By Carrie Abel

The streets of Santa Cruz are perpetually jammed with traffic. Parking is difficult, and gas prices are high.

But Zipcar has found a solution: it’s called car-share.

Zipcar, founded in 2000, enables people to sign up and use on-site cars at any time.

“We compete with car ownership,” said Zipcar’s Director of Business Development Adam Brophy.

Though there are car ports in town, all of the marketing thus far has been aimed at the university. Zipcar has recently joined with over 30 universities throughout the country, and allows students over the age of 18 to become Zipcar members at a discounted annual rate.

Because the cars at UC Santa Cruz are parked on campus, drivers will have easy access to the vehicles.

Larry Pageler, director of Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS), said that he has been trying to get a program like Zipcar to UC Santa Cruz for years. “The concept of sharing seems to be a great fit with the Santa Cruz community, especially the UC,” Pageler said.

Santa Cruz is the first UC to join with Zipcar.

Between car port locations at OPERS, College Eight, the University Town Center downtown, and the university facility on Delaware Street, there are three Prius Hybrids, two Honda Elements, a Mazda 3, and a Toyota Matrix.

The Honda Elements are equipped with roof racks, because Pageler said he wanted a way for people to transport their surfboards.

But Santa Cruz local Edgar Alcaraz has mixed feelings about the Zipcars. “It will save us gas and parking money [and] in terms of pollution I guess it will help,” he said.

Alcaraz is worried however about the cars taking money from the city.

“The city will be losing money from parking,” Alcaraz said, adding that he is concerned that if the city does not earn enough money through parking enforcement, then other more expensive parking systems will be implemented.

Nevertheless the program has gained popularity.

According to Pageler, there were 108 new student members and 12 faculty and staff members in the first week of October alone. Brophy explained that Zipcar was surprised at the amount of community members interested in the program. The interest has “exceeded our expectations,” Brophy said. “We have done really no marketing to the community so far.”

Brophy expressed hope for bringing the program into the community because, he said, “Each [Zip]car takes 20 cars off the road.”

So in the near future, Santa Cruz may be experiencing a major cutback on drivers, and more free parking spaces. “We really didn’t want [students’] cars parked on campus and in neighborhoods,” Pageler said.

The cars are available at all hours, every day of the week, to registered members. Zipcar requires a credit card, and does a DMV check on each applicant’s license to check eligibility for insurance.

For UCSC students and affiliates, there is an annual fee of $35. For Santa Cruz community members the annual fee is $50. Rates range from $8 to $10 an hour and reach a maximum of $65 for the day, depending on the car.

After registering online, members can sign up for a time and date when they would like a car. After using their self-identified swipe card, the car will open. Gas, insurance, and guaranteed parking in Zipcar reserved spots is included in the membership.

Although there are issues that still need to be addressed, there are plans for bringing more shared cars into the community. Pageler said that he would like to see the program expand in the coming months, and that he is looking into more car models such as a minivan and a pick-up truck.