Zipcars and rideshare program hold steady usage

TRU Sustainability encouraging eco-friendly ways of getting to campus

Last Friday, the TRU sustainability office encouraged students, staff and faculty to walk, bike or bus to campus as part of Car Free Day. Though the occasion started in 1994, this year is the first year TRU has promoted it and encouraged everyone to participate.

Jim Gudjonson, TRU’s director of sustainability, who said he first heard about the initiative through social media, hopes that Car Free Day encouraged students and staff to think about more sustainable commuting options.

“It’s hard for people to think about making changes at a daily or weekly level. But you think, here is this one event, so I won’t use my car. It starts a process where you think about doing your errands the day before or the day after,” Gudjonson said. “The notion is to plant the seed. So maybe one day a week, you don’t use your car, or two days a week and then that increases.”

Yet walking and using the city’s public transit aren’t the only sustainable options for getting to and from campus, Gudjonson said. The TRU Zipcar service, which started in January, was well utilized in the winter semester and Gudjonson expects this semester to be no different.

Though one of the two original Zipcars was removed from campus due to a lack of usage during the summer semester, a new car arrived at the beginning of the fall semester to meet demand.

“We’re back up to two Zipcars now. We had a new one delivered two weeks ago at the start of the semester,” Gudjonson said. “It’s a Volkswagen Jetta sedan, so it’s actually quite a nice car.”

Currently, Zipcars are being used by either staff or students 30 per cent of the time, Gudjonson said. Unlike TRU’s internal rideshare vehicles, which are often booked four to six weeks in advance, TRU Zipcars can usually be booked only ten minutes in advance.

While this may make it seem like Zipcars aren’t being used much, Gudjonson said that once the utilization rate of the Zipcars reaches 38 per cent, Zipcar will send TRU another vehicle.

“If the car is getting used 50 per cent of the time, and someone goes to book it and can’t, then the system isn’t working,” he said.

With the current parking situation at TRU and the construction of private housing development The Reach, Gudjonson believes the demand for Zipcars on campus will only grow. As such, TRU expects to increase their Zipcar fleet from two to six cars within the next two years.

“As we develop residences and we lose parking, part of the equation is a car share program,” he said. “One fully utilized, Zipcar saves 13 parking stalls.”

With initiatives like the TRU Zipcar, Gudjonson hopes to get more students and staff thinking about sustainability. While Zipcar has been tabling daily around campus since the beginning of the semester, promotions are also being offered to get students to try the service out.

“I encourage students to go on our website and check out promotions,” he said. “They can get a couple of free hours with Zipcar right now. Try it out. It’s only $20 for a year-long membership. Even if you have a vehicle, try it out and maybe you’ll leave your vehicle at home next year.”