ZipCar, University of Iowa cancel partnership

The car-sharing service ZipCar canceled its contract with the University of Iowa this spring after a nine-year relationship.


Jeff Sigmund

Zipcar’s that are available on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. Cars that are available can be found at the Zipcar parking spaces which are located at 200 S. Linn Street.

Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, News Reporter

ZipCar vehicles arrived on the University of Iowa campus nine years ago, to expand transportation options for students and reduce the demand for parking. The service is now canceling its contract with the UI, though a lack of on-campus parking remains a problem for students and faculty.

“The university and the City of Iowa City brought car-sharing to the community to provide another transportation option and reduce parking demand,” Commuter Programs Manager Michelle Ribble wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

ZipCar is a car-sharing service that allows users to purchase memberships and reserve cars to drive around the city themselves. The company decided to cancel its contract with the UI in spring 2021, citing operational and supply shortages.

“Due to global operational and supply chain shortages, we had to make the difficult choice to relocate our two-car fleet at the University of Iowa to other markets,” reads a ZipCar statement provided by Chelsea Nemec, senior account executive at a communication firm that partners with ZipCar.

Associate Director of Iowa City Transportation Services Mark Rummel said the city’s ZipCar fleet started with six cars and now has just two. The partnership peaked at 10 vehicles, he said.

“For almost a decade, faculty, staff, and students used ZipCars for hourly and daily trips to run errands, go on day trips, or to go home for the weekend,” Ribble wrote.

The cars were parked in three different spots around Iowa City and the UI campus: Burge Residence Hall, the Iowa City Public Library, and the Newton Road Ramp.

Through the UI’s partnership with ZipCar, students and faculty received discounted rates and sign-up incentives, Ribble wrote.

Iowa City Transportation Services also worked with ZipCar in hopes of decreasing demand for parking and other auto issues around Iowa City, Rummel said.

“The idea was to get less cars on the street,” he said. “You know, maybe students wouldn’t bring cars to campus because they didn’t really need them. If you only need a vehicle for once a week, or once every other week, you could use this as an alternative.”

UI and Iowa City transportation services were further enticed by ZipCar because of its age limit, Rummel said.

“I’m pretty sure that you can get [a membership] if you’re 18 and older,” Rummel said. “I think that was one of our drives to go with ZipCar way back when we established the relationship, because a lot of the rental car agencies, you have to be 25 to rent the cars.”

The UI reached out via a Request for Proposal to find another organization to partner with after receiving news of the contract cancellation, Ribble wrote, but it has not received any responses yet.

“In the future, we hope carsharing will return to campus,” he said.

Iowa City and ZipCar still have a relationship, Rummel said, and are trying to negotiate increasing the number of cars in the area. In the future, he said, Iowa City may have a bike or scooter share program.

“Just providing as much opportunity as we can for people to get around as easy as they can — it’s kind of one of our goals,” Rummel said.

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