Zipcar provides relief for students needing vehicle

Graduate student Joe Dulam rides the campus shuttle bus almost every day.

But some days, he said he spends hours waiting on a ride because the shuttles are too full.

Dulam is hopeful the two Zipcars on campus may be a solution.

Last week’s launch of the car-sharing service Zipcar marked a day that many Wichita State students gained something that they did not have before when it came to transportation: an option.

For most students, getting where they need to be is easy — they get in their car and drive. Many international students, however, arrive on campus without a car or a valid driver’s license.

Dulam, who is studying computer science, moved to Wichita from his home in southern India about a year ago. He is just one of almost 1,800 international students attending WSU. He said he heard about Zipcar through Shocker Blast, and said he and his friends are excited about it.

“Everyone knows about it,” Dulam said. “We’re happy about it. [Zipcar] could save two to three hours of my time.”

He and his friend, Naveen Krishnan, said the shuttle is often completely full in the mornings, which can make it tough to arrive to class on time.

Krishnan, who’s also from southern India and working on a master’s degree in computer networking, lives a 10-minute drive and 30-minute walk away from campus. He used to walk back and forth to campus during the summer when the shuttle was not available, which he said was difficult.

Recently, he and his three roommates bought and share a car. Krishnan has had his Kansas driver’s license for about six months, and said that it can be hard to have four people dependent on one car.

Zipcar does not require its members to have a driver’s license issued from the United States.

“They only have to have a valid license in their country,” said Ryan Thorup, programming coordinator for the Office of International Education. “Zipcar investigates the license information and confirms it with the country before approving the membership.”

Thorup said he was searching for alternative transportation options for students when he found out about Zipcar earlier this summer. He then contacted the Administrative and Finances Department to get approval, and Zipcar launched on campus just a couple months later. He said that it is hard for him to pick a hitch of the service.

“We’re excited about this because it’s a viable alternative,” Thorup said. “My biggest hope right now is that students know about the service and that it gets utilized. This won’t just help international students, it’ll help domestic students, as well. It is going to allow them to have access to a vehicle pretty much anytime they need it, so that they don’t have to be dependent on others.”

Dulam and Krishnan expressed concern over the cost. The two said they were fine with paying $7.50 an hour, but that the daily cost to use a Zipcar, $69, is almost triple the price of what they have paid in the past to rent a car for a day. They said that they would suggest for daily prices to be lower.

According Zipcar’s website, this price is the lowest daily price that the company offers to college students.

Those who signed up at a launch event Thursday were offered a promo code that waived the $15 application fee and instead put the money toward the new members’ first two hours of driving. Dani Golladay and Sam McFarland are two student ambassadors who were appointed to be the faces of Zipcar for Wichita State.

They organized the event and said the international and local students they talked to seemed excited, along with faculty and local community members.

Together, Golladay and McFarland helped almost 50 people sign up for membership.