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Zipcar rentals come to Valparaiso

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Valparaiso University has formally announced their relationship with Zipcar, Inc. the world's leading car-sharing network. Currently two cars, available for rent, are parked outside the Harre Union on campus. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 26, 2012 8:09AM

VALPARAISO — Ben Fischer had the privilege of being the first person in the community to check out one of the two Zipcars now stationed on the Valparaiso University campus.

Fischer rented the Toyota Prius — the other is a Ford Focus — for two hours on Saturday. He went shopping and grabbed a bite to eat. Fischer graduated from VU in August and now is a web programmer in the university’s marketing department.

He doesn’t own a car and has been able to get around thanks to friends and roommates, but liked the no-hassle online Zipcar reservations enough that he will do it again.

“While I was driving it, it felt like it was mine,” he said Tuesday, “but you do have to bring it back when you’re done.”

The two cars are stationed in parking lot 14, behind the Harre Union. They’ve been available to students, faculty, staff and the community for about a week now.

The car-sharing program is available on more than 250 university campuses, including the University of Notre Dame and Purdue University, and similar programs are available in many metropolitan areas.

“It provides some freedom and flexibility to our students who come to campus without a car,” to go to job interviews and other off-camps activities, said Nancy Murray, the university’s director of procurement. “Zipcar and the university both are working toward sustainability and preserving our environment, so the addition of Zipcars to our campus is a big plus.”

The effort to bring the cars to campus started about 18 months ago, and the city of Valparaiso kicked in $10,000 to help fund the project.

The campus will hold an open house for the cars from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 27 at the union. More information on the cars can be found at

Murray expects demand for the cars to increase as more people find out about them.

Students can rent them at age 18, though community members must be 21. Whether Zipcar adds more cars depends on how much people use the Focus and the Prius.

“Zipcar will monitor the activity of these cars, and (the addition of cars) will be deemed by usage,” Murray said.

The cars are a cool thing to have on campus, said junior biology major Chris Bradley, who’s from Merrillville. Though he has a car on campus now, Bradley said he would have used a Zipcar his first two years at VU if one had been available.

“It’s a new layer of freedom, especially for freshmen,” he said.

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