Saturday, October 28, 2006

rumors that zipcar is a done deal

A little bird told us that the carsharing company, Zipcar, has finalized a deal with the University of Michigan to provide carsharing in Ann Arbor.

UPDATE 2: Email from zipcar confirms that they will be starting in Ann Arbor and that the program is available for all residents. UofM folks get a discount.

sign up at

No details or confirmation of the rumor are available yet from either UofM transportation department (or should I say parking department) or Zipcar. However, Zipcar's organization search (search for University of Michigan) does turn up options for University students, staff, and faculty. It's not clear whether or how other Ann Arbor residents might be able to participate. But earlier reports of Zipcar-UM negotiations included general public access to the cars. UM associated folks can add family and friends to their own account, according to the info at Zipcar.

It looks like members will pay $30/year plus $8/hr for an undisclosed model with xfm radio. Membership available for age 21+ with a good driving record.

Update: has more info on the program, which does not appear to be available to the general public.
The map shows 3 locations for 6 cars, including an SUV (you know you want it!).


HomelessDave said...

I wonder why the City of Ann Arbor (as a downtown employer and interested party to seeing some kind of viable commercial carshare program succeed) is not in this picture? It's hardly been a secret that there was a possibility of Zipcar piloting a program in Ann Arbor (it was reported in traditional and non-traditional media alike), so the City can't claim they didn't know. The University's transportation coordinator knows the U of M exists in the larger geographic context of Ann Arbor. So if the relationship between the City/city of Ann Arbor and the University is as healthy as Mayor Hieftje likes to portray it these days, I would have hoped to see some kind of cooperative venture with Zipcar involving not just the University.

Here's hoping that Zipcar quickly expands to include some part of the non-University Ann Arbor community. (I guess my email to Zipcar back in the spring assuring them that I would absolutely sign up if they came to Ann Arbor were not instantly persuasive ...)

Scott said...

On second glance, zipcar doesn't appear to specifically prohibit anyone from joining. At least nothing about University affiliation is mentioned in their eligibility page.
But all the join options are for U folks.

I've sent them an email to clarify and get more info. I'll post their response.

HD, I can't imagine that zipcar wasn't moved by your well-penned request. I'm guessing this has more to do with either insurance/contract technicalities or a lack of perspective on the Universities part.

"The University's transportation coordinator knows the U of M exists in the larger geographic context of Ann Arbor."
If this proves not to be true, it wouldn't be the first time.

Anonymous said...

A possible reason the city has not gotten behind Zipcar yet is that, according to other rumors, the University deal includes some subsidization to encourage Zipcar to try out the Ann Arbor market. Such a subsidization on the part of the City is problematic.

Scott said...

pf, it's nice to hear that UM is picking up the tab for the market survey. But zipcar isn't really testing the full market if they limit the service to UM people.

The city doesn't have to chip in to make the service available to residents. If UM is subsidizing student and staff memberships, just offer the membership without discount to residents.

The city could offer a zipcar subsidy to employees without much problem by offering it in exchange for the subsidy they already provide for staff to park downtown. I've never heard a huge outcry over the parking subsidy that has been in effect for years, so making that subsidy tradable shouldn't be a big issue.

Scott said...

I just received an email from zipcar explaining that anyone can sign up for membership.

There is a $25 application fee (waived for UM) and a $50 annual fee (reduced to $30 for UM).

sign up at

HomelessDave said...

Just got off the phone with Zipcar and they assured me that no University affiliation is required.

But I see that Scott has already broken this news. Damn you, Scott.

I suggested that they change the City Name from "University of Michigan" to Ann Arbor on their website.

Scott said...

"Add one more facet to Ann Arbor's list of trendy assets"

Oh, puke! What an awful way for the News to introduce carsharing.

Anyway, tell all your trend-setting friends to sign up quick before Zipcar goes the way of parachute pants and leg warmers.

And HD's superior charisma and social networking skills have saved the day again. Zipcar no longer refers to us as the city of University of Michigan.

HomelessDave said...

