Car-sharing program makes it easier and more eco-friendly to zip around Myrtle Beach

For Weekly SurgeOctober 1, 2013 

CCU staffer Jody Davis checks out the Zipcar, a new transportation option being offered students, faculty and staff. Courtesy photo.

Sustainable transportation is a foreign concept to some of us, especially when there is a lack of options.

The definition of sustainable transportation, or green transportation, centers on the lowest amount of environmental impact. The most obvious means of sustainable transportation would include walking and cycling. While it’s deadly to walk or bike between some Horry County destinations, such as between Conway and Myrtle Beach, you can take advantage of pedaling it beachside or within a downtown area. Other versions of green transit includes green cars, car sharing or public transit in that such means are fuel-efficient, spacing-saving and sometimes, money-saving.

Nationwide, more than 777,000 people rode bicycles as their primary means of traveling to-and-from work last year, according to the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey. I would totally ride my bike to work, if I didn’t have two kids to escort around. The two main areas for biking to work in the Palmetto State include Columbia and Charleston. Myrtle Beach - surprise, surprise - did not make the list.

Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular travel destinations on the East Coast, yet, how do most of the visitors arrive? By car, by SUV, by RV and a few, by plane. Then, how do they all travel throughout the area once here? By car, by SUV and some mopeds. I’m not a fan of mopeds. Anyway, there really is a huge lack of options.

Let’s face it, we look for reliable and easy, not sustainable options to get us from here to there. Yet, our options are sucking gas and releasing carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. We don’t need to wonder why traffic is horrendous on U.S. 501 on Sunday afternoons. It’s also scary to learn that in 2012, there were 47 traffic fatalities in Horry County so far there have been 41 such fatalities on our roadways in 2013, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.  

The few, and I mean the very few, sustainable options that we do have include Coast RTA and Zipcar. Coast RTA offers several multi-passenger vehicles ranging from 18-passenger to 40-passenger buses. The public transit agency offers routes from Conway to Myrtle Beach and some to Georgetown. However Coast RTA’s Web site hasn’t been updated since last year, so it’s hard to know when and where buses depart and arrive currently.   

Zipcar, meanwhile, recently landed in the Myrtle Beach area, at the airport and Coastal Carolina University. Zipcar, an Avis venture that is a part of a national car sharing program, allows you to rent a car by the hour, by the weekend or longer. However, it seems to work best for short trips. At the university, as long as customers are CCU students, they can become members of Zipcar and rent the car to run errands or go out with friends. The university requires students to live on campus during their first and second year, so many don’t come to school with cars. Zipcar is an easy, convenient alternative, especially for students who don’t want to bum a ride from their roommates all the time.

One of the best things about the company is how self-serving the program can be to its members and it’s completely membership-based. You can book the car, borrow the car and gas up the car, all without having to speak to a real live person. All the reservations are virtual, through the Web site or your smart phone. Of course, there is a number to call in case of problems.

Zipcar runs its company so easy that even the university doesn’t have to do anything, but offer parking spaces for the cars. There are two Zipcars at the university, one being a Chevy Volt named “VayCay” and the other is Ford Focus named “Memorial.” Yes, Zipcar actually has names for their cars. The airport also has two Zipcars, a Toyota Prius named “Pimlico” and a Hyundai Elantra named “Sharp.” Zipcar can surely mix it up and change the cars.

So, I had to look up this naming thing and apparently, Zipcar has regular Facebook naming contests for new cars added to its fleets. Most recently, during the contest to name a Ford Focus, some of the suggestions in the comments included: Chicken Nugget, Conquest and Felix. Zipcar said its liked Focus Pocus or Vanilla Cupcake. I was inspired to name our family’s car fleet, so we have Damon, my dark gray Camry; Green Lantern, my husband’s green truck; and Jane, my husband’s Nissan.

Maybe one day, we will have a cohesive, efficient transportation system in the Myrtle Beach area. I think it will take vision, innovation and something unique to our area - and I’m not talking about jet packs either. Shoot, if we can’t even drive mopeds well, what makes anyone think jet packs are a good idea? Anyway, until we decide to stop driving or one day have a simple light rail or some sort of a trolley system, transportation just isn’t going to change much in our area. We will continue to pile up one-by-one onto the roads and just hope for the best.

Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at jen@mygreenglasses.com.

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