While most students walk or take SEPTA around campus and the city, others prefer to travel on four wheels.
In addition to popular car-sharing services such as Zipcar and PhillyCarShare, some students bring their own vehicles to campus.
Many find using a car on campus to be convenient and cost-saving.
Wheels on demand
Zipcar and PhillyCarShare are doubling their presence on Penn’s campus in response to student demand.
Penn, which has one of the largest Zipcar programs in the greater Philadelphia area with 8 cars, has a very “enthusiastic member base,” Colleen McCormick, Zipcar spokesperson said.
“We’ve seen the demand here at Penn, primarily with the student users grow quite a bit,” Brian Shaw, Director of Business Services at Penn, said.
Shaw explained that Penn monitors student requests for Zipcar memberships and that “it literally never stops. ”Zipcar recently added four cars on campus and PhillyCarShare also has plans to add cars in addition to four electric charging stations.
Shaw explained that both programs will add the vehicles to Garage 40, the parking lot where the Fresh Grocer is located, “which is really great for students.”
“There will be 4 Chevy Bolts parked there that will be part of the PhillyCarShare program that will be using the charging stations to maintain their battery-powered engines and let people try that type of vehicle,” Shaw said.
Wharton sophomore Andrew Yi signed up for a Zipcar membership at the beginning of the semester at a cheaper-than-normal rate, due to a promotion on Living Social, which he combined with the discounted pricing that Penn students usually get. However, Yi explained, he has only used the service three times this semester although several of his friends use his membership occasionally.
Vivek Sharma, an Engineering junior, explained that he used to use PhillyCarShare about once a month to do a lot of his grocery shopping. “The cost of buying groceries in bulk plus paying for a car rental was still cheaper (and more convenient) than buying the groceries at Fresh Grocer and having to walk them back to my dorm,” Sharma wrote in an email. “I also have used PCS to help move big items like furniture or even visit off-campus places like the King of Prussia mall.”
One complaint Sharma had with PCS is that often some of the vehicles were dirty, dented or had mechanical problems. Sharma switched to renting cars from Hertz this year after finding out that they are able to rent cars to users under 21 at cheaper prices.
“I’ve reported cars not being back on time, I’ve reported cars not having gas in it, and I’ve recorded cars that are dirty or damaged,” Shaw said of PhillyCarShare. “But that’s how it keeps up because for me I don’t need car sharing but I want it to be around. It helps me both personally and it helps me with things at Penn so I want it to work.”
Cars from home
Although the number of students and faculty using a car sharing service is on the rise, many students still prefer to have their own cars on campus. College senior Alex Glass explained that when one of his housemates was unsure if he wanted to bring his car to campus, he and his housemates all decided to share the car and split the costs of parking and gas. “We call [the car] Delicious because she’s got a big trunk, like a really big butt,” he said. “It’s religiously called Delicious or Delish for short. No one ever calls it the car, which is super weird, but it is what it is.”
Glass explained that he mainly enjoys having the convenience of the car for running errands downtown. “We don’t really need it obviously because we haven’t used PhillyCarShare or anything in past years, but just having it makes everything way more convenient and less stressful,” he said.
Some of his roommates also drive it to Huntsman when they don’t feel like walking. “It seems stupid but if you really don’t feel like walking and you can get there in two minutes, there’s no reason not to do it. It’s super nice,” Glass said.
Both Wharton senior Jeff Westcott and College senior Drew Kramer live in nearby states and brought their cars from home because of the added convenience of traveling to and from their homes to Penn.
Westcott, who doesn’t pay for a parking spot, said that it’s difficult to find parking spots on weekdays. He is also wary of the “property risk” that comes with owning a car in West Philadelphia.
For example, a few weeks ago when Westcott was driving, he was motioned to pull aside because his gas cap was open. “Not only was the cap open but the whole thing was unscrewed and when I checked my gas meter and it was lower, so someone had siphoned my gas,” he said. “That kind of stuff doesn’t happen often but that’s just something to keep in mind.”
Westcott, Glass and Kramer all agreed that having a car on campus improved their understanding of Philadelphia.
“I have really learned a lot about Philly from being able to drive around here,” Kramer said. “I run a lot of errands for different clubs and a fraternity, so that brings me around Philly a lot. It’s definitely easier than SEPTA.”
“I kind of have a better understanding of Philadelphia and I feel like I actually know the city much more than before,” Glass said. “I can understand where something is relative to other places and that kind of thing.”
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