Yes, the lead to the A2 News piece reflects a bit of gratuitous snark. Not to mention straining the semantics of 'facet' in pairing it with 'list'.

Comparing Zipcar to conventional rental doing gross arthimetic in my head, it seems to me that if I know I'm going to need a car for about a day at least, and I know it a few days in advance, a conventional rental beats Zipcar on price.

If I need a car for maybe 1-2 hours on a totally unanticipated basis of maybe 2-3 times a week, and I actually use it at least a dozen times a year or so, then Zipcar looks better on price.

HomelessDave said...

So one of my neighbors who's heard me talk about Zipcar maybe one too many times emailed me that maybe they drover over one or two toes making their grand entrance to the market:

"Also thought you might like to know that last night as I was trying to leave work, my car was blocked in by "your" two, shinny new ZIP cars who were having their photos taken w/the law school as the backdrop. Over in the corner was one of the "reporters" from a Det news station practicing her on-air comments as somebody fluffed her wig. I know it was a wig because the wind was blowing everything like crazy and her
curls were not moving a bit.
I recognized her, but don't know what channel it was on.

The cars were cute as hell. One little blue SUV type and one little
silver one that looked like a gumball. Had white ZIP lettering all over them."

As the TV ad from the mid 70's used would say, Thanks for the gumball, Zipcar!

Scott said...

Here is the Free Press article that created the parking catastrophe for HD's neighbor. Not much new info though.

Also, HD, I'm not sure how the cost of gas and the milage charge might impact the potential benefits of daily rental from zipcar. You don't pay for gas in a zipcar, though I'm not sure how customer refueling is handled. However, you do pay a milage charge. Maybe certain kinds of all-day trips would be cheaper with zipcar?

Scott said...

I just discovered another great benefit of joining zipcar. Members can use any zipcar in North America. So you can use zipcar on your vacations and business trips as well!

Anonymous said...

Just so you know, the price of gas is included in the price. All Zipcar asks is that if there is less than 1/4 tank, fill it up. They provide a credit card so it is very easy. Ann Arbor residence are more than welcome to join--it's not just for UM students. Currently, there are six cars in A2, 2 near the law quad, 2 on north campus, and 2 near Observatory rd.

Peter said...

i signed up for zipcar about a month ago but didn't get around to trying the service until today.

the web page is engineered well; reserving a car is a cinch. and it was easy to find the car: the bright green ZIPCAR sticker is hard to miss.

but when i held my zipcard over the RFID reader, the car did not unlock.


so i called customer service, who asked if the light on the reader was flashing.


dead battery, apparently.

and there were no cars available at the medical or central campus locations for several hours.

so i cancelled the reservation and walked back home. grumble.

peter said...

my attempt later in the day proved successful; everything went like clockwork.

i do find it fairly pricey -- my 4.5 hours of running around set me back $35 or $40 ... but, among other tasks, it let me get to kroger's to drop $220 (i needed groceries after a recent 10 day (20,000 mile) trip) and to compusa for another $80 ...

i found the pressure to get everything done before the car turns back into a pumpkin a little stressful. i got a slow start and ended up flying through kroger's. i may have set a new $/hour record. who needs that?!? i didn't dump my car to become a shopping speed demon.

but it was my first time. i expect a smoother experience next time.

Scott said...

Thanks for the review, Peter.

Paying $40 for a shopping trip does seem like a lot. I guess you have to base the value more on all the time that you don't spend paying for your own car rather than the time that you do use a Zipcar.

I'm curious how clean and organized the car was, considering it is used mostly by students.

It's interesting to hear that a few of the cars were booked out. I guess they are getting some use.

We'd love to hear from anyone else who has tried out Zipcar.

peter said...

oh, the car was great! a toyota matrix, brand new, clean as a whistle, full tank of gas, and tricked out with XM radio, no less!

i used it again today -- i had a half hour appontment at 1:15 way up on north main (which the AATA doesn't serve), so i reserved a car for one hour, from 1:00 to 2:00. it worked out perfectly.

incidentally, if anyone is interested in signing up, i think i can hook you up with a $50 gift certificate by referring you.