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UofSC teams up with Enterprise on a carshare program

Navigating campus without a car is a breeze, but getting around our city without four wheels and an engine? Not so much.

To ease the hassle of getting to the far-flung areas of Columbia for work or fun, the university has teamed up with Enterprise Rent-A-Car to create a carshare system you can access from campus. We decided to take one out for a spin to see how painless the process is.

Enterprise has a dedicated website where you can sign up.

During the application process you will need to provide your university email address, current mailing address, driver's license information, a picture of you with your license, an emergency contact and a valid credit/debit card for billing. People under 25 are able to rent these cars, but you have to have a license, no instructional permits allowed. 

After you input all that information, your card will be charged $32, which is credited to your carshare account and covers four hours of car rental. Now you wait on snail mail to deliver your membership card, which unlocks your rental — literally. All you do is press your card to a sensor on the front windshield of the car and it unlocks. The keys are in the glove compartment and the car has a push-button starter.

So, protect your membership card like you would a credit card or the keys to a car because that’s what it is.

There are two 2018 Nissan Sentras fully loaded — backup camera, front proximity sensor, Bluetooth audio — so much technology, they almost drive themselves (but what’s the fun of that?). You pick up and return the cars to the parking lot behind the Byrnes building at Sumter and College streets.

We were able to walk up and check out a car, but you can guarantee one is available by using the CarShare app  (Apple, Google Play) to make a reservation. In the span of an hour, we drove to Trenholm Plaza, passing the new Lowes Foods and Trader Joe’s along the way, and got there in about 15 minutes.

Next up, Target on Garners Ferry Road (because we go there a least once every weekend) — less than 10 minutes from Trenholm Plaza and only 15 minutes back to campus. Want to make a Wal-Mart run? It’s also only 15 minutes away in West Columbia.

Once you are at your destination, remember the meter is still running on the car rental, so don’t waste time. Also, once you go over to a second hour, you pay for the whole hour, so plan your trip accordingly.

“You only stop getting charged when the car returns to campus in its spot,” says Koby Padgett, UofSC parking and facilities communications manager.

For our whirl around town, we set our time limit to one hour and kept checking our travel times during our trip.

If you need the car for a whole day or a weekend, you can get a daily rate, which is less per hour than the hourly rate when broken down over 24 hours. Weekends will cost a little more because of higher demand.

One of the coolest features is that the gas is included in the rental cost. If the car needs gas, use the provided gas card — also in the glove compartment — to fill up. You don’t have to stop for gas if you don’t need to, but be mindful of the next driver and don’t leave him or her an empty tank. 

The program is in its early stages and the number of available cars and pickup/drop-off locations will depend on how much people use them. And it’s not just for students: UofSC faculty and staff can sign up, too.

“It’s just an addition to the portfolio of things that we do to help students get around town,” Padgett says. “The more our campus community uses these cars, the more we can make available.”

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