Greater City Providence

Zipcar to open office in Providence, expand local fleet


Photo courtesy of City of Providence

The City of Providence and Zipcar announced today that the car share company will open an office in the city and expand it’s fleet of vehicles here.

The car sharing company started several years ago offering several cars to members of the Brown University community. Recently it has expanded to serving both RISD and Johnson & Wales and also has several cars located at the Biltmore Garage (formerly the Parkade) on Washington Street.

With the companies expansion into the Providence market, cars will now be available on Exchange Street near the train station, Traverse Street north of Wickenden, and South Main Street near Power Street. The company will be looking at other areas with high foot traffic to locate vehicles. The fleet will include, Honda Civic, Toyota Prius, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Matrix, Scion xB, Honda Insight and others.

“Providence’s partnership with Zipcar is a significant step towards our goal of providing a greener and more sustainable environment for our residents. It is also a great example of increased business expansion into Providence and a boost to our local economy through job creation,” said Mayor Taveras. “Zipcar is already popular with the Providence community through its program with local universities, and we believe that by expanding the availability of car sharing throughout the city, we are providing convenient transportation options that will not only reduce the city’s demand for parking, but also aid in reducing harmful emissions.”

In addition to memberships for individuals and Universities, Zipcar also offers a “Zipcar for Business” (Z4B) program, which currently has more than 10,000 business accounts. Zipcar will launch the Providence program with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the state’s leading health insurance provider and Rhode Island Housing, the state’s leading resource for housing needs, as two of the first Z4B programs in the market. Z4B is targeted at helping businesses save money, meet environmental sustainability goals and reduce parking requirements by providing their employees with access to Zipcars for business meetings and more.

I maintain, that a robust car-sharing network is what we need in Providence before a bike share network. Providing the means for people to gradually transition away from car-ownership (or second car-ownership) makes people more willing to investigate other transit options.

Say a family gives up their second because they have acces to a car share. Now that they no longer have that second car, they may also now consider walking, riding their bike, and using public transit. And now that they’ve reduced their dependence on their car, they become an advocate for alternative means of transportation.

Personally, I’ve been a member of Zipcar since last year, but I have not yet used the service. I’ve needed cars for longer periods to go longer distances than is economical for Zipcar. It is really built for short trips. Has anyone else used Zipcar? How has the experience been?

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • I’ve been using ZipCar in Providence for a year, and I’m very excited to see the expansion. We have one car, but not the two that a family of 4 would often need. I don’t think twice about using a ZipCar on the infrequent occasions that we need a second car. I love it. I’ve even used it overnight since it’s just that much easier than a traditional rental car, even though it’s a bit more expensive (although, is it? ZipCar rates include gas and insurance).

    My request to ZipCar: more vans and maybe some pickup trucks… ZipCar is perfect for larger-than-my-car trips to the lumberyard or to pick up something big from Craigslist!

  • I’ve been a member since shortly after moving here, back when it was just 6 cars in at Brown. Rental has been extremely easy, though the cost adds up quickly. I still use rentals from the airport for long term (cheaper rates), but after factoring in insurance and fuel, Zipcar’s daily rates are actually pretty competitive.

    There have been cars at Biltmore, Regency Plaza and Exchange Terrace (outside BCBS) for a couple of months now. I’ve never had an issue with vehicle maintenance or availability and only once had a vehicle with a nearly empty tank from the prior zipster. I’ve also gotten hit with a late charge once and now make darn sure I get back on time, or over reserve. My only wish is for a way to return the car early and get a partial refund for unused reservation time.

    And I agree, a robust car share with a lot of pickup locations is a lot more useful than bike share (*gasp*, yep a bike advocate said it).

  • I use ZipCar on and off. I’m not a student. But I live on the eastside. In fact just today I reserved one for a business meeting in southern ri! It’s perfect for short meetings and tasks. Like shopping at walmart. Actually my brother offered his car to me but with paying for parking insurance and gas. And the fact that I walk to work and use RIPTA. It is too costly. I pay more in rent living in providence but I like it better than say commuting in and having a high fixed expense.

  • My wife and i share a car – otherwise I use a bicycle. i find uhaul is a good deal when occasionally renting a van or a pickup. I just plan to do all of those errands on the same day and it works out well for us. The vehicles are newish too.

  • My wife and I used to share a car. We just bought a second car earlier this year. Had Zipcar been expanded in Providence sooner, we probably wouldn’t have had the need to buy a second car, but I will say that concentrating only on downtown and the East Side does ignore a large population of people. I would rather see them strategically place the cars around the city. It’s not as easy for people in the northwestern part of the city to get downtown, especially on weekends when we’re more likely going to want that second car.

    But it’s a great thing that they’ve expanded in Providence, and it’s much better than a bike share program. I think the vast majority of people who want to bike in the city already have bikes, as they’re cheap to own. But there are large numbers of people who can’t have a car or a second car for various reasons.

  • I’ve had a ZipCar membership for a few months and haven’t used it yet. We have one cranky old car for two of us but we do most of our commuting via bike. Threatening our unreliable car with our ZipCar membership seemed to make the 92 wagon behave for awhile — but it may have given up as of this morning. So my ZipCar usage may go up shortly.

    Two things I wish:
    1. That ZipCar did have an affordable option for 2-day trips (though I understand the logistical concern of car availability).
    2. And that it be mandatory to have locking bike storage at each ZipCar area while they only have limited locations (written as a West Sider).

  • Deb, I agree, and I would add having couples accounts. The one time recently ZipCar would have worked perfectly, was when my boyfriend had to go to Taunton. But I have an account, he does not, and he cannot drive on my account. And we are not going to pay for two annual memberships.

  • I am a bike commuter and signed up for zipcar a month ago. I have used it once and loved it. I’ve rented cars before and zipcar was just so much easier and cheaper for someone like me who doesn’t have insurance.
    However, I agree that it needs wider-spread locations. I live on the west side. There are a lot of other bike commuters here that I imagine would be into zipcar if it were slightly more convenient.

  • West Side would be a natural location. There are a LOT of folks on the West Side that only have bikes and could really use the occasional car to go to Target or Grocery shopping. I know folks in Boston that use Zipcar a lot and they just rave about it.

  • My understanding is they want to expand swiftly in the city and the West Side is very much on the radar as far as expansion.

  • Not knowing if there are age restrictions like there are for traditional rentals, I think a location by Providence College would also be beneficial. There is a large population of students and faculty (including JWU and RIC students) in the neighborhood. Many of the students do not have cars, and many of the faculty only have a single car.

  • As a new member, I was researching Zipcar and how it works. Am I correct… they now have three locations on the West Side?

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