USF St. Pete students can drive a car without owning one through new ride share program
USF St. Pete launched a car share program for students and faculty today. The WeCar program will have two vehicles available for hourly or daily rentals. Kyle Sabie, corporate rental manager for the ride share division of Enterprise said the program can cheaper than owning a car for many students who live in the downtown area
“Each day you’re allowed up to 200 miles a day which, part of the benefit of that of course is that fuel is included in the price. So, in theory, depending on gas prices, that’s a $25-$30 savings in fuel alone if you were to take advantage of that full 200 miles.”
In other areas where ride share programs have been implemented, as many as 20 cars can theoretically be removed from the roads by allowing drivers access to shared vehicles. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said this gives students one more reason to leave their cars behind when they come to St. Pete to continue their educations.
“It gives them piece of mind knowing that, you know what, ‘we don’t have to bring the car, we can walk to the grocery store, we can walk to the entertainment district, we can get on our bikes, but you know what, if we want to take a little road trip …” and college kids love road trips, it’s here.”
St. Pete was the first city in Florida to receive the Green Building Coalition’s Green City designation based on things like water conservation and fuel efficiency. Foster said this is just one more way the city is moving toward a more sustainable future.
“It’s walkable, it’s very pedestrian friendly and we have bike trails that you can get on right here and go all the way to the Pinellas-Pasco border. So, we have all of these initiatives to get people out and enjoy things, but every once and a while if they don’t want to get on the Trolley and go to the Trop or get on the Trolley and go out Central Avenue to the beach – the students and the general public who aren’t required to have a car to have a great time at USFSP but they can get in a car.”
The same ride share program launched at USF Tampa in 2009 and now has four cars available. With only two cars available at USF St. Pete, a Nissan Cube and a Fiat 500, there might be more demand than the program can handle. But Enterprise’s Sabie said that can be fixed.
“You’re looking to be about 65-75 members per vehicle to kind of hit that organic state at which point we start to look to add vehicles and so, depending on how quickly we acquire members and how those members use the vehicles, one of the benefits of this being offered as a product of Enterprise, is we have tens of thousands of vehicles in the state of Florida alone so our ability to scale and add vehicles is really easy.”
USF St. Pete is also working on expanding its own green initiatives. Bill Hogarth is the school’s interim chancellor.
“USF St. Petersburg green initiatives include the Science and Technology building – the first LEED certified building in the USF system, we have two electric car charging stations, a robust recycling program, two electric vehicles at our facility’s fleet, treadmills in the gym that don’t use electricity and stationary bikes that produce their own electricity and now we have new solar powered docking stations at our outdoor tables on our campus right behind you.”
The program also gives students who may not have a vehicle readily accessible the chance to venture out of walking or biking distance. That’s especially useful to students under age 21 who can’t rent a vehicle from most reputable companies without paying an arm and a leg in extra fees. The $8.50 hourly rental fee or $70 daily fee can be split among other riders, making it affordable to many students. Mark Lombardi-Nelson, president of the USF St. Pete student government thinks the program will be popular on campus.
“Late night, 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., $30 all night and when I see that – everyone knows that school stuff happens during the day – night’s when you go out. At night’s when you go to Tampa, you go to the beach, you go on a road trip - $30 all night including gas, that’s a trip for five, maybe six in one of these cars when you can squeeze people together.”
Students and faculty who enroll in the program do have to pay for a membership. But the WeCar program is indefinitely waiving the application fee and slashing the annual membership from $50 to $35. They are also offering a $30 drive credit to people who enroll. Drivers don’t have to carry their own auto insurance either, but that could cause students some problems if they are in an accident. WeCar’s Sabie said drivers would have to out of pocket the first $500 worth of damage to a vehicle.
“We are looking at products in the very near future to be able to make available no different than in our rental car operations where a consumer could, in addition to, add extended liability coverages beyond what comes with your hourly rate or daily rate structure.”
The program isn’t costing USF St. Pete any money except whatever revenue it’ll lose from giving up two parking spaces in the parking garage. Even though Enterprise is a for-profit company, Sabie said the program isn’t likely to make very much money.
“You’ve got cars kind of parked and you need to build the membership base that creates a demand that that justifies having that car, so there’s a pretty substantial investment from all parties in this case to kind of get this up and running and it doesn’t really become a profit center for several years in a lot of cases.”
Members are expected to keep the cars in good condition and return them with at least a quarter tank of gas. The cars are equipped with a gas card members can use if they need to fill up while driving. More information is on their website.
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