Downtown Kansas City residents have another compelling reason to become car-less converts.
The on-demand car rental service Zipcar is expanding its area presence to Kansas City’s downtown, providing its growing population another flexible transportation option. The international car-sharing service is beefing up local offerings — which already includes two cars at Kansas City International Airport and two at the University of Missouri-Kansas City — to offer eight cars in downtown.
“This follows Zipcar’s commitment to smart growth, starting with a few vehicles and growing based on utilization and demand,” Zipcar spokeswoman Lindsay Wester said. “Zipcar recently responded to an RFP from the City of Kansas City for dedicated municipal parking and were awarded the contract. We are currently working with the city to determine specific launch plans, but are eager to expand our ‘wheels when you want them’ service in Kansas City.”
In the next “couple months,” Wester said that the company plans to launch with eight vehicles in select locations in the downtown core. She declined to provide details on specific locations and types of available vehicles. The Kansas City Star reports that most of the locations will be along the downtown streetcar line.
“This is an option that gives people one more reason to get rid of a car, whether it’s going from two cars to one or one car to none.” – David Johnson
Zipcar’s car-sharing network is in operation in more than 500 cities around the world, offering cars and vans. Interested users must create a Zipcar account — costing $7 per month or $70 per year — which allows one to reserve cars by an hourly or daily basis.
“It’s another good indicator that this is a city on the rise and a city that’s ready to embrace the 21st century,” said Bob Bennett, Kansas City’s chief innovation officer. “We’re eager to not just participate in it, but eager to help lead it. … People enjoy the urban lifestyle and Zipcar allows us to further enhance that.”
Kansas City transportation advocate David Johnson said that he’s excited to see more transportation options become available to residents. Johnson said that the 24-hour service adds to an array of choices for Kansas Citians who can already tap Uber, the streetcar and other public transportation options.
“This is an option that gives people one more reason to get rid of a car, whether it’s going from two cars to one or one car to none,” said Johnson, who’s also an industry specialist at TranSystems. “That’s what it’s going to do for our household — we’re already down to one car — but it makes the one car we do have less of an urgent need.”
Zipcar’s expansion arrives as Kansas City is mulling changes to its ride-sharing regulations for companies like Uber. By directive of the Kansas City Council, city officials are reviewing rules drafted in April of 2015 that aim to ensure public safety and encourage business participation for “vehicle for hire” firms. Learn more about that here.
The city is now culling public input on the proposed changes, which at this point focus largely on new processes for background checks, driver permitting and operational fees. Although Kansas City officials are reviewing ride-sharing changes, it will not affect Zipcar’s local operations.
Learn more about the service below.