Zipcar vehicle-sharing network is coming to downtown Kansas City

Zipcar, a car-sharing network that is already at Kansas City International Airport and University of Missouri-Kansas City, will soon be coming to downtown Kansas City.
Zipcar, a car-sharing network that is already at Kansas City International Airport and University of Missouri-Kansas City, will soon be coming to downtown Kansas City. Kansas City municipal government

Bus and streetcar riders who arrive in downtown Kansas City and then want a vehicle for quick trips elsewhere will soon have a car-sharing option.

Zipcar, an international car-sharing network, already has two cars at Kansas City International Airport and two more at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. But in the next month or two, it plans to add eight vehicles to four locations in downtown Kansas City.

“It will be a huge benefit for millennials, residents or anybody who needs a vehicle for a short amount of time,” said Bruce Campbell, parking services administrator with Kansas City municipal government, who helped negotiate the new three-year contract.

Prospective customers must become Zipcar members and can join online or with a mobile app. The cost is $7 per month or $70 per year. For first-time or infrequent users, the hourly rate starts at $8.50 per hour but varies based on the vehicle. People can reserve by the hour or day, on demand or up to a year in advance.

The exact vehicles also haven’t yet been specified. Campbell said the typical vehicle is a Ford Focus or something comparable, but sportier models and a variety of vehicle types are also sometimes available.

The timing of the launch and the exact downtown locations are still under review, but it should be within the next two months. Campbell and Zipcar representatives are considering locations in the vicinity of Third and Delaware streets in the River Market; Baltimore Avenue between 13th and 14th streets in the Power & Light entertainment district; 19th or 20th and Main streets; and in front of the Blue Cross Blue Shield offices across from Union Station at 23rd and Main streets.

Campbell said the city is working with nearby property owners on agreeable locations. Cars would be parked in designated Zipcar spaces on the streets when they are not in use.

These locations are all along or near the downtown Kansas City streetcar route from the River Market to Union Station.

“We are eager to launch in Kansas City in the next couple of months,” said Lindsay Wester, Zipcar public relations manager. Zipcar, which is in more than 500 cities in the U.S. and internationally, first entered the Kansas City market in 2012, with two cars at UMKC. In August 2015, it added two more cars at KCI.

Wester declined to reveal customer demand at those locations but said the expansion downtown is indicative of the performance so far.

“Zipcar’s decision to continue to grow our footprint in KC with the city was influenced by our previous success at area locations including the airport,” she said in an emailed statement.

Sean O’Byrne, vice president of business development for the Downtown Council, said it’s a welcome addition to Kansas City’s transportation options.

“We’re extremely excited about it,” he said, adding that he could envision it letting some people jettison their cars. People could ride the streetcar downtown in the morning, take a Zipcar to locations all over the city during the day if needed, and then return them to their original location, he said.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley