Hybrid Cars Drive On Over to Oberlin
Furthering its efforts to make Oberlin more environment-friendly, the company CityWheels will supply the College with two hybrid rental cars beginning Feb. 7, 2006. Megan Wilson, project manager for CityWheels, visited campus this week to speak to students, the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association and the administration to explain the program in greater detail.
Since arriving on campus this past Wednesday, hosted by the Environmental Protection Interest Group, Wilson has been getting acquainted with the campus and assisting with informational tabling outside the Science Center. In reaching out to the student body, Wilson has spoken mostly with upperclassmen, as only students over the age of 21 will be eligible to rent the new cars.
Wilson said she regretted that younger students would be excluded from this opportunity. “[The age limit] is disappointing for [CityWheels] too. We are hoping for the 18 to 20-year-old crowd to eventually have access,” she said.
Visiting co-ops, talking with Vice President of Finance Ron Watts, and participating in more tabling were all on Wilson’s schedule for Thursday, and today, according to a Dec. 6 email, she plans to eat a meal at each of the Tank, Pyle and Harkness co-ops.
Meeting with co-ops is important, said Wilson, since “to a great degree, the idea of car sharing is the same idea that drives a co-op.”
Both CityWheels and co-ops understand resources are used “more effectively...if we pool them,” she said.
So far, response has been “overwhelmingly positive,” said Wilson. “The College administration has been extremely responsive.”
College senior Gavin Platt of EPIG also felt the administration has received the program well. “[Everyone] is super happy about reducing the number of cars on campus,” said Platt.
Wilson wanted to raise awareness about the program especially near the end of this semester. To rent one of the cars, students must become members in the CityWheels program. The regular fee is $100; however, the College is subsidizing half the cost, bringing the fee to $50 for students and townspeople. An incentive to sign up now, said Wilson, is the discount available this month: the fee for new members will be $25 until Dec. 31, 2005.
Regardless of whether students register now, Wilson felt the visit would allow students to consider joining in the future.
“Since the semester’s ending, we want to make sure students know [and] to think about it over Winter Term,” said Wilson.
CityWheels is a car sharing company based in Cleveland; however, similar car sharing companies exist in 17 other American cities, as well as in Canada and in Europe. The three-month-old company rents environment-friendly cars to people in Northern Ohio, though their first exchange will be at Oberlin.
The exchange is for those “who don’t want to, or don’t need to, own cars,” which can be considerably more expensive than renting from CityWheels, said Wilson. Students pay the initial fee and a $250 security deposit. The deposit is returned when the person ends the membership.
Each car costs $8.50 an hour to use, which covers insurance, gasoline and maintenance. Users are supplied with a gasoline-only credit card when the tank goes below half full. The car can be driven only 125 miles per day; after that, each extra miles costs 20 cents. Users may rent the car for a maximum of 24 hours on the weekend; during the week, rental time is unlimited.
One car will be a 2006 Toyota Prius and the other will be a 2006 Toyota Scion XB. The number of cars available may change “if we find people are using them,” said Wilson. “We will meet those demands.”
The location of cars has yet to be decided. Platt believed the most likely location would be the parking lot behind Stevenson. Nevertheless, Wilson said the goal is to have each car be within a five-minute walking distance.
Both Wilson and Platt felt students will enjoy the car sharing program, if not only “just for the fact they have a car” to use, said Platt.
Residents in Oberlin may also rent the cars under the same user fees and restrictions as students. “It’s also a town program,” said Platt. “Initially, more people [to take advantage of the program] will come from the town because of the age limit.”
Wilson’s business partner and the president of CityWheels, Ryan
McKenzie, will join her in presenting the car sharing concept at West Lecture
Hall at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 12.