university receiving applications. Then, the Office of Sustainability reviews potential members for affiliation with the university, making sure applicants are students, faculty, staff, or otherwise affiliated before approving their membership.

O’Connor explained the revenue-generating contract—depending on usage—will not come at cost to the university. Furthermore, there is currently a promotion from the company offering one year of the membership fee back in addition to $15 of driving credit.

The Zipcar partnership falls under the jurisdiction of both the Office of Sustainability and the Department of Transportation and Parking Operations, with the former involved with student engagement and usage and the latter responsible for the parking aspect of the service.

Another area the department wishes to cater to is traveling faculty members. Zipcar would be an alternative to using an off-campus agency whenever someone needs to travel to a different SUNY institution or out-of-state.

Long term plans for expanding the service will depend on usage and demand, both Monaco and O’Connor said. Over 125 applications have come in from students and faculty members thus far, and the department plans to continue running promotions to get more people to consider the service as an alternative.

On the sustainability side, the department has attempted to add a variety of options to car travel this year, including the partnership with 7-Bus and the extended relationship with Suffolk County Transit to provide free service for students on weekends.

“It is a car-sharing service, so it is considered a sustainable form of transportation,” O’Connor said. “It also limits our demand for parking, especially on the residential side. The residential students don’t necessarily have to bring their personal vehicle to campus. They can use this service. It’s convenient and gives them wheels when they want them.”

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