After two years of being on campus, the UCar Share program has become a disappointment for most students who use it.
In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and give students more transportation options, Mills College implemented the U Car Share service on campus in 2010.
The car sharing service is affiliated with U-Haul, a nationwide company with a fleet of rental moving vehicles. U Car Share members have access to vehicles in 30 campuses and dozens of cities across America.
Niviece Robinson, Assistant Director of Campus Security said Mills chose U Car Share because it is one of the few programs that allows individuals under 21 to rent vehicles in the bay area.
To utilize the service, U Car Share members pay a one-time $25 registration fee and then pay as they go. Rental times can be as short as half an hour or as long as three days, and members are charged hourly or daily rates, starting at $4.95 an hour plus 49 cents a mile.
According to the company website, all of the cars in the U Car Share fleet are energy efficient, and all rentals include full insurance coverage, roadside assistance, and a gas card that works like a credit card at any gas station.
The online self-service rental process for UCar Share is meant to make reservations easy. Members login, select their location, choose an available vehicle, input the amount of time they want the vehicle for, and then choose a 7-digit access code. The code is then inputted to the keypad on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The ignition key is tethered to the ignition inside the car.
As of press time, reserving a Mills College UCar online was not an option due to an error message stating that all cars at this location are down for maintenance. Although reservations were not possible, a designated UCar vehicle has been observed coming and going on campus, suggesting that UCar members are using the car without making a reservation.
Robinson said in an email that she was unaware of this error message and that UCar Share had not notified her of scheduled maintenance.
“I have no notice from U Car Share that both cars are out of service. We normally receive a notice when they are taking the car(s) out of service and if there isn’t a car available to replace our car during the time the vehicle is out for servicing,” Robinson said.
Robinson said Mills currently has two cars on campus, but that the reservations of the vehicles are handled independently from Mills college through U Car share.
Jordan Black, a representative at UCar share, said he did not know how many vehicles UCar Share have dispatched to Mills but that the college would be getting new UCars in the future.
Mills students who are members of the U Car Share service insist there is currently only one available car on campus due to a car accident involving one of the two vehicles.
Mills students Erika Chau and Tracy Colstead were in the car the night of the accident. According to Colstad, Chau provided the other driver with the U Car Share insurance information and then called U Car Share’s customer service and obtained approval to have the vehicle they were driving towed. “The car wasn’t drivable at all,” Colstad said.
Colstad has accompanied Chau on several other outings using U Car Share and said she would recommend the car share service, but not as a dependable method of transportation.
“It’s nice to have as an option on campus, but you’d have to plan accordingly… because of availability issues and the hassle with the door code,” Colstad said.
Diana Arbas, an education graduate student completing her final year at Mills, said she also experienced entry code issues. “I never got in the car on the first try” she said, “which was really inconvenient time-wise since you’re still being charged for the time spent just trying to get in the car,” Arbas said.
Arbas registered with U Car Share in the fall of 2010 and found it lacking in comparison to City Car Share, a similar car sharing service she used before transfering to Mills. “U Car Share was really disappointing and unreliable,” she said, “I wish City Car Share had locations near campus.”
When she registered with U Car Share, Arbas was doing volunteer work at a high school in the Oakland hills. She was initially excited to have access to a car share service right on campus but was disappointed with how inconsistent the service turned out to be.
“It wasn’t worth it,” Arbas said, “sometimes the car wouldn’t be there at the time I reserved it, and their customer service people were negative and unfriendly whenever I called in an issue.”
Besides issues with the keypad, Arbas also experienced other technical glitches. “The alarm goes off randomly,” she said, “which is really embarrassing when you have no way of turning it off.” Arbas also reported issues with upkeep relating to expired tags or license plates.
As a result of having access to only one shared car on campus, Arbas was often late for work or other appointments. Frustrated, she emailed U Car Share’s customer service asking the company to replace the missing vehicle.
Arbas shared the email, in which she wrote “When I first joined your program in Fall 2010, there were two U Car vehicles on campus….how can we bring that second car back?”
As of press time, Arbas has not received a reply from U Car Share regarding her email.
Further attempts to reach a UCar share representative or liaison to Mills was unsuccessful.