Clearer Skies Ahead: Amherst College Students, Faculty and Staff are Driving “Zipcars”

August 31, 2006
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Director of Media Relations
413/542-8417

AMHERST, Mass.—Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 6, students, faculty and staff at Amherst College will have two fewer reasons to drive an inefficient private car on campus: a pair of brand-new Toyota Priuses, offered by Zipcar, the country’s largest car-sharing company. The gas-electric hybrid vehicles will reduce air pollution, decrease the number of cars on campus, reduce parking demand and provide convenient low-cost access to vehicles for students without cars.

After the college purchased two hybrid college fleet vehicles last year in an effort to reduce carbon emissions, Jim Brassord, the director of facilities management and planning at Amherst, decided that only hybrid Zipcars made sense. “We will add more Zipcars if the response is as enthusiastic as we expect from the environmentally and financially savvy Amherst College community,” says Brassord. The hybrid Priuses, which also feature XM Satellite Radio, will be conveniently parked in front of the Keefe Campus Center.

Amherst is one of three colleges nationwide that offers Zipcar access to all students aged 18 or older. Twenty-four hours a day and up to a year in advance, Zipcar members will be able to reserve a car online or by telephone. To become a member, a student, faculty member or staff member must complete an online application. Once approved by the company, he or she will receive a “Zipcard” that provides automated access to unlock and drive any Zipcar. A separate gas card is in the car’s visor. The company pays for gas, and the expense is built into the rental cost. The hourly rate for a car is $7; the daily rate is $55.

Starting with 22 cars in 1999, Zipcar now has 1,700, and estimates that each Zipcar eliminates the need for more than 20 privately owned vehicles. With more than 65,000 members and 1,700 vehicles nationwide, Zipcar estimates that it has taken 20,000 vehicles “off the road.”

Amherst College is committed to the practice of sustainability: meeting its needs for energy while preserving the ecological, social and economic systems which we all rely upon. In steps both great and small, the college tries to reduce the amount of energy consumed and the impact on the environment.

In order to burn fewer fossil fuels in college vehicles and to reduce carbon emissions, Amherst already has two hybrid vehicles in its pool. Amherst has replaced large passenger vans with mini-vans that use less gas. All heavy equipment has been converted to “bio-diesel,” a clean-burning fuel derived from agricultural products.

Even in the construction of buildings, Amherst is thinking about sustainability. Whenever possible—as when some of the oldest campus structures, North and South College, Morris Pratt and Morrow Dormitories, Appleton and Williston Hall and Charles Pratt, the geology building which is being converted to a dormitory, needed extensive modernization—existing structures are preserved and rebuilt from the inside out.

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