Students in need of cars may soon be able to get their own wheels on a moment’s notice with the swipe of a card.
A joint effort between UCSB and Santa Barbara County is underway to bring a program called “car-sharing” to the campus and Isla Vista. Car-sharing programs, which let users reserve cars and drive them for as long as they need for a fee, have already been implemented in a number of cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Associated Students Vice President of Local Affairs Logan Green said he has been advocating the creation of a local car-sharing program since he first heard it discussed as part of the I.V. Master Plan last spring.
“My basic pitch is to get the university to work with the county to buy a fleet of vehicles that students will be able to rent by the hour,” Green said.
Green has proposed a measure for the next student election in the spring asking for $3 per quarter per student, for a maximum of three years, to help fund the creation of such a program. He said that the fee would only continue until the program was able to pay for itself.
“At a maximum of three years, the system will become self-sufficient,” Green said.
Green said the proposed fee to users of the program is $4 per hour and 31 cents per mile during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Students using vehicles during “off-peak” hours will only be charged the per-mile fee.
Tuesday was the last day to gather signatures on a petition circulated to get the measure on the ballot. Green said 2,850 signatures were collected, surpassing the required 2,600.
“I think [the measure] has a really good chance of going through. There’s a lot of momentum behind the effort,” Green said.
Ryan Grady, general manager of the Los Angeles office of Flexcar, the nation’s oldest and largest car-sharing company, said applicants must submit a driver’s license and credit card. If approved, they are issued a membership card that also functions as an ignition key to any of the cars in the company’s fleet.
“It’s [[a]] cool program, and it works well where there is a parking shortage,” Grady said. “What is so cool about it is the ease of use.”
The process of reserving a car takes two to three minutes, Grady said, and can be done online or by phone. Once a reservation is made, customers swipe their membership card at the designated vehicle and enter a personalized PIN code on a keypad on the car’s dash.
Customers are charged fees per hour and per mile that cover gas, insurance, maintenance and parking, Grady said. All of the vehicles used by Flexcar are low-emission, fuel-efficient. gas-electric hybrids, and the company uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) to monitor the distance the cars travel and to prevent theft.
Jenna Endres, of Santa Barbara County Planning and Development, said she has been drafting a document for the past two months that invites companies to bid on a car-sharing project for Santa Barbara. Endres said she expects a car-sharing program will be operating at UCSB and in I.V. by January 2005 at the latest.
“Our goal is for Fall 2004, so when school starts, we have a program in place,” Endres said.
John Williams, marketing director for Flexcar, said a program specifically aimed at UCSB and Isla Vista could work.
“We have some really good history working with universities,” Williams said. “But the county as a whole is not an ideal situation for a car-sharing program.”