Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Car sharing comes to USF St. Petersburg

Pinellas County's first car-sharing service launched Tuesday in St. Petersburg, where officials say a younger, denser downtown has created a new niche for on-demand cars.

The hourly and daily rental program is starting small with a fleet of two: a white Nissan Cube and a steel-gray Fiat 500. They'll be parked inside a University of South Florida St. Petersburg garage on Third Street S.

But while the service may have modest beginnings, city officials expect it to grow in the next few years as more apartments crop up and younger residents move to the area.

"Right now we have nine housing projects downtown that will add 2,000 people in the next 18 months," City Council chairman Karl Nurse said after a news conference on campus. "Most of them actually are within walking distance — comfortable walking distance — of where we are right now."

Nurse said he would be surprised if six car-sharing sites weren't up and running in the downtown area within three years.

Mayor Bill Foster envisions the cars being rented for quick shopping runs and day trips to the beach. He told a Tampa Bay Times reporter that bike-sharing also "is on the horizon" for St. Petersburg, adding that city officials have been contacted by would-be vendors.

"I do think there's renewed interest," Foster said.

The car-sharing service is run by WeCar, a division of the rental agency Enterprise. It operates four other sites in Florida, including a three-car detail at USF's flagship campus in Tampa. St. Petersburg students began signing up for memberships with WeCar on Feb. 1, with registration opening to the public in coming weeks.

About 800,000 people across the nation use car-shares from businesses like WeCar, said Kyle Sabie, corporate rental manager. He estimates that each car is used by 65 to 70 drivers and takes 10 vehicles off the road.

While a spin in the Nissan or Fiat is substantially cheaper than a new car, it's not a free ride. Annual WeCar membership runs $35, and drivers pay for seat time: Rates begin at $8.50 an hour, $70 a day, and $30 overnight, including gas and insurance.

Drivers merely have to reserve the vehicles online, then swipe their membership cards against an electronic windshield sensor to unlock the cars.

The minimum age to become a member is 18, seven years younger than the age more typical rental car agencies will serve. The only caveat is that anyone younger than 21 will need parental consent.

Julie Bond, senior research associate at the USF Center for Urban Transportation Research, said St. Petersburg students have been asking for car rental options for years but were met with hesitation from car-sharing operators. Their thinking was, "This might not be your best place to go in and make money," Bond recalled.

Part of what tipped WeCar in their direction was a grant from Florida's transportation department. WeCar needs about $1,200 per vehicle to break even each month — the same amount Florida is providing for one year.

For the second car, USF has agreed to pay up to $600 of WeCar's $1,200 investment if membership and driving fees don't cover the cost.

But USF thinks that won't be a problem; Bond and interim chancellor Bill Hogarth said they expect plenty of people to sign up.

WeCar does, too.

The company's Tampa site originally had four cars, but scaled back to three when too few students signed up to justify the cost. But John Shafer, director of business rental sales at Enterprise Holdings, sees a better scenario playing out across the bay.

Downtown St. Petersburg is more densely populated, with fewer students driving long distances and keeping their cars on campus with them all day, Shafer said.

Before expanding at USF St. Petersburg, WeCar will monitor the mile logs of the first two cars.

On Tuesday, St. Petersburg students already were monitoring the Fiat and the Cube. While the mayor may have been picturing grocery runs and beach trips, 20-year-old Trevor Salmon had something else in mind.

"I could definitely see students using it if they want to pick up their dates in something nicer," Salmon said.

Contact Lisa Gartner at lgartner@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8707. You can also follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).

Car sharing comes to USF St. Petersburg 02/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 10:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday

    Blogs

    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102