A car sharing service popular in large cities around the world has arrived in Memphis. But will it work in a car-oriented town like the Bluff City?
If you live or work downtown and ever needed a car for a few hours or even a day, Zipcar is for you. You pay by the hour, and Zipcar pays the gas, insurance, and maintenance.
There are four Zipcars that make up the Memphis fleet of the car-sharing service. The Zipcars were unveiled Thursday in Court Square downtown along the Main Street trolley line. It's a pilot program for Zipcar to test the Memphis market.
"I think it's worth seeing if Memphis is ready for this and maybe some people are willing to give up their car keys and try this service," said Paul Morris of the Downtown Memphis Commission, who helped attract the program to Memphis.
ZipCar's business model is to locate in large population dense areas with robust public transportation. That doesn't exactly describe Memphis, so who will use this service?
Morris sees the typical customers to be someone who now only uses public transit, someone who bikes or walks to work, or a couple or family with just one car.
"When they did a tour of downtown and we showed them the demographics and the trend lines - which is more and more people moving downtown and more and more people walking and biking to get to work - when they saw that they said, 'This model might work in Memphis,'" he said.
Thursday's launch party in Court Square already had people signing up.
"If I had to go somewhere the bus route didn't go, this would be perfect for me," said Robert Blake, who lives in the medical district and doesn't own a car.
A Zipcar membership costs $60 a year. The membership includes a Zipcard to unlock your car. The keys are attached to the ignition. You can reserve the Zipcar online or via its Zipcar app.
Zipcar is offering a deal of $60 of free drive time. The deal pays for the yearly membership fee. Click here to download the coupon.
If you wanted to rent the Zipcar, it costs $7.50 per hour or $69 for the whole day. Gas and insurance is included.
"The expense of owning a car if you add it all up with insurance, parking, maintenance, depreciation, is pretty enormous," Morris said. "In fact, it's the most expensive cost most people have. This will allow some people to not bear that cost."
Two Zipcars will be parked on Gayoso between Main and Second. The two other Zipcars will be parked on South main at Huling. When you are done with renting the cars, they must be returned to their designated spots. The spots were provided by the city of Memphis.
No other incentives were offered in the pilot.
Zipcar has committed to three years in Memphis.
"Whether they're going to stay here long term depends on whether people want to use it," Morris said. "If Memphians don't like it, they'll go away."
$60 FREE DRIVING PROMO CODE: MEMPHISDRIVE