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Monday, December 29, 2008

More Zipcar Cuts

Posted by on Mon, Dec 29, 2008 at 1:10 PM

As the Beacon Hill Blog reported last week, Zipcar (which took over from homegrown Flexcar earlier this year) is eliminating the only two cars accessible from North Beacon Hill (one of which also serves Columbia City). Both locations are within a stone's throw of light rail stops. Zipcar's web site, which encourages people to "Give someone access to a whole fleet of cars to drive whenever they want" for Christmas, does not mention that the company is cutting its service to South Seattle.

In an email last week, Zipcar informed South End Zipcar members that “The Zipcar location at Beacon Ave S/Lander St is being closed December 31, 2008, but have no fear — there’s a Zipcar located just down the street at S Charles St/Hiawatha Place.”

What qualifies as "just down the street," in Zipcar's world, is a car a mile and a half away, down Rainier Avenue and across I-90 in Judkins Park. Although Columbia City members will still have access to one Zipcar (down from four a year ago), residents of Holly Park and points south have lost all their Zipcars—a further sign that Zipcar has little or no interest in serving people who rely on transit—the primary target market for traditional carsharing programs.

Calling Hertz—a huge potential new market is waiting.


Comments (21) RSS

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ECB is never satisfied.
Posted by Maybe you're just like my mother on December 29, 2008 at 1:21 PM · Report this
If (Metro/Zipcar/etc) is out to screw South Seattle's transit and carsharing users, then why on earth did you, a transit and carsharing user, decide to live there?
Posted by Hernandez on December 29, 2008 at 1:29 PM · Report this
Just for the record I told Zipcar to fuck off when they pulled the car from 83rd and 35th Ave NE.

Haven't looked back since. I use the bus and if I am in a hurry call the taxi. And still save money over Zipcar by using the taxi.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on December 29, 2008 at 1:43 PM · Report this
If Zipcar is so great, why don't more people use it? Maybe Zipcar isn't meeting people's needs at a cost they think is reasonable. Maybe Zipcar seems like a good idea but doesn't quite work out in the real world.
Posted by Fnarf on December 29, 2008 at 1:43 PM · Report this
It's funny how they cut service only in that one area and nowhere else.
Posted by elenchos on December 29, 2008 at 1:50 PM · Report this
The cost of driving an uninsured junk car - the vehicle of choice in the area in question - makes zipcar a rather unlikely option. Transit usage doesn't imply reliance on transit. The high cost of parking induces many to take a bus to work, though all of their other transportation is via their uninsured junk car.
If there were a market there Zipcar wouldn't be pulling cars out.
But all that could change. The state could actually require insurance each year in order to register the car, and they could require insurance companies to report cancellations, revoking registrations. The state could also eliminate the rental tax on these vehicles, lowering the price and making them more competitive versus ownership. At present state law favors driving junk cars and hinders cas-sharing.
Posted by kinaidos on December 29, 2008 at 1:51 PM · Report this
Isn't it obvious that business was slow at that location!? Jeez, ECB... they can't stay open for YOU and YOU ALONE!

Or maybe they can, but they just don't want to. They probably don't like you.
Posted by curious on December 29, 2008 at 2:05 PM · Report this
Flexcar had a lot of nice features when we originally signed up with them that Zipcar all but did away with immediately upon takeover. Great idea in theory for people who never take road trips or leave the city ever. Ever.

I'm looking forward to owning a car again.
Posted by j.lee on December 29, 2008 at 2:07 PM · Report this
ECB needs a 1979 Lincoln Continental.
Posted by NapoleonXIV on December 29, 2008 at 2:12 PM · Report this
@1 hahaha but I will have that song stuck in my head the rest of the day.
Posted by The Commenter Formerly Known As on December 29, 2008 at 2:12 PM · Report this
Zipcars 4WD vehicles came in very handy during the snowstorm ... Just saying.
Posted by Cornichon on December 29, 2008 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Can't tell how Zipcar plans to make money, now that the whole grow-grow-grow thing isn't working out for anybody else. At least the Hertz move makes sense if you think of it as a way for them to get some income out of unrented units in their oversized fleet.
Posted by tomasyalba on December 29, 2008 at 2:25 PM · Report this
kinaidos said: "The cost of driving an uninsured junk car - the vehicle of choice in the area in question - makes zipcar a rather unlikely option. "

