“Zip-a-dee-doo-dah!” outgoing Mayor Kip Holden exclaimed this morning, reveling in the official rollout of the car sharing service Zipcar in downtown Baton Rouge, as his third and final mayoral term comes to a close.
Holden rode in one of the Zipcars, a grey Honda CRV unofficially nicknamed “Kip Zip,” to the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Town Square. That vehicle, along with a red Honda Civic and a red Ford Focus, will be available to the public starting today on an hourly or daily basis for the Zipcar members.
Holden will soon hand Zipcar and a slew of other endeavors to Mayor-elect Sharon Weston Broome. A movement toward alternative transportation options is taking place, and so is a long-running push in downtown development.
Holden has overseen the introduction of plans for a bike share, TramLinkBR and downtown greenways for pedestrians, among other programs.
Zipcar, the latest such push toward diversifying the city’s transportation options, already serves LSU and the New Orleans airport and today kicked off a year-long pilot program in downtown Baton Rouge with three vehicles and a fourth Zipcar coming soon. The designated parking spots are at Florida and Main streets, Florida and Third streets, North Boulevard Town Square and North and Lafayette streets.
Users download the Zipcar mobile app, find a car and pick it up at one of the designated parking spots. The service has a $7-per-month membership fee, and hourly rates range from $8-$10 per hour, which includes gas, maintenance, insurance and 180 miles of driving.
“Different generations have different views in terms of priorities and what they like to utilize with transportation,” said Broome, who will become mayor in January. “Zipcar is part of a multimodal transportation system.”
But Broome also said she will look “holistically” about how transportation systems are developing for the entire parish, including north Baton Rouge and outlying regions in south Baton Rouge not near downtown. Planners working with the city transit system will be directed to look at the “big picture,” she said.
Holden, who met with Broome yesterday, said the best advice he can give Broome is to be patient with the new projects and development.
“The movement in this community will not allow anyone to take us in the opposite direction,” Holden said. “You gotta take your time.”
Zipcar General Manager Vilaire Lazard noted the success of the program at LSU in the past year as a reason the company decided to expand to downtown. If it goes well, he said, the company would expand its reach in Baton Rouge and add more cars.
Lazard said while car ownership is high in Baton Rouge, Zipcar will encourage more people to get rid of their vehicles and choose to use the car sharing service.
Holden, listing some of the coming alternative transportation projects, said he thinks traffic congestion and crowded parking will be alleviated as more options like Zipcar are rolled out. Low-income residents who cannot afford cars will benefit, he added.
“One mode of transportation is not going to cut it,” said Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker, whose district encompasses downtown. “We’re growing by leaps and bounds.”