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MIT Forms Alliance With Zipcar Service

By Jessica A. Zaman

STAFF REPORTER

Getting around Boston this fall will be easier for MIT staff and graduate students. MIT Parking and Transportation has formed an alliance with Zipcar, a company that allows subscribers to drive cars placed around the city.

In an effort to make Zipcar services more accessible for staff and graduate students, MIT recently moved to subsidize the standard deposit and application fees for membership with Zipcar.

Lawrence R. Brutti, operations manager of MIT Parking and Transportation, felt the initiative has proved itself successful within a few short months. “The program was just kicked off after a meeting in late July,” Brutti said. “We’ve already got a couple hundred graduates and staff participating.”

Subsidies make Zipcar affordable

MIT Parking and Transportation has formed a relationship with Zipcar over the years, said Steve Oakley, Zipcar director of operations.

Over the past few months, Zipcar has worked with MIT to make Zipcar transportation affordable for members of the MIT community.

MIT affiliates have the advantage of a significant price break in comparison to the typical Zipcar customers. MIT subsidies help cover the standard insurance deposit of $300 and the $50 application fee.

Staff and graduates pay only an annual fee of $20 in addition to rental charges. The fee is credited to driving time.

Hourly rental charges for MIT affiliates ranges from $5 to $7. Maximum daily charges are $55 to $75.

‘Car-sharing’ a big success

Oakley said “250 MIT staff and graduates are currently Zipcar members.”

Zipcar surveyed 50 MIT Zipcar customers.

“Twenty percent indicated that they would not be buying a car because of Zipcar services,” Oakley said.

“I’ve always had very good results with Zipcar,” said Erica Schultz, Electronic Publishing Coordinator for MIT Press. Schultz, who has been a Zipcar member for two years, is happy to see MIT supporting Zipcar. “This alternative transportation is very cutting edge,” Schultz said.

Publicity for MIT’s alliance with Zipcar was primarily “distributed organically over MIT's e-mail network and spread by word of mouth,” Oakley said.

Undergrads may soon be eligible

Because of insurance coverage issues, Zipcar does not extend their services to MIT undergraduates. Zipcar driving restrictions make students under 21 ineligible. Past restrictions prohibited students ages 21-25 from driving on nights and weekends. This restriction has been lifted, but Zipcar is in the process of reducing other restrictions.

“This is still a very new concept,” Oakley said. “The insurance companies don’t know what to expect. We want to be very careful in the beginning.”

Not your average rental car

Zipcar, a company founded by MIT Sloan School graduate Robin Chase ’86, allows members to use their access cards (Zipcards) to drive the 90 Zipcars parked in locations throughout the Boston metro area.

Zipcar is not a typical rental-car company. It is based on a European idea, giving people who aren’t car owners access to cars whenever they need.

Operations for Zipcars are primarily Web-based. Interested consumers subscribe for membership online. When in need of a ride, members search for cars available in the area. Reservations may be made in advance, or on the same day at least an hour in advance.

Zipcar members can reserve cars throughout the city of Boston, and even have access to cars in New York City and Washington D.C.

To register for Zipcar, visit <http://www.zipcar.com>.