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"Going Places" at Princeton

University Business, May 2013

Transportation & Parking Services at Princeton University is committed to providing reliable, safe parking and transportation services that enhance the quality of life while promoting sustainability, accessibility and mobility on campus for the Princeton University community. For students, our focus at Transportation & Parking Services is to support campus life in a way that is pleasant and convenient; specifically to provide access to travel within campus, around campus, and off-campus.

Though students readily have access to a variety of transportation options on campus including the state’s transit system, NJ Transit, and the university’s own TigerTransit system, we recognized that there was a gap we needed to fill—the use of a vehicle on a short-term basis. To meet this need, the university brought a car-sharing program to Princeton University.

In March of 2009, Transportation & Parking Services introduced WeCar, part of the Enterprise CarShare network, to the campus community. The WeCar program enables students, faculty, and staff to rent any of the campus’ WeCar vehicles—24 hours a day, seven days a week, for a few hours or the entire day.

The cost savings for those who participate in car sharing can be substantial. Compared to the cost of owning a car – based on monthly averages for car payment , gas, parking and insurance – it’s estimated that a student could have access to nearly 50 hours of drive time with a WeCar , which is more than most students drive in a month.

  • Students pay a one-time application fee of $20 and discounted annual membership fee of $40. Rental rates, which include fuel and basic vehicle physical damage and state required liability protection, are $8/hour,$35/overnight; daily rates are $48/weekdays or $65/weekends.
  • Faculty and staff pay a discounted one-time application fee of $10 and no annual membership fee. Rental rates are $6/hour, $35/overnight, and $48/day, including fuel and basic vehicle physical damage and state required liability protection.

As the program has evolved, it has doubled in size and demand continues to grow. Princeton University began with four WeCar vehicles. Initially, we felt that demand would be greatest among graduate students, many of whom have families and need to shop for groceries, drop off children and run errands. Three vehicles were parked at graduate school residences and one additional vehicle was parked at the Frist Campus Center, our student center.

As word spread among employees and undergraduate students about the convenience of car sharing, our office began meeting with committees of undergraduates and various administrative groups to determine where additional vehicles could meet growing demand. Today, there are eight WeCar vehicles, including seven Toyota Prius hybrids and one Chevy Volt extended range electric vehicle (EV), which can be charged by plugging into a regular 120 volt power outlet.

Car sharing has been extremely successful. In addition to nearly 590 active members, 30 to 40 new members join each month and each vehicle averages 30+ reservations per month, with Wednesdays through weekends being the most popular rental period.

WeCar certainly serves the travel needs of the Princeton community, but the program also directly supports the university’s sustainability plan, which emphasizes the importance of alternative transportation options for all community members. In addition to significantly reducing traffic congestion, noise pollution and greenhouse gas emissions with fewer cars being driven on campus, car sharing also helps relieve parking, which on most college campuses is a precious commodity, and is a great program for non-commuter University campuses.

Car sharing also plays a part in campus planning. Princeton University continues to expand its academic buildings and residential dormitories, which leads to a greater number of people on campus. As our population grows, so does the need for more WeCar vehicles. The number of vehicles, as well as the location of where they are parked is a key component to our campus planning.

Transportation & Parking Services wants all of its transportation options to be successfully utilized, so we have implemented several communication strategies to help spread the word about the availability and convenience of various transportation alternatives.

One of the more successful marketing pieces is our Going Places: A Car-Free Guide to Princeton University brochure, which provides a comprehensive overview of all the transportation options for students. This brochure is sent to all incoming undergraduate and graduate students, to inform students and parents about car sharing before they even arrive.

We also developed “WeCar Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday during the academic year, a representative from WeCar is present in our campus center to answer questions about the program and/or sign up new participants. We took the program a step further and made “WeCar Wednesdays” a discount day in which students get a dollar off the hourly rate.These marketing techniques helped bring the program to light and encouraged students to spread the word.

Although car sharing is generally tailored to our student population, we also encourage staff and faculty to use the vehicles, for both personal and business use. Departments are encouraged to set up an account with WeCar for business-related travel. This reduces wear and tear on one’s own personal vehicle and provides a convenient method for travel reimbursement. Many of our visiting faculty members also find this program extremely attractive—as they normally do not bring a car to campus.

Overall, we are extremely pleased with car sharing and continue to encourage participation in this great program. t is extremely rewarding knowing that small changes in our transportation network can truly improve life on campus.