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Letter To The Editor: Zipcar Actually Makes People Drive More

Zipcar claims that bringing Zipcar to a city will reduce traffic. A reader begs to differ.

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Reader Jonathan Bean took issue with our article about how Zipcar effects driving, and–more so–with the findings of the company’s survey. Here is what he had to say about why Zipcar may actually be increasing driving:

It would be worth pointing out in your article on the Zipcar research
that attitudes do not necessarily predict behavior. The claim that 72%
of Zipcar users are less likely to buy a car in the future really only
makes sense (and, in my opinion, should only be considered news) if
it’s followed up by future research that shows this to be the case.
You also should point out in your article that the survey was
commissioned by Zipcar and is thus not an independent measure; they
have a vested interest in portraying themselves as transformative or
disruptive.

It is quite easy to imagine a case where someone joins Zipcar, enjoys
the convenience of driving, and then makes a decision in the future
based either on economics (if you’re using a Zipcar more than once a
week it can be less expensive to buy a used car) or convenience (you
like driving but tire of walking three blocks to reach a Zipcar, and
you’ve got a parking space included with your rent anyway.)
Furthermore as people age and their income and life situations change
the attractiveness of car ownership may increase regardless of the
response to this survey.

I argue that Zipcar is in fact increasing car use by making this an
option for people who do not otherwise have the opportunity. In fact,
their own research shows this. Take the claim in the press release
that “eighteen percent of respondents have sold their vehicles since
joining Zipcar, and 46 percent stated that they have avoided buying a
car”. This means that 82% of respondents did not have a car and are
now driving on a limited basis. Likewise the 54% of people who have
not avoided buying a car appear now to be driving as an option. Thus,
Zipcar is making car use go up, not down.

[Image: Flickr user fredcamino]

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