(Posted February 10, 2013)

A survey recently went out to students, asking their opinions on getting the Zipcar at Juniata. This car-sharing service would allow users to reserve self-service cars by the hour. Robert Yelnosky, vice president for finance and operations, shares some information on the Zipcar possibilities:

Q: Where did the idea of getting Zipcar for Juniata come from?

A: We have been talking about this for about six years. We first started talking about it with the Sustainability Team back in 2007 or 2008. Because of the nature of our campus and community, there aren't a lot of other businesses. It's hard to make it work financially at a small institution, and Zipcar was not as interested in rural locations. In the last few years they have gotten more interested and it has become more pervasive. We have talked to them about once a year to see where they think we are, and this year we decided to proceed more aggressively and started the survey. It has been talked about for a long time and hopefully we're now getting to implementation.

Q: Why Zipcar as opposed to other car-sharing services?

A: The nice thing that we see with Zip is that you can carry it with you after graduation. If you end up in a major metropolitan area, Zip is the most widely available carshare program out there. If you had an internship in the Washington, D.C., area and you're already a Zip member, you could use Zip to help defray some of your costs. So that's why we looked at Zip as the carshare option.

Q: Would Zipcar only be available for Juniata staff and students, or for the entire Huntingdon community?

A: If we could make it work, I think we would want to leverage the rest of the Huntingdon community, especially in the summer. If the demand was such that the campus wasn't using it enough, then even during the academic year we would want to leverage that a bit more. Some of the conversations we've had with Zip relate to how they make their model work in a small community. If we can make it make sense here, we want to look at how we can expand it.

Q: What are some of the challenges of getting Zipcar at Juniata?

A: The biggest challenge is having enough interest to afford to be able to do it. It boils down to how much people are interested in using it and how much they will actually use it. We've done a few tests of interest in the past, and there hasn't been a lot of enthusiasm around it among the students. We've had conversations with the students we had on the Sustainability Team and the Environmental Coalition and it hasn't been something that got them excited. It seems like this year there's a little bit more interest in it. it.

Q: If you do get enough interest to get Zipcar, when would we expect to see it?

A: If things go well, we would try to do maybe the last two months of this semester as an introduction, so maybe April and into the first weeks of May, and then in full force for fall of the next school year. We'd want to get to orientation, we'd want to get to parents and incoming students early so they can make decisions about whether to bring a vehicle or not. The other link in this, in terms of timing, is that this year we've started a broader transportation service where we're providing transportation service to the Harrisburg train station, the Harrisburg airport, the Harrisburg bus station, as well as to State College, and Megabus has certainly gotten more popular. You can more realistically say today to a student, "You can get here on public transportation, and while you're here you can use one of these vehicles."

~Laura Bitely '14, Juniata Online Journalist

Our readers respond...

Sounds like a great idea for students (and others) without vehicles. I know other colleges are trying it as well.

Lisa Roth

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.