Zipcar zooms onto SMC campus

Zipcars parked at their designated parking locations at SMC on Pearl and 17th Street taken on Thursday, June 2, 2016. Joseph Silva

There was a time when an 18-year-old college freshman — or any person under the age of 25, for that matter — was ineligible for a car rental. Driving under the influence, irresponsibility, and a lack of driving history seemed to influence the strict requirements that underwrote car rental policies. Now, in major cities that experience high traffic and issues with parking, the demand for sustainable, car-free options have begun to outweigh the traditional factors that influenced criteria for car rental in the past.

Enter Zipcar, the world’s leading car share network in urban areas and on college campuses. Zipcar has made a business by being an alternative to the longer standing car rental services., in part by lowering the age of those who can sign up.

For SMC students looking to partake in the alternative transportation options, this may end up a good thing, as the City of Santa Monica announced a new partnership with Zipcar on May 4. For city officials, the idea is to offer car rentals at low-cost hourly rates and assign designated car rental spaces in congested areas, including one at Santa Monica College.

This agreement gives students at SMC who are 18 years old and who have both a valid driver’s license and debit card, access to Zipcar rentals. The rentals are available to SMC students, faculty, and staff for an initial annual membership fee of $15 and the $25 application fee is waived. The cost per hour for the car rental starts at a reduced rate of approximately $7.75 per hour.

The Zipcar service could prove ideal for international and low-income students who cannot afford a car. Danielle Grossman, Los Angeles General Manager for Zip Car said, “The Zipcar program on campus gives students, faculty, and staff the freedom of using a car without the hassle of owning one. We're happy to partner with Santa Monica College to give their community a transportation option that fits their needs and their wallet.”

Much like the new designated campus locations for Uber users, the City of Santa Monica designated several parking spots for Zipcars at SMC on Pearl and 17th Street.

“The idea is to give people every reason to leave their car at home,” said Ferris Kawar, the Sustainability Project Manager at SMC's Center for Environmental and Urban Studies.

Kawar described the Zipcar service as an additional alternative for students and faculty who were looking for car-free travel options. This is a mobility mix which includes the Big Blue Bus "Ride Any Time" service, Breeze Bike Share, the Metro Expo Line, Uber, and now Zipcar.

There will be a launch event titled “Coast," an "open streets” festival to be held on Sunday, June 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. along Ocean Boulevard in Downtown Santa Monica.

The event will commemorate the beginning of the Expo Line, Zipcar, and other mobility programs and give local residents an opportunity to experience all the new car-free programs that have been implemented to solve the traffic, congestion, and parking crisis the city faces.