Wednesday, November 11, 2009

not hipster... zipster yo.

Oh.Em.Gee. I am not a fan of excessive use of this phrase, but sadly that is what is coming to mind. ZIPCAR IS COMING TO UVA.

For those of you who are not familiar with Zipcar, it's a carsharing company that charges hourly rates and covers your gas and insurance. They have one of the largest fleets: over 6,500 vehicles throughout North America and the UK. You reserve a car, pick it up at a reserved spot, do your thing, and then drop it off at the same spot. It's super easy to reserve a car, and you have a choice among Minis, pick up trucks, BMWs, hybrids and more! UVa is going to offer three hybrid Honda Insights and three Honda Civics starting November 17. The hourly weekday rate is $8 and weekend rate is $9, as well as an annual $35 fee to be a member.

Did I mention that Zipcar has its own slang and promotes a "lifestyle"? (Good. Clean. Fun. anyone?) You can also be a

zip•ster (zĭp′ster) n. slang


: One who uses Zipcar. A gender neutral term for a person (or people: Zipsters) who believe in cost-effective transportation solutions that are good for the planet and easy on the wallet.

That sounds extremely catchy and attractive. Wouldn't you want to be a zipster?

Introducing the big news two days ago, UVa Today Blog lauds Zipcar as a step towards "[decreasing] the number of vehicles on Grounds and help [reducing] parking demand and associated congestion." Well, I'm glad that they noticed the problem! There was ridiculous traffic during the U2 Concert and Saturday football games, where parking is nigh impossible.

I also mentioned that Zipcar promotes a greener lifestyle. They devote an entire page to Green Benefits and how the "idea is bigger than all us." Today, in American politics class, Professor Doneson talked about American moralism and how it is a unique take on virtue. Essentially, he argues that virtue in America was different from virtue in Europe. In Europe, virtue meant suffering, sacrifice and asceticism, while in America, virtue is a form of self-interest: we do well by being good to others. For example, doing community service is great for the community, but it also helps us get into college. In the same way, I was struck by the way Zipcar promoted a greener planet. It's good for the planet, but it's good for you too! By saving money (and the planet), you have an extra $500 a month, which could be "put back into [your] community by buying local and sustainable products" (Zipcar Website). According to Tocqueville (and not just any critical French commentator!), Americans are attracted to the easy and convenient way of doing things. Even on the UVa Today blog, Zipcar is described as a "convenient, economical, and environmentally responsible alternative to owning a car." Those are three adjectives about which no one can argue.

Therefore, I must congratulate Zipcar and UVa on recognizing this American tendency (albeit probably differently than I did in politics class) and encouraging a planet-and-wallet-friendly mode of transportation. I would argue that college students are the epitome of the American need for ease and convenience. Introducing the zipcar to UVA is probably one of the best decisions since [reusable] to-go boxes!