Car-Sharing Plan Intended to Help Drivers Go Green
Going without a car in downtown Baltimore became far easier for students, faculty and staff at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) with the launch March 22 of the first car-sharing service on campus.
Connect by Hertz, the vendor chosen by the University, began signing up members at a kickoff event held by Parking & Transportation Services at the Southern Management Corporation Campus Center. The location was the Green Room, in keeping with the environmental aspects of the program.
"This car-share program moves us closer to achieving climate neutrality one day. This also checks off another initiative tasked by the president in his UMB Climate Action Plan," says Tony Green, transportation demand management and customer service coordinator. "I'm pleased it's finally here on campus."
The goal is to cut carbon emissions by reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Hertz contends that for every member of a car-sharing arrangement, 14 autos are off the road.
People who forgo car ownership save on the costs of insurance, parking, and maintenance. But in return, they lose the convenience of driving at will. Belonging to a car-sharing service helps fill that gap. Of three plans offered, two are designed for more frequent users with monthly pre-paid fees but lower hourly rates. Gasoline and insurance are part of the contract.
To qualify, applicants must have a credit card and an acceptable driving record. They must also agree to rules such as prompt reporting of damage or fines and payment of any tickets.
Connect by Hertz has placed three cars on campus to be reserved by UMB members. If there is greater demand, cars can be added, says Green. The choices: a Mini Cooper, a Ford Escape, and a Toyota Prius. Each comes with GPS navigation.
Here's how it works: After making a reservation, the user goes to the selected vehicle and displays a membership card to activate a card-reading device mounted inside. The ignition key is tethered on a lanyard. In the event of a breakdown or fender-bender while driving, users can push a button to reach Connect's Member Care Center. An EZ-Pass unit tracks tolls.
Each driver is expected to gas up, paying with a gas card kept in the visor, so there's at least a quarter of a tank left when the car is returned to its designated parking place. The Mini Cooper is parked on UMB's outdoor Fine lot at Fayette and Paca Streets. The Escape is parked in the Pratt Street Garage; the Prius in Koester's Lot on Lexington Street.
People are asked to be respectful of the condition of the car upon return. Rules include no smoking and putting pets in carriers. A $50 penalty is intended to prevent late returns to keep the system running smoothly.