"The vehicle of choice in the area in question"? Really? Have you actually been to Beacon Hill any time this century? Or like most white Seattleites, do you just assume that everything south of Capitol Hill is the "ghetto"?
Posted by litlnemo on December 29, 2008 at 2:31 PM · Report this
Wow ECB, you should be a business consultant! I'm sure ZipCar removed these locations because they are racists or whatever it is you are implying here. It's not like they are a business that makes decisions based on profit or anything.
Posted by meks on December 29, 2008 at 2:33 PM · Report this
Heh, I'm always surprised at how many stones people throw at ECB, considering you people and her are both right. I'm sure the reason that ZipCar closed those locations is because business was unacceptably slow. I'm also sure that the reason business was slow was not because those people don't need the service. Places where people drive "uninsured junk cars" by default are most in need of transportation services. ZipCar just wasn't able to offer them a price that let people give it the green light, so to speak. Hell, I live in Greenlake and I consider ZipCar not to be worth the money (though FlexCar was). Hooray for calling on competition, too; if there was more than one company doing this, things would be a lot better for commuters.

Regardless, there's one point ECB makes that is very true: that branch was right near a planned light rail station. Not waiting until light rail officially opens to see if business picks up was just silly.
Posted by Zelbinian on December 29, 2008 at 2:59 PM · Report this
Good: for once much consensus just because someone isn't making a profit, we shouldn't carp at them.

And @6 is right: the cops and the state do not enforce insurance requirements.

Another factor is our laws barring you or anyone else from starting a neighborhood car service, using your regular, non taxi licensed vehicle. Having to get a taxi license when they strictly limit the no. of taxis is a huge barrier to competition. In fact, it's a wall, and prevents competition and diversification of services. So there's either a taxi, or not; there are no cars allowed to be used for household use, then dedicated to the neighborhood car service when the owner feels like driving people around a bit.

If you want "more transportation and transit options" one step might be to end the laws that ban choices. Yes, I know it's almost a sin to try to use "markets" or make them work but there it is.
Posted by PC on December 29, 2008 at 3:35 PM · Report this
My experience is not unique - we don't use this service anymore.

My business bought a used Mini Morris for errands when Flex Car changed hands.

The city should dump their subsidy. Fuck New York Corporations. Fuck New York Banks. Fuck anything from New York except cock and musicals.
Posted by ROY on December 29, 2008 at 4:15 PM · Report this
The chirpy tone of Zipcar communications is ridiculous and annoying... however Zipcar has worked great for me and saved tons of money, letting me get rid of my junker without buying a new car.

For road trips and all-day projects I go with Dollar/Hertz/etc. instead... these complement Zipcar quite well.

Too bad about the locations eliminated though. They have eliminated the car that was closest to me also.
Posted by spock on December 29, 2008 at 4:19 PM · Report this
If they understand anything about business - not that they do apparently - that spot in the Red Apple parking lot will go right back next August.
Posted by Greg on December 29, 2008 at 5:49 PM · Report this
Hey ECB -- You are way too knowledgeable on the complexities of Seattle's transit story for such a grossly simplistic post.

As @9 and others note here, you're bitching about a SYMPTOM when you should be griping about the CAUSE.

Zipcar is a private sector company trying to make a buck. Evidently their cars too far outside the downtown core ain't making them money. How about shining a light on their barriers to success, which are well enumerated throughout these comments?
Posted by oneway on December 29, 2008 at 6:24 PM · Report this
Actually - I was probably one of the (possibly rare) users of that Beacon Hill location and wrote to them asking to reconsider. All I got was a lovely form letter advising me of the same change and they'll consider [insert my neighborhood here] for future locations.

Overall - I can't say if it was under-use of Zipcar, but times I've gone to use it - it was almost out - and Flexcar had 2 locations up here, and when they closed the 2nd one - they bent over backwards to ensure customers were taken care of.

RE: 20, yeah - I guess it's not like the 36-bus is overcrowded or anything and/or that light-rail will help you move across town when you need to. But that's fine -- and I'm sorry that Beacon Hill proves to be a barrier to their success. Needless to say, Enterprise Rental also will pick you up at a designated time and take you to their location.
Posted by yerbamatty on December 30, 2008 at 7:48 AM · Report this

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