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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