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matt macdobald, a man with a brain faster than google maps. 

Zipcar revs its engine in Los Angeles

Zipcar is celebrating its expansion in Los Angeles, but I fear that even with the added cars it won’t catch on because of the complicated process of getting to a pickup spot in this sprawling city. I was impressed when I first saw the car-sharing program in action a few years ago while visiting a carless friend in San Francisco. I would’ve loved to use Zipcar in L.A. but was discouraged because just getting to a spot to pick up a car (near UCLA, USC or Loyola Marymount) would require a couple of  buses and about 40 minutes of my day, maybe more. It always ended up being more convenient to rent a car on the rare occasions I needed one. L.A. is so spread out that unless Zipcar goes into total saturation here, it might not be feasible for a lot of people to rely on it. Even the press release seems to acknowledge that, pointing out that a shared car makes a good “second car”:

"In addition to replacing car ownership entirely for most people, Zipcar is the perfect ‘second car’ for two driver households who need access to a second vehicle only part of the time," Norman continued. "Zipcar complements other modes of transportation like walking, biking and public transit, and with the average cost of car ownership in L.A at more than $9,500 per year, we provide a convenient, cost saving alternative.”

It’s weird to characterize Zipcar as complementing other modes of transportation. More like other modes of transportation — and possibly a combination of walking, busing and transferring — are a painful prelude to putting keys in the ignition. The new Zipcars are in Hollywood. Eric Garcetti, when announcing the new spots on Facebook, was asked if more of the cars were coming to Silverlake. He replied that he hoped so but for now, “you can grab them pretty close by at Hwd and Western already and drive ‘em anywhere (including Silver Lake) :)” (Garcetti uses emoticons!) Pretty close? That’s still several miles away, and though there’s a Metro station at Hollywood/Western, there’s no easy Metro rail access to Silverlake. Depending on which part of Silverlake you live in, you’d still need to walk to a bus stop and take one or more of them to Hollywood/Western. By contrast, the San Francisco neighborhood I used to live in now has two pickup spots, so walking to them seemed convenient. Of course, San Francisco is compact. In L.A., it seems that for car sharing to work with little hassle, you need to live near a reliable bus line or a Metro station or within walking distance of a Zipcar spot, or have your household’s primary driver drop you off at Zipcar. Or just learn teleportation.

[photo by me from a recent S.F. visit]

Mark Rogowsky:

Well consider this: The number of “zero-car families” has been growing since 2007, after shrinking nearly every year since 1960; it’s approaching 10%. While the recession has doubtless played a role, it’s less than you might think. First, there has been an increasing move back toward the cities, where transit is more readily available. Second, millennials seem especially uninterested in owning their own cars. Third, the trend away from driving actually dates back to 2004, when the economy was still thriving. A government measure called “per capita vehicle miles traveled,” which had gone up steadily for decades began trending down that year and has fallen ever since. After 8 consecutive years of declines, on average we’re driving as much as we did in 1996.

The trend is clear.

Fail of the day

Driving to DC this morning and chose hertz over zipcar.

Made reservation online for the hertz car.

Showed up this morning to rent and they tell me there’s a note on my name saying not to rent me a car. I have received no emails, calls about this before now - have had in my awareness NO issues with hertz cars - and nothing came up so I reserved the car.

But, I can call corporate office to clear it up.

Call corporate office. They are closed until 9am EST. We really need to be on the road by 8-8:30am, WHICH IS WHY I RESERVED THE CAR FOR 8AM!

Luckily, someone else is going to be in car with me so she can rent it instead, but this is a pretty huge customer service fuckup.

Next time, I’m going with Zipcar.

Zipcar Adds Plug-In Prius Hybrids to Its Fleet

Source: Fast Company

The next generation of electric cars is now available to the car-less—at least, to Zipcar members in Boston, San Francisco, and Portland.

The car-sharing service announced this week that eight Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids are now available to those three cities as part of a pilot program that will explore how the technology can work in large-scale car-sharing programs.

