Southern Oregon University students desperate for a ride into Medford or a quick trip across town now have an option that doesn’t require begging their roommate, hitchhiking or catching a bus. It’s called Zipcar, and it’s not exactly renting a car, not exactly borrowing one.

Founded in Cambridge, Mass., and based on Boston, Zipcar is attempting to be a sort of Redbox of transportation and now has two cars — a Ford Focus and a Hyundai Elantra — parked on the SOU campus ready and waiting for users who are willing to apply online and pay the $15 annual membership fee for the right to have access to the car. Usage rates start at $7.50 per hour and $69 per day; gas and insurance coverage is included.

“We are very pleased to be able to offer Zipcar service to our campus and community through this partnership,” SOU vice president of administration and finance Craig Morris said. “A lot of students — particularly those living on campus— leave their cars at home when they come to SOU and this ensures that they will have convenient access to transportation. Our staff members in Campus Public Safety and Parking worked hard to bring this idea to fruition and it’s great to see the service available on campus.”

According to SOU’s head of community and media relations Ryan Brown, Zipcar will pay the university $500 per year for the right to park the two cars on campus. SOU charges $140 annually for parking permits, so the partnership will net the school $220 annually.

The Zipcars have been available on the SOU campus since Sept. 22. Their designated parking spaces are located in the lot near Raider Village, across from the 7-Eleven off Wightman Street. The spaces are marked by signs bearing Zipcar’s logo — the letter “Z”, painted white, inside a green circle.

The way it works is relatively simple. SOU students, faculty, staff and community members register online at zipcar.com/sou. Once an application is approved a "Zipcard" will be mailed out. Zipcar public relations specialist Katelyn Chesley said the Zipcard should arrive in the mail within five to seven days of registration. Once their Zipcard’s in hand, users can reserve a car over the phone, on Zipcar’s website or with Zipcar’s mobile application. The app also gives users the ability to lock and unlock the vehicle and honk the horn to help locate it.

Users can also unlock the vehicles via the Zipcard by swiping it over a sensor that’s in the upper right corner of every Zipcar windshield. The car keys are stored inside the cars.

This year, SOU members can join for a discounted rate ($15), but starting next year it will cost $25 annually to join. Up to 180 miles of driving per day are included in Zipcar’s rates, and cars can be reserved for as little as one hour or for several days.

Zipcar, along with Ford Motor Company, also sponsors a “Students with Drive” grant program, which supports student organizations on campus with memberships and driving credits. Students can visit zipcar.com/studentswithdrive for more information about the program, which will provide $200,000 in grants and $25,000 grand prize scholarship.

Founded in 2000, Zipcar, a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, Inc., bills itself as the world’s “leading car-sharing network,” and has cars stationed on college campuses throughout Austria, Canada, France, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.