Zipcar is measuring environmental progress in the number of green-decaled cars it’s spreading through the streets of Providence.
The vehicles are central to the Cambridge, Mass., car-sharing company’s plan to usher in a more urban American lifestyle freed from dependency on the personal automobile.
Judging by the growth Zipcar has seen in Providence over the last two years, the idea is catching on.
From 20 cars in Providence when Zipcar expanded here in June 2011, opening an office on Eddy Street downtown, the company is now up to 65 cars in 25 locations throughout the city.
“Within the last year and a half, you can see exponential growth,” said Katelyn Lopresti, Zipcar’s Providence market manager. “Now we are looking to fill in gaps, getting more cars out in the neighborhoods.”
Following the model it has used in 20 cities and five countries, Zipcar is now spreading from the city center and college campuses into more residential neighborhoods.
In the last two months, Zipcar added locations at University Heights on the East Side, Hope Street on the East Side and at Johnson & Wales University’s Harborside Campus.
More cars in new parking spots are expected in Providence by the end of April, but Lopresti couldn’t say how many or where they would be.
Zipcar’s first beachhead in Rhode Island was at Brown University, where it introduced two cars in 2005.
Now it’s in a dozen local schools, including Rhode Island College in Providence, Bryant University in Smithfield, Roger Williams University in Bristol, Salve Regina University in Newport and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.
Among the major local colleges, only the University of Rhode Island doesn’t have a Zipcar presence. Instead, URI signed with Hertz on Demand, The Hertz Corp.’s entry into the car-sharing business, and has had four cars on campus since 2011.
Although Providence is the only Rhode Island city with car-sharing outside a college campus, Zipcar has expressed interest in expanding beyond Salve Regina to Newport city streets.