"Zipcar is an ideal test bed for early consumer acceptance of EVs," said Scott Griffith, Chairman and CEO of Zipcar, in a statement. “This project will allow companies to receive direct feedback from thousands of consumers in three cities and help evaluate how EVs fit into a large-scale car sharing model.”

Toyota’s plug-in Prius, set to be released to showrooms in 2012, can travel on pure electric power up to 62 MPH for approximately 13 miles before shifting into conventional Prius hybrid mode, where it averages 50 MPG. Zipcar is planning on charging its fleet using both conventional 110-volt outlets (a three-hour charge time) and 220-volt chargers (a 90-minute charge time). Customers will be allowed to take the plug-ins out for $7 per hour.

(…) Who is giving up these cars?

The researchers noted with interest that 80 percent of this shift in favor of car sharing was a result of single car households becoming completely car free. This is significant beause it means that rather than being a once-in-a-while solution, car sharing is completely changing the way people travel and helping to create more pedestrian-friendly communities. (…)

read more :

After a year of Zipcar availability in Baltimore, a survey finds that Zipcar membership means less driving, more public transportation, more exercise, and better quality of life for everyone.


After asking Charm City Zipcar users about their driving habits, they found that only 12% had taken more than five trips by car in the last month, down from 38% before joining Zipcar. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t going anywhere. Zipcar members are walking more (up 21%), biking more (up 14%), and using public transit more (up 11%).

(via Zipcar’s Impact On How People Use Cars Is Enormous | Fast Company)

Feeling like a logistics queen

Luckily ‘organizing things’ is one of my callings.  Wait, what…are you surprised?

Today I put the finishing touches on my lists so I can make the most of my final Zipcar supply-run…and I booked my first ever colonic and lymphatic drainage…woah, tiger.  It’s going to be a wild ride!

Overall I’m feeling really energized and excited.  And sticky from the 15 minutes of jumping I did.  I love my mini trampoline.

Zipcar is a brave little harbinger of the new economy. Fundamentally, Zipcar utilises resources as efficiently as possible. It doesn’t own branches or lots; by locating its cars in car parks, it takes advantage of existing real estate. For its customers, by easily and inexpensively renting cars by the hour, Zipcar often eliminates the need for personally-owned cars at all. Indeed, this new economy car business actually helps solve problems of personal transportation in gridlocked urban locales.
Avis buying Zipcar in $500 million all-cash deal

NBC News: Car rental company Avis says it will buy car-sharing company Zipcar for about $500 million in cash.

Car sharing has become a popular alternative to traditional rentals in cities and on college campuses, allowing people to use vehicles for quick trips.

Avis Chairman and CEO Ronald Nelson says combining with Zipcar will significantly increase the company’s growth potential. Avis also says bringing its fleet into play will help Zipcar meet high demand on weekends.

Behind the wheel

…for the first time in about a week and a half. Living where mass transit can take you most places and being able to bike to reach the rest of those hard-to-reach locales has been pretty great.

In fact, I’m only driving today because it’s time to get the oil changed. I’m throwing in a few errands only because I can. I could just as easily take the train or bike though to get them knocked out.

Don’t get me wrong, having the ability and luxury of driving a car is pretty great. But as soon as I figure out what my next step is for the Bay Area in September, I’m seriously considering selling it…if even for a loss. The money I save will cover that loss in no time. That’s $500 a month I could be saving/spending on other things (like rent). City car share and zipcar can fill in the gaps for the now-rare occasions I actually need the use of an automobile.

I can’t wait! I also can’t wait to figure out what the heck I’m doing in September…

The new Hertz on Demand offers an array of perks that its major competitor can’t touch. Among them: no enrollment or annual membership fees, cheap hourly rates (starting at $5), GPS in every vehicle, in-car customer service communication, a $250 insurance deductible, one-way trips to the airport (and other select locations), luxury cars like the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, and electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

Is Hertz on Demand going to be the service that trumps Zipcar? Maybe.