NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Residents of New Brunswick, including students at Rutgers University, now have a new option for getting around.
Enterprise has teamed up with the city's parking authority to offer a car-sharing service, for the first time since ZipCar pulled out the Hub City a few years ago.
Like ZipCar, Enterprise CarShare specializes in urban areas and college campuses, places where people get off transit and need to get to places outside of transit-friendly areas.
The service is more expensive, but also more convenient than renting through an existing Enterprise branch location, thanks to an automated system that allows or cars to be reserved online and both locked and unlocked with a digital device.
After analyzing the results of an Enterprise-sponsored car-sharing survey conducted by the New Brunswick Parking Authority, the two organizations teamed up to launch the new service on May 15.
For a limited time, the new program is offering New Brunswick members a promotion to join for $25, and CarShare will waive the first-year membership fee. Drivers can sign up online at www.enterprisecarshare.com/joinnb.
“As of Sunday we have 16 signups (pretty good for the first week) and 2 rental transactions over the weekend,” said Mitch Karon, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Parking Authority.
"[Enterprise is] pleased with the start," Karon told NBToday.
Enterprise is one of the country's biggest car rental companies, and it owns several others including National Rent-a-car, a tenant at the Parking Authority's new Easton Avenue highrise and attached parking garage.
That location, known as the Gateway parking facility, is one of two NBPA garages that offer the CarShare service. The other, known as the Morris Street deck, is connected to the Rockoff Hall dormitory on George Street.
New Brunswick has been increasing development and making it harder to park on the street, as it builds its state-sponsored "transit village" within a half-mile radius of the downtown train station.
Previously the city's only traditional Enterprise location was located on Route 27 near How Lane, far from public transportation.
Among other changes, in recent years, the NBPA has increased the time limit on some College Avenue parking spaces, thus reducing potential turnover, and either temporarily or permanently removed metered spaces to accomodate the city's numerous construction projects.
Rates have also been hiked across the board, at nearly every metered and public garage space in town.
Not only is parking on the streets becoming increasingly more precious, according to Parking Authority director Mitch Karon, but many residents don't own cars at all.
He said the new CarShare service creates a potential market of people who might rent, rather than own, cars.
Karon hopes to expand the program in upcoming months, if it is successful, and eventually have the program available all over town.
"I am confident that [the CarShare] program will be successful and ultimately will be extended so that cars can be picked up and dropped off throughout the city."
The longtime NBPA Executive Director pointed out that Enterprise CarShare has proven to be competitive in cost and also friendly to the environment in other cities.
"Car sharing in New Brunswick will cater to the needs of college students and visitors alike, as it offers an alternative means of transportation for those who do not have accessibility to a vehicle or prefer not to deal with the expense of owning one."
Harry Delgado, the authority's operations director, summarized what the Parking Authority was expecting to happen: "More people take advantage of CarShare… which leads to fewer vehicles on the street, hence, more available spaces. In addition, car sharing reduces the incentive to drive compared to car ownership."
The aim is to reduce the number of cars in use, and the demand for parking, on New Brunswick streets, which would translate into less car traffic and better ability to get around New Brunswick overall.
Because buses use the same streets as cars, less traffic would also benefit, create fewer chances for automobile crashes, and more elbow room for bicyclists.
Decreasing the need for new parking spaces could also limit the impact of new developments that are built.
However, traffic could also increase due to the search for scarcer parking spaces.
The shared cars are a compromise between owning a car and not owning a car. One has access to a car, but it may be further away. It could end up being either more or less expensive, depending on how often one uses a vehicle, how expensive it is to obtain a regular parking space, and the make and model of the car in question.
The rate's in New Brunswick's CarShare program are higher than the rates normally charged at other Enterprise locations.
Nonetheless, some of the more expensive costs of car usage like auto repairs, permanent parking, and maintenance do not directly fall upon the consumer.
Car sharing could also be attractive to the city's many visitors, providing easier access from New Brunswick to the suburbs and back, once people get off the bus or train, or arrive in Hub City via a different mode of transportation.
The Gateway deck location is convenient to travelers from New York City, or Newark Airport, while the Morris Street Deck is a short walk from the Heldrich Hotel.
Cars will be rentable by the hour, the day, and the overnight period, and rental reservations will be accessible by cell phone, computer, or tablet, as well as in person.
Ryan Johnson, an assistant vice president of Enterprise CarShare, has pledged that customer service will be "first-rate" and that the cars will be "up-to-date", presumably indicating cars that are reasonably new.
Johnson expects car-sharing to expand due to continuing urbanization, with car-sharing becoming an increasingly more important in local transportation systems.