With encouragement from the DID and The Providence Foundation, Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, just opened an office at 65 Eddy Street. Life-size window decals now cover the windows in the back of the Peerless building, announcing that you can get “wheels when you want them.” Katelyn Lopresti, the Zipcar Providence market manager, said that it was important for Zipcar to have an on-street presence in the downtown area. The new location is ideal; it’s within a few blocks of City Hall, the Biltmore, the Westin, the Rhode Island Convention Center, and most importantly, the public transportation hub at Kennedy Plaza.
Car sharing is different from car rental, and is meant to be an alternative to car ownership for savvy urban residents. You can join online, and the company issues you a keyless entry card, called a “Zipcard,” which grants access to the vehicle during your reservation. You’ll pay a one-time application fee along with an annual membership fee, and then you pay the hourly or daily rates for each reservation you make. Hourly rates in Providence start from $7.75, with day rates (24 hours) starting from $66. Gas, insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance and 180 miles of driving per day are included in that price. As a Zipcar member, you can reserve Zipcars in any city with a Zipcar program, and you have access to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It’s easy to get started. You simply reserve your car online for a specific time. To access the car, you’ll hold your Zipcard above the card reader, and the locks will open and the keys are inside. Members are expected to follow a set of simple rules: return the car on time (or pay a late fee); don’t smoke in the car; don’t allow non-members to drive the Zipcar; and place your pets in locked pet carriers if they’re coming along for the ride.
People can sign up as individuals, with a business, or with a university. In the downtown area, Zipcar for Business (Z4B) is a great option for local businesses. As a Z4B member, you pay a reduced set up fee, along with reduced hourly rates on weekday driving. Most area colleges and universities also offer Zipcar programs; Brown University, Providence College, Johnson & Wales, RISD, and Providence College are already on board, and Rhode Island College is planning to launch a program soon.
Zipcar members are invited to monthly social cocktail parties, and they also enjoy additional member benefits including discounted tickets for the Boston Ballet, the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, and other cultural venues.
Zipcar continues to expand in the Providence market. For now, the downtown cars are located at 500 Exchange Street, the Biltmore Garage, JWU Mario’s lot, Regency Plaza, the Renaissance Hotel, and the RISD public safety lot. Other locations throughout the city can be found online.