Zipcar-UNO partnership offers low cost transportation alternative


By Nicholas Sauma, Reporter

UNO is offering students a new way to get around town. Earlier this month, UNO announced a partnership with Zipcar, a car-sharing program that allows students, faculty and staff, and community members to rent a car for short periods of time.
“We have a red Ford Focus and a silver Honda Civic to choose from,” said Jim Ecker, director of Parking Services. “They are both located in Lot N by the HPER building.”  
The cars are parked in reserved spots and marked by green signs that read “Zipcar lives here.” Anyone using one of the Zipcars is able to park anywhere on campus without a permit for up to an hour, Ecker said.
Before jumping into a Zipcar, students must make sure they meet all of the requirements. To use one of the cars, students must be at least 18 and have a valid license. After that, there is an application and annual fee.
Zipcar is currently offering a reduced fee for the first year. The $25 fee for students, faculty and staff is $10 less than the regular price. Within three to five days, applications are approved and students will receive their Zipcard.
Zipcards are used to lock and unlock the car using a card reader inside the windshield. The keys stay in the car so they can’t get lost.
Creighton and UNL have had Zipcar programs. UNO waited before signing on.
“They used to ask for an annual fee, and if you didn’t get enough riders, the university was paying an amount greater than renting a limousine,” Ecker said. “Eventually UNL negotiated a contract with them, and we piggybacked onto it.”  
However, that wasn’t the end of the problems for getting the program to campus.
The City of Omaha has a flat tax of $8 on all rentals, whether for a month, a day or a few hours. Zipcar rentals are $7.50 an hour, so adding that tax would have doubled the cost, and did not fit with the company’s business model.
Patrick Wheeler, from the Environmental Health and Safety branch of UNO’s Support Services, stepped in to help.
“I contacted the City of Omaha’s Sustainability Coordinator who worked with the City Attorney’s office to draft an ordinance with a more fair tax on rentals under 24 hours,” he said.
So finally, after lowering the annual fee and revising city tax laws, Zipcars and UNO announced their partnership.
“So far we’ve seen two drives on the Ford Focus,” Wheeler said. “Considering how long the application process takes, that’s more than we expected this shortly after the launch.”  
Zipcars provide on-demand transportation without the worries of ownership.
A gas card located in the car allows the user to ensure the tank never drops below one quarter. Zipcar covers car maintenance, washing and insurance.
Anyone using the Zipcars should report any issues to assure other drivers a safe trip.
“Zipcar bears all costs,” Wheeler said. “We just host them here on the campus.”