City works to bring shared car service to Downtown - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

City works to bring shared car service to Downtown

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Cincinnatians will soon have a new transportation option available in the Queen City. A shared car service has finalized an agreement with the University of Cincinnati and is in talks with city officials about expanding their international Zipcar business.

"Zipcar is almost the equivalent of a timeshare for cars," explained downtown businessman Bill Donabedian.

"If Zipcar is coming to Cincinnati it really says something about the growth of the urban area," Findlay Market business owner Duy-nhan Nguyen shared.

A department within the City of Cincinnati is working with the company to come up with an adequate compensation plan for allowing the service to use a handful of city parking spaces on the outset of their venture in the Queen City as a marketing initiative. If the business grows,  the cars will be moved out of public parking spots and into private spaces where they can be rented out online through a membership service.

For some city officials, the venture represents a new step in creating a more pedestrian-friendly downtown living environment.

"It makes us one of those cities that has an active, appealing, progressive downtown area," argued Larry Falkin, Director of the Office of Environmental Quality for the City of Cincinnati.

Falkin says it was the City of Cincinnati that first initiated talks with Zipcar.

"For those that chose the downtown lifestyle it gives them better mobility, at lower cost while taking pressure off of some of the city services," Falkin said.

Falkin says the energy efficient, high mileage Zipcar service is supposed to reduce cars on the street and therefore relieve some of the pressure on the city to come up with more public parking.

He says it eliminates some of the demand for parking downtown so perhaps saves the city some money on parking space and parking lot construction, it increases transit utilization, it helps with air quality issues, and improves public health.

"The data from other locations is that each zip car replaces 19 privately owned vehicles," Falkin said.

Some, however, are not sure the numbers would be so high.

"Maybe not 19, maybe 4 or 5," argued Nguyen.

Nguyen has a car but spends most of his time on foot or on a bike.

"I could probably get rid of my car and survive with Zipcar, just to run my errands and to visit my mother," he said. His only concern is the pricing of the service.

"It's a lot cheaper than renting or owning and you just use it when you need it and that's all you pay for," Donabedian said. "It's a great option to have."

Donabedian says even with family he would consider the option as well.

"I lived without a car for a few months. I definitely would do it again if an option like that was available," he said.

While the City of Cincinnati is still hammering out an agreement with the company, the University of Cincinnati has finalized their contract. They expect Zipcar to be on campus by the end of September or early October.

"The bus system sucks, we don't have a subway system, I had to take a cab to work the other day and it cost me like twelve bucks," senior Alice Hopkins said.

"We're a big landlocked urban institution," explained Mary Beth McGrew, Vice President of Planning Design & Construction for the university. "Students have a need for a car on occasion but they might not always want to pay the money to have a car on campus because it's expensive."

McGrew says a car service initiative is a nice sustainability effort for the city and the university to work on together.

"I wish Cincinnati had a better transportation system so I think that's a step as long as the cost isn't too high," Hopkins said.

Initially, four Zipcars will be made available downtown and four more on the university's campus.  

Once the agreement is finalized with the City of Cincinnati it will have to go to city council for final approval.

Fox19 tried to reach Zipcar for comment Monday, but so far they have not responded.

To learn more about how Zipcar works visit the website linked to this article.

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