Strenuous bike treks and long waits for buses simply to buy groceries could be a thing of the past for students next fall. Thanks to the University’s participation in a car-sharing program, run through Zipcar, Inc., students may soon be able to rent cars for personal use on an hourly basis. This convenient and auspicious program – which is gaining popularity in campus communities across the country – will provide a great service to the University community, so long as it is accessible to those students who are in need of it.
With few supermarkets within a sustainable walking distance of student housing and the occasional need for students to travel off campus for other reasons, the University certainly could use a car-sharing program. Zipcar’s program operates by having members make online reservations and pick up and drop off rental cars at a campus parking lot. Although becoming a member and renting cars will cost money, the cost is much lower than actually owning a car or hiring a cab.
The benefits of car sharing are many, such as cutting back on the number of cars on campus and providing students who don’t own a car the same access to off-campus areas. But this particular program sets the age at which a student may rent a car at 21, and thus it fails to include those who most need a car. Only a small percentage of undergraduates are older than 21, and this program does nothing to help those who are under that age yet face the same need to travel.
The benefits of a car-sharing program cannot truly be achieved unless the age-requirement is lowered to 18. The required age may have been set at 21 because of the stringent requirements of insurance companies – indeed, most rental car companies actually require renters to be at least 25. However, if the age requirement can be lowered to 21, then surely it can be lowered to 18 if the success of the program depended on it?
The likeliest customers for a car-sharing program will be younger students who have yet to bring a car on campus. The program is much-needed at the University and should be a success – once the age barrier is lifted.