Zipping Down the Road

I’ve been using Zip Cars for over two years now. I love my Zip Car. If you haven’t heard of this fantastic service, it’s like a car rental, but by the hour. There are almost 200 Zip Cars parked across Vancouver – there’s probably one a block from where you live – and for $7-$10 an hour you get all of your fuel and insurance fully paid for. With the swipe of a card on the dashboard, you can open any Zip Car in Vancouver, New York, or London and you’re off zoom-zooming! If you have an iPhone you can get an app that looks and works like a remote key entry device (cool!).

I read yesterday that the company is going public, looking for $75m from investors and planning to dramatically expand in 100 cities around the world. I really think this has the potential to revolutionize the way we do transportation and the way we define our society and ourselves – but they’re going to need a lot more cars and users before they reach that tipping point.

Part of the problem is more to do with our culture and urban design than anything else. In Romania I would walk to the farmer’s market every morning to buy sweet cow’s cheese with my grandpa, then walk to town later in the day to have ice cream. The way European cities are planned makes it easier to walk than to drive. Vancouver itself isn’t too bad for this, but beyond the urban area it’s hard to do much without driving.

In Ghana and Zambia, I found that 3/4 of the cars on the road were taxis, and with super low prices, it made more sense to take a taxi when you need it than to own a car. For all that we look down on and pity the developing world, efficient transport systems for the masses might be one thing they’ve beat us to (sorry TransLink)! Maybe Zip Car could push us towards that model of pay-per-use vehicles too.

What do you think? Could Zip Cars actually revolutionize the way we think about driving? Do you use the service? Thoughts?

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3 Responses to “Zipping Down the Road”

  1. Devin

    Zip Car is one of those great ideas and businesses that really took off in the past few years. Its concept is especially well received by the University students. It is not only convenient and economical. In Vancouver, when places you want to go are so far apart, Zip Car is definitely the way to go. However, like more crowded and and compacted cities (like Taiwan), I don’t know if it would be as big, since, like you said, you can walk anywhere, and to look for parking is a pain… :s (despite I know that zip cars have designated parking spots).

  2. Jon Strang

    Good post. I use the other car share service in town (, but I have to admit that I do sometimes pine for certain aspect of Zipcar’s model. I really hope that their IPO goes well so that they can expand into more markets. I think it’s a shame that they only operate in Toronto and Vancouver right now.

    But I also think that this car share model will only work in dense urban areas. Rural areas are presently better served by informal carpooling options or maybe something a little more organized like PickupPal ( This fills the gap of those inter-city taxi services they have in Africa and the Middle East (louage/service/sherut/dolmuş) or the autostop culture of Eastern Europe. I’ll admit that we can do a better job at marketing shared transit options outside the big cities!

  3. Charlie

    Definitely seems appealing in a culture where the actual ownership of a car isn’t everything. I’ve been intrigued by zip cars because i have seen them around Vancouver and even outside my apartments. I have never used them though because I wasn’t sure about the details. I feel like it would be good if they had clearer advertising or something. The way you describe it seems really easy and convenient, I just never knew all of that about them.

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