A sign at the dedicated Zipcar parking spot at Wilson Park Apartments, on the edge of Point Breeze. (Nick Jaramillo/Billy Penn)

Residents of public housing in Philadelphia are getting discounted access to Zipcar vehicles as part of a new program funded by a federal grant and championed by City Council.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority and Zipcar, a Boston-based national company whose president is a North Philly native, held a Friday event celebrating the new partnership.

“[We’re] seeing increased demand for car sharing in cities, especially underserved communities,” said Zipcar President Angelo Adams. “Growing up in the Logan neighborhood of North Philadelphia, I’m eager to see Zipcar help drive this community forward.”

Access to transportation has been recognized as more influential than other factors for economic mobility

The car share discounts are intended to help people make doctor’s appointments, run errands, and attend job interviews without relying solely on public transportation, officials said. Lack of real-time tracking on SEPTA makes it difficult to depend on bus or subway for time-critical appointments.

The eight dedicated PHA Zipcars are split among four permanent on-street parking spots, two each at the John F. Street Community Center in West Poplar, the Lucien Blackwell Community Center in Mill Creek, the Vaux Community Building in Sharswood, and Wilson Park Apartments in Point Breeze.

Public housing residents who wish to book those cars will pay a discounted annual membership fee and discounted hourly rate. 

Officials declined to share details on the size of the discounts PHA residents are being offered. A standard annual Zipcar membership costs $90/year. Hourly rates start at $11, and vary based on the type of car and time of day. The price includes the costs of gas, parking, maintenance, insurance options, roadside service, and 180 miles of driving.

Wilson Park resident and PHA Commmissioner Ethel Wise, Councilmember Katherine Gilmore-Richardson, and Zipcar President Angelo Adams cut the ribbon on the Wilson Park vehicles. (Nick Jaramillo/Billy Penn)

“Our mission is to open doors to affordable housing, economic opportunity and safe, sustainable communities to benefit Philadelphia residents with low incomes,” said PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah. “We provide tools to residents to assist with economic mobility. Zipcar is one of those tools.”

Credit for fostering relations between the two organizations goes to Councilmember Katherine Gilmore-Richardson, who is chair of Council’s Committee on the Environment and sees Zipcar as a way to promote sustainability, decrease emissions across roadways, and enable transit access in the city.

“We just simply made the connection,” Richardson told Billy Penn. “That’s what we do in council: we connect. And [PHA] took it from there with this public-private partnership that we know will be beneficial to all the residents in the PHA who have access.”

More than 80,000 people live in housing managed by PHA, which is the nation’s fourth-largest public housing authority and the city’s largest landlord — though there’s still not enough spots for everyone who needs one: upwards 40,000 families are on the PHA waiting list.

Zipcar President Angelo Adams and PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah hold a plaque naming one of the Wilson Park vehicles “Ms. Snead” after a longtime property manager at the complex. (Nick Jaramillo/Billy Penn)

The PHA-Zipcar partnership is funded with a grant from the the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Jobs Plus Initiative Program.

Zipcar has similar partnerships with housing authorities in New York City and Washington, D.C., and right now has over 300 vehicles in 140 locations across several Philly neighborhoods.

Shared vehicles at Wilson Park will be named after beloved members of the community: Ethel Wise, a PHA Commissioner and Wilson Park resident, and the late Denise Snead-Doram, a long-time property manager at the housing complex.