If only Zipcar had existed when I lived in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich., as I had for most of my adult life.
How many days I walked out the front door, saw my car parked on a concrete slab and tried to remember when I had last started it. I could walk just about anywhere I needed to go, except the dentist's or the supermarket -- which is where Zipcar comes in.
The creators of this service had people like me in mind. I was one of those folks living in a dense urban area or on a college campus, for whom having a car is more nuisance than convenience. You have to own it all the time even if you only need it once or twice a week. And the insurance and maintenance and car payment meters keep running, even when the car sits.
I actually did the math once, many years ago, and found it would be significantly cheaper to meet my transportation needs by using buses and cabs when walking was out of the question. But that meant using buses and cabs. I kept the car.
That was then. Now there's a vastly more attractive option. Based on test driving the service for a few days, plus chatting with seven other Zipsters who had used it in San Francisco; Philadelphia; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Somerville, Mass., as well as Ann Arbor, I'm pretty sure I'd be joining the "over 40 percent of our members [who] either sell their car or stop a purchasing decision of a car because of Zipcar," according to an e-mail from Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith congratulating me after my first rental.
If I still lived downtown, that is. As with real estate, the three key elements of Zipcar are location, location, location.
Its vehicles can be picked up at 11 sites in Ann Arbor, up from three just 2 1/2 years ago. Several of them are within a few blocks of my former downtown digs, but the one nearest my current house is a hair under a mile away.
As several members pointed out, the main obstacle to using a Zipcar is getting to one in the first place. The better the public transportation system, the easier the Zipster life. Ann Arbor's transit system is awfully good for a town of its size, but the nearest bus stop to me is almost as far as the nearest Zipcar.