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Need a ride? Palmer and Buchert await

Zipcar has stationed two cars, a Scion, right, and the reflected Prius, in a parking lot across from the Pacific Lutheran University library at Garfield Street and Park Avenue South in Parkland. Both the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington Tacoma are expected to get their own cars soon.
Zipcar has stationed two cars, a Scion, right, and the reflected Prius, in a parking lot across from the Pacific Lutheran University library at Garfield Street and Park Avenue South in Parkland. Both the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington Tacoma are expected to get their own cars soon. The Olympian

Palmer the Prius and Buchert the Scion are ready to be rented at Pacific Lutheran University.

The Toyota cars are the South Sound’s first Zipcars, owned by the membership-based car-sharing company headquartered in Cambridge, Mass. It operates cars in Seattle and dozens of other U.S. cities.

Palmer and Buchert – so named on the Zipcar website – are stationed at the PLU library and are two of six Zipcars headed for the area by the fall. Two each are destined for the University of Puget Sound and the University of Washington Tacoma.

City of Tacoma officials had hoped to use a $350,000 federal grant to run a car-sharing marketing campaign so Zipcar would station two more cars downtown, creating a network of eight. But the rules of that grant require that the city invite all car-sharing companies to make their best pitch, said Diane Wiatr, commute trip reduction coordinator for the city.

Tacoma is a few weeks away from soliciting proposals, Wiatr said Wednesday. A decision will come within a few months .

“We’re looking for (a company) that can provide great data, something that provides its own maintenance” and other things, including the ability to provide additional cars as needed, she said.

Zipcar is clearly preferred. Its deals with the universities put it in the market, and Wiatr said an integrated system makes more sense for Tacoma.

For the company to profit, Wiatr has said, the cars must be used seven days a week for 12 hours a day. That heavy usage is why Zipcar focuses on markets with high employment and residential density, and it’s taking a bit of a risk on Tacoma.

Zipcar officials couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Zipcar works like this: You apply for a membership, reserve a time and a car at an hourly rate, then use a Zipcard to unlock the car at the pickup and return spot. Gas and insurance are included, Zipcar’s website says.

Todd Badham, the director of security at UPS who has been negotiating on the school’s behalf, said Wednesday that two Zipcars will arrive at the Wheelock Student Center parking lot the week of Sept. 6. The school and company are working on a UPS-specific rental website that should go live today.

“Our new students arrive Friday, so we’re scrambling,” Badham said. “We want to get this available to them.” The UPS portal likely will be similar to PLU’s, which is a page on the company’s site.

Mike Wark, UWT spokesman, said Zipcars are headed to campus before the close of the fall term. Wark’s not sure yet where they’ll be parked, but UWT Zipcar users will have an advantage over most downtown drivers: reserved parking.

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