Students now have a new transportation option through USF WeCar, an on-campus car-sharing program provided by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
The program, which launched today, is geared toward promoting car sharing and environment friendly travel throughout the campus community, said Phil Winters, director of the Transportation Demand Management Program at the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR).
Four vehicles are available for USF students and employees to use: three Toyota Prius and one Ford Escape. There is a $10 hourly fee to use a Toyota Prius and $12 hourly fee to use the Ford Escape.
Winters said the rental fee for the Ford Escape is higher because there is only one for the entire campus. He said the rental fees include basic insurance liability and gas.
The Ford Escape and one Toyota Prius are located behind the Marshall Student Center, while two Toyota Prius are located in the Juniper-Poplar Hall parking lot.
The cars are available at any time to individuals who are registered members in the WeCar program, Winters said.
Students will not have to pay the standard “premium fee” that most rental companies charge for renters younger than 25, he said, but they will need to provide their own primary liability coverage of at least $300,000.
“We have a distinct advantage in being able to rent to students younger than 25 without the premium fee,” Winters said. “We can rent to students as young as 18 with a parent or guardian signature on a consent form.”
The consent form is available for download on the WeCar Web site, carsharing.usf.edu and is required for renters 18 to 20 years old.
There is a one-time $20 application fee for the WeCar program and an annual $50 membership fee, said Jason Hughes, manager for the WeCar program at USF.
When registering online, individuals must also agree to terms and conditions, which include additional fees.
Students can be charged for exceeding free allotted miles or receive a “Failure to Refuel Fee” of up to $30 for returning a car with less than one-fourth of a gas tank, according to the WeCar Web site.
Additional fees listed in the terms and conditions include pet, smoking and cleaning fees.
Members can reserve a WeCar rental car by logging onto the program’s Web site and selecting a time slot, Winters said. Drivers will be issued a card that can be scanned on a transponder located on the car to open the door. Once inside the car, he said, the driver can retrieve the key to the ignition.
“It will be good for those without access to vehicles to get to the store, movies and football games,” Winters said. “Hopefully faculty and staff use the fleet vehicles we provide.”
The WeCar program on campus is part of a research project for CUTR to study changes in students’ transportation habits, Winters said.
Winters said CUTR expects to receive $6,000 dollars each month in rider fees from individuals who use the WeCar vehicles. Money will help fund the research project, he said.
Winters said $533,000 total in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will help fund the research project if the expected $6,000 mark is not met. He said if CUTR receives $6,000 each month, funds from the USDOT and FDOT will not be used.
Winters said CUTR will spend two years on the research project. After those two years, it will be up to the University to decide if they want to continue the project.
Ideally, this initiative will encourage students to use existing student programs such as the free use of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) buses and the Bull Runner on campus, Winters said.
“We hope to see less students driving to campus alone and parking by themselves,” Winters said. “We’d like them to use HART and then rent a WeCar when they get to campus or need to go any place HART does not accommodate.”
– Additional reporting by Kelli Polson