Wash U, Downtown to Introduce Car Sharing Program

A few months ago at a breakfast on employer strategies for the Highway 40/I-64 shutdown, I had the opportunity to hear how Washington University is handling the construction and their general parking woes. Steve Hoffner, Assistant Vice Chancellor at Washington University, began the presentation by highlighting an area that critics like to bring up with Wash U: its big spending. Wash U is building a new student center that includes a 500-car underground parking garage. The cost per parking space? $43,000!

Even for a school with a giant endowment like Wash U, those kind of dollars spent on parking just don’t make a lot of sense. So, what are they doing to handle their parking problems and the Highway 40 construction? Some of it is the usual: flex-scheduling, carpooling, and telecommuting. Wash U is also in their second year of the “U-Pass”, an unlimited pass for Metro buses and trains given to full-time students and staff. This program gave out 17,000 passes in the first year with 1.9 million trips taken on Metro. This cost Wash U $2.2 million, which Mr. Hoffner insisted was not a “special deal” for Wash U.

Most interesting, though was the announcement that Washington University is going to introduce a car sharing program by the end of this calendar year. The two major players in car sharing, Flexcar and Zipcar (who will merge into one company), have thus far missed the St. Louis area in their rollout. Instead, Wash U will be partnering with Enterprise, the locally-based rental car giant. Details so far are sparse — reservations will be online and unlocking the car will be done using a personal computer chip. Rates and car types are thus far unknown. (Zipcar and Flexcar are roughly $8/hour and often have hybrids in their fleet).

Don’t go to Wash U? Don’t worry. According to the Citizens for Modern Transit, the partnership also includes Pyramid Construction and Loftworks, allowing those downtown to car share as well.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 27th, 2007 at 6:10 pm and is filed under Alternate Routes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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