USF’s WeCar program is designed to give students and employees a new option for transportation by renting one of four cars located on campus at an hourly rate.
The program’s developers hope it will benefit residents and commuters without access to cars and encourage car-pooling.
Adding such a program to USF transportation services does not represent the best use of resources and may prove to be more trouble than good for students.
For starters, signing up for the rent-a-car service is not cheap. Students must pay a one-time $50 registration fee and a $20 membership fee. Plus, they must pay $10-$12 for every hour they use the car. Signing up for the program, and renting a car for three hours will cost about $100, the same price as a resident student parking permit for a whole semester and almost $20 more than a non-resident permit.
Even for students with absolutely no access to a car there still are better alternatives to WeCar. To even be eligible for the program students must have car insurance with coverage of at least $300,000. Students can only drive a certain number of miles and may incur a myriad of fees for getting the car dirty or returning it with less than a quarter tank of gas.
Because students must pay for insurance, the cost of a parking permit and for gas and maintenance, renting a car may be as costly as actually owning one, yet the car must be shared with the entire USF campus.
There are only four cars, so to ensure the availability of one, students will have to sign up for a time slot online. A simple trip to the store would have to be planned in advance for a specific day and time. So students without cars would be more fit to take the bus or ask a friend for a ride.
Adding only four rental cars does little to alleviate transportation issues. Even if all four cars are being used at the same time, they will help fewer people than can fit on a single bus.
If the existing Bull Runner bus system had been expanded instead, they would have helped more students than adding four cars ever could.
Also, USF partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to create the WeCar program. Students would have received a much better deal a better partner been chosen.
The University of Florida has a similar car-sharing program provided by ZipCar. The annual membership fee is $35, but there is no registration fee. The hourly rate is lower and students can save money by renting a car for a whole day.
Even better than the price, UF students do not need their own insurance. ZipCar provides coverage of $300,000 per accident for students over 21 and personal injury protection if students are hurt in an accident. ZipCar is a viable transportation alternative for UF students, which is unlikely to be the case with WeCar.
To make the rental car program more appealing for students, the WeCar program must find a way to make it cheaper. It’s too late now to change partners, but more time should have been spent considering alternatives before settling on Enterprise. It is likely that this program will prove to be expensive and inefficient, as the research done will soon prove.