Car-sharing company replaces missing vehicle on campus

Alex Weidenhof, News Editor

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A new Zipcar vehicle arrived on campus on Nov. 21, replacing a car that had been removed from the college by the company earlier in the month, according to Dean of Students Kimberly Ferguson.

Ferguson said one of the two vehicles provided by Zipcar had disappeared from campus around Nov. 1, and that she could not find out why the car was not in its designated parking spot between Reis and Baldwin Halls.

“I just started to ask questions and didn’t get a whole lot of answers,” Ferguson said.

Zipcar, according to Ferguson, told the college it would visit campus to inspect any damage that may have occurred to the vehicle. Ferguson said the company already assigns a “fleet manager” who inspects the vehicles weekly.

Zipcar Public Relations Specialist Katelyn Chesley said the decision to remove the vehicle from campus was in line with the company’s policies for replacing unavailable vehicles.

“When a Zipcar is unavailable for reservation due to unforeseen circumstances, we work as quickly as possible to replace it so that students, faculty and staff have access to wheels when they want them,” Chesley wrote in an email to The Campus.

The new car, Ferguson said, is the same model as the vehicle the company removed from campus. She said the vehicle has the same monthly minimum guarantee to Zipcar—that is, the minimum amount of money the company will earn from the college. Zipcar will make a minimum of $1,500 from the vehicle each month. If the vehicle does not meet this minimum sum, Allegheny will pay the difference between the real and minimum revenue.

When a Zipcar is unavailable for reservation due to unforeseen circumstances, we work as quickly as possible to replace it so that students, faculty and staff have access to wheels when they want them.”

— Katelyn Chesley

Ferguson said she worked to ensure that the vehicle’s unavailability did not require the college to pay any extra money to Zipcar.

“During that time, I’ve made sure that the institution will not be billed for the time that the car was gone,” Ferguson said.

Chesley said in an email to The Campus that the company’s policy is to require only a portion of the monthly guarantee when vehicles are unavailable for use.

“Our general policy is to prorate usage during service interruptions,” Chesley wrote.

If a Zipcar vehicle were damaged by a driver, according to Ferguson, the driver would be responsible for the damages. The contract drivers agree to upon signing up for Zipcar, available on the company’s website, details this responsibility.

“A Member is responsible for any and all damage that occurs to a Zipcar vehicle while in the Member’s possession or control, … even if damage is weather-related, caused by a third party or arises from similar causes, and is responsible for the full value of any damages or injuries caused to third parties or their property,” the contract reads.

Zipcar’s responsibilities under the terms of its contract with the college include the maintenance of the vehicles it provides to Allegheny, according to Ferguson.

“Those are not pieces that we have to manage, which is why we like the contract, because they’re responsible for the maintenance and the upkeep of the actual vehicle and the insurance is something that we thought would be enough to cover anything that happened for students,” Ferguson said.

Zipcar is just one way the college is attempting to increase vehicle-sharing programs, according to Ferguson. She said Allegheny is attempting to create an easier way to obtain a Gator License, which is required to drive any of the vehicles in the college’s motor pool. The Campus reported on Oct. 13, 2016, that the motor pool included eight vehicles, including cars, minivans, and 12- and 15-passenger vans.

Public safety’s website states that a motor pool car costs $10 per day or $0.54 per mile—whichever is greater—and increases to $10 per day or $0.65 per mile for a minivan and $10 per day or $0.75 per mile for a 12- or 15-passenger van.

The Office of Public Safety is developing an online course to replace the in-person classes the office currently offers. These classes would be offered in the Spring 2017 semester at the earliest, Ferguson said. Students who complete the online course would still need to pass an in-person driving test with a public safety officer in a motor pool vehicle.

While public safety usually offers Gator License courses multiple times a semester, Ferguson said short-staffing issues in the office have required that public safety officers take on multiple roles in the office and have prevented public safety from offering the courses. A job opening on the college’s website for a police officer, dated Nov. 3, has still not been filled.

Ferguson said that while she believes Zipcar is a good program for students to get off campus, the college will evaluate the cost of the program—if interest in the vehicles continues rising, Allegheny will look into adding a third Zipcar vehicle when the contract expires in July 2017, she said. If the program is not cost-effective for the college, Ferguson said, the college has higher priorities.

“If it’s not cost-effective and/or we can’t find a partner to help support it, we have greater needs—to support undergraduate research and some other things,” Ferguson said.