Blog: Kelly Steffen and Joshua Croff
Michigan State University
(MSU) is negotiating with several companies to bring car sharing to the Capital region. Generally, car sharing vehicles are available to students and other members of the community to share at reasonable rates and at convenient locations. Car sharing companies like Zipcar
provide online memberships allowing members to rent a car at affordable hourly rates, allowing users to ditch the family minivan for a more stylish (and fuel-efficient car). In Ann Arbor, for example, the rate per hour is $8 during the week and $9 on the weekends. The annual membership fee is a small fraction of a typical MSU parking pass, typically around $35.
As active students with limited budgets, mobility constraints and environmental concerns, we are working toward the implementation of a car sharing program on campus and in the surrounding community.
We firmly believe that car sharing is the first step toward expanding mobility without compromising environmental and economic sustainability. To this end, transportation professionals, city planners and individuals looking to save a few dollars or the environment, have been touting the benefits of car sharing in communities such as Chicago, San Francisco, Austin, Oakland, Calif. and Berkley, Calif. These largely non-profit, community car share operations started because of a shared passion like ours: Reducing car emissions and pollution, increasing mobility at a low cost and reducing congestion.
One company in particular, Zipcar, has taken the idea of car sharing to the national level with a resounding presence in Washington D.C., Cambridge, Mass. and Ann Arbor. The cars are located at a few easily accessible locations on campus and in surrounding communities. When and if MSU agrees to a car sharing program, both the City of Lansing
and the City of East Lansing
can increase the number of vehicles in the program. Any community member or businesses can then use the vehicles for an array of purposes. Businesses can even replace company fleets with a car sharing program such as Zipcar.
A car sharing program can greatly increase mobility for college students by opening a new range cars. While alternative transportation certainly exists and our bus system has received national recognition, there are simply places the bus doesn’t go and/or times that do not work in individuals’ schedules. A car sharing program could better connect students to the Capital region and lead to tangible economic results as students more frequently populate local Lansing businesses and events.
Car sharing programs also have the potential to reduce environmental degradation. Evidence suggests that sharers drive less than half as many miles as car owners, which translates directly into fuel and emissions savings. Car sharers plan their trips better and chain multiple errands together. The vehicles in a fleet like Zipcar’s are also all fuel-efficient and cut down on the amount of carbon released by the old hand-me-down vehicles often driven by students.
Car sharing represents a shift in how we think about transportation. The car-sharing model is innovative because it provides users with an alternative to private automobile ownership while complementing existing forms of alternative transportation. A car-sharing program can be used as a transitioning tool to help automobile-oriented communities reach a less automobile-dependent future. It also allows students the opportunity to learn how to sustain themselves without a private automobile. The program could change mindsets about car sharing and alternative forms of transportation on college campuses, which may also influence how students shape their future communities.
These programs offer an exciting and progressive range of options that makes them a viable option for MSU and the greater Lansing area. Please let us know what you think by joining the Facebook group
, contacting the MSU administration, or by sharing your opinion here
! Also, feel free to drop one of us a line to let us know how you feel about the proposal or to let us know how you would like to get involved!
Kelly Steffen is an MSU senior studying international relations and economics.
Joshua Croff is an urban and regional planning junior at MSU with aspirations of becoming a transportation planner.