By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jan 05, 2011 at 4:27 PM

With gas prices on the rise and new policies and ideas on the table, it's time to look at how we get around. We all need to get someplace and we use many different modes of transportation to do so. As we kick off 2011 at, we’re taking an in-depth look at how we get around with a special "Transportation Week," featuring all kinds of stories about how Milwaukee gets where it’s going. So, buckle up, hop on and all aboard.

Recently, Milwaukee hair stylist Jen Skladanek discovered Zipcar, the world’s largest car-sharing service with more than 530,000 members and 8,000 cars for rent in urban areas and college campuses.

"I sold my car last spring because I could not afford to drive, pay for insurance and repair a vehicle after I had a bicycle accident in 2009," says Skladanek.

Zipcar was founded in 2000 by Cambridge, Mass., residents Robin Chase and Antje Danielson. Zipcars are available in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. They became available in Milwaukee in August 2007 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). Marquette University started offering Zipcars in 2010.

"Zipcars are pretty popular with our residents," says Cindy Wirtz, UWM’s interim director of auxiliary administrative services. "We started with six Zipcars and later received two more, which means the company thought it was worthwhile to expand here."

To rent a Zipcar, a person needs to go online, get a membership and then figure out where they can pick up the vehicle. There’s a one-time $25 application fee and an annual membership fee of $50. Family members can be added to the account for an additional $25 a year and the $25 application fee. There’s a $500 deductible if the driver gets in an accident, even if it’s not his or her fault, or members can pay an extra $75 a year for a zero-dollar deductible.

After the initial fees, "Zipsters" -- which is how the Zipcar company refers to their customers -- pay between $7 and $8 per hour or $66 per day to drive a Zipcar. The cost covers 180 miles of driving, whether renting a Zipcar for a few hours or the entire day. If 180 miles in a given day are exceeded, the zipster is charged 45 cents per each additional mile for most Zipcars. (It’s 55 cents per mile for premium vehicles, like the BMW.)

After joining Zipcar and requesting a particular vehicle, drivers can pick up a Zipcar at Marquette University Lot G near Zilber Hall, UWM’s Sciences Outdoor Lot next to the Kunkle Building, Sandburg Hall dorms, Cambridge Commons / Riverview Commons (the new UWM dorms on North Avenue) or the Kenilworth Building.

Zipcar offers 30 different vehicles to chose from -- including trucks, hybrids and BMWs -- but not all models are available in all cities. Between the two universities, there are 10 Zipcars available for rental in Milwaukee.

"It’s fun to have a different car to drive," says Skladanek.

Zipcars, however, are not just for college students. Craig McKinney and Grace Briscoe, former employees now living and working professionally in Brooklyn, rent a Zipcar about every six weeks.

"Since moving to New York four years ago, we sold our cars and are living car and insurance free," says McKinney. "We get a Zipcar for everything from shopping trips to IKEA and Home Depot to long weekend road trips out of the city."

To rent a Zipcar, a person must be at least 21 years old, have a valid drivers license for at least one year and a decent driving record. This means, a driver can have no more than two moving violations or accidents in the past three years and no more than one in the past 18 months. And no alcohol or drug-related incidents in the past seven years.

Gas, insurance and 180 miles per day are included in the membership fee, and all Zipcar drivers have access to 24-hour roadside assistance. There is a fuel card inside each Zipcar and the company asks the driver to fill up when the tank gets down to one-fourth full.

People rent Zipcars for many different reasons, not only because they simply need transportation. The Zipcar Web site says some zipsters rent an upscale model to impress their clients or boss and others rent them because they like the eco-friendly concept of car sharing.

Zipcar has six rules of the road: a driver must report damage, keep the vehicle clean inside, refrain from smoking, keep at least a quarter tank of gas at all times, be on time (otherwise a $50 late fee is charged) and keep pets in carriers.

Like Skladanek, McKinney appreciates the opportunity to drive different vehicles.

"The best part of Zipcar is that you get to test drive all kinds of cars. We rent Toyota Tacomas for big shopping trips or will get a Mazda3 or a Mini for a fun weekend out of state," he says.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.