POTSDAM - SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson are providing a new way for students, faculty and staff to "zip" around town this semester.
The two colleges have begun a partnership with Zipcar Inc., the world's leading car sharing network, in which four cars will be shared between the college communities. The environmentally conscious system allows any Zipcar member to reserve a car for a low cost, thus eliminating some students' needs for their own vehicles.
"We've been talking about it on campus for a while," said Susan E. Powers, associate director of Clarkson's Institute for a Sustainable Environment. "At Clarkson we did this largely for the student population. It gives them more mobility, so they feel less isolated on campus. I think in the long run it will reduce the number of cars on campus."
Through Zipcar, each college will maintain one Honda Insight Hybrid and one Nissan Sentra for students and staff, although any Zipcar member in the north country is welcome to reserve a car. A $25 yearlong membership covers gas, insurance, reserved parking spots and roadside assistance as well as 30 days of free driving, after which members must pay $8 for an hour of driving or $66 for a day.
According to Richard "R.J." Mattimore, SUNY Potsdam's sustainability and operations coordinator, the cars require little effort for the campuses to manage: They can be unlocked by individual users' membership cards or smartphone devices, and they automatically send emails when they need oil changes and other maintenance.
"It's the most technologically advanced car I've ever encountered," Mr. Mattimore said. "It's phenomenal. If we have forty percent usage, they will look at placing another car."
The four Zipcar vehicles were officially unveiled at Ives Park Wednesday afternoon, with Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins and SUNY Potsdam President John F. Schwaller in attendance. Also in attendance were the two colleges' student body presidents, both of whom expressed their enthusiasm for the program.
"I know a lot of students that don't have a car on campus," said SUNY Potsdam Student Government Association President Sam E. McCaffrey. "I think the Zipcar is a great way to avoid all these incidental costs (of owning a car) and be sustainable."
"From experiences where I haven't had a car on campus, this is very convenient: to have the opportunity to take a car rather than relying on someone else's schedule or coordinating with friends to take a car," Clarkson University Student Association President Michael W. Welch said.
To apply for a Zipcar membership or reserve a car, visit www.zipcar.com.