Zipcar's motto is "Wheels when you want them," and I couldn't have said it better myself. This program has allowed me to free myself from the responsibility and hassle of owning two tons of metal (paying for maintenance, expensive monthly insurance, always filling up the gas tank, parking, expensive breakdowns, sitting in traffic), without having to give up the convenience of using a car on the rare occasions when I need one. I've never been happier or felt healthier since I started living in the U.S. like I did in Europe: only commuting by public transportation, carrying my groceries home, and running my errands on foot. Not to mention the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I think of how I'm helping the environment. And the next time I move overseas, I won't even have to worry about selling the car.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
La Vie Without a Car
When I sold my car in early February 2009, I had every intention of quickly buying a replacement. I would move to Paris for a semester, return to DC, find a job, and buy a new, used car. Everything happened just as planned except for the part about buying a vehicle. Seven months after moving back to the nation's capital, I'm still sans voiture. When I tell people I don't have a car they inevitably all ask the same question: "How do you make Target runs?!" I'll admit, not being able to head out to everyone's favorite one-stop household goods shop and return with bags upon bags of dishwasher detergent and dryer sheets was something I worried about as well. Enter, Zipcar.
Zipcar is a car-sharing program that operates in a number of cities across the U.S. and Canada. The company places vehicles of all kinds (mini coopers, pickup trucks, hybrids) in designated parking spots around residential neighborhoods that are available for you to "rent" on an hourly or daily basis. You sign up on their website, enter the time and day you want a car, search within your area, and voilà! They give you a list of the cars that are available and their going rates. Once you've reserved your car, you simply walk up to it at the designated time, open it with your micro-chipped card, turn the key that's attached to the vehicle's interior and away you go. Gas and insurance are included in the very reasonable price. It's Vélib for cars! In fact, there has been talk of instituting a car-sharing program in Paris similar to its successful bike-sharing intiative, but it looks as though that project might have hit a snag.