OCL discontinues rental van service indefinitely

The Tufts Office for Campus Life (OCL) has discontinued its rental van service this semester but will help facilitate use of alternative rental agencies such as Zipcar, according to OCL Director Joe Golia.

Golia explained that the OCL felt that renting out the vans was a responsibility that was unnecessarily burdensome and not consistent with the OCL’s function at Tufts. OCL had offered two minivans for rental by student organizations and academic departments, a service that had been in place for many years.

“We have pushed for years to get out of the van business,” he said. “We’re doing a million things, [and] the fact that we then became a van rental office was ridiculous … I understand the service being needed, but it was not really something we should be doing.”

Golia added that serious problems had interfered with OCL’s rental van service, including the difficulty of coordinating among the many OCL employees and the aging condition of the vans.

“The vehicles were getting very old — well over 12 years old — [and] breaking down,” he said. “They were certainly safe to drive, they passed all inspections … but we were having a lot of issues in this office when they were breaking down, and where the people were and how they were going to get back … lots and lots of problems.”

Usage of the OCL vans had decreased significantly last semester, with only a few student organizations making use of them, according to Golia.

“They were mostly being used by [the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), which] has an agreement with the university where the university does cover their travel back and forth to MIT, and there was an agreement made long before I got here where they could use the vans without charge,” he explained.

Golia estimated that, aside from ROTC, the vans were rented out by other groups only about 10 times all of last year. He added that last year’s change in the allowable travel distance to a 30 mile radius may have been a cause in the vans’ disuse.

Now that the OCL has terminated their van rental service, Golia explained that the university has worked to make other options available to student groups. One of the new developments is the extension of Zipcar service to Tufts students from the age of 18 and up, instead of 21.

“The university now has a signed contract with Zipcar, and one of the biggest things they needed to get over was under-21-year-old drivers,” Golia said. “The university now has a contract signed with Zipcar where, through the university system, they will allow, with some added paperwork, people who are under 21 to rent from Tufts.”

Golia added that ROTC will now use Zipcar, and Tufts will pay for the rental cost due to the university’s previous agreement with the ROTC. As for the other clubs who used the OCL’s van service in the past, Golia stated that they can easily use Zipcar or other rental agencies for a cost similar to the OCL’s van rental fee.

Overall, Golia expressed confidence that outside rental agencies such as Zipcar will adequately fill the gap left by the departure of the OCL vans for student groups who need transportation. He also explained that student groups looking into outside rental agencies should first meet with Annie Wong,  the OCL business manager, who will help them through the process.

Some students have expressed surprise at the abrupt termination of the OCL’s van rental service. Brian Pollock, co-treasurer of the Protestant Student Association (PSA), explained that his group recently needed transportation to travel to the PSA’s yearly retreat in North Andover, Mass., and the loss of the OCL vans did cause problems, most significantly in terms of added cost.

“It was an inconvenience because when we made our budget, that wasn’t something that we were aware we needed to budget for, and getting off-campus vans tended to be much more expensive,” Pollock, a junior, said.

PSA President Emma Levitt, a senior, added that she was bothered by the fact that the OCL did not give any warning to student groups that they would be ending their van service this year.

Although Golia explained that he was unsure of whether Tufts would ever again offer to rent university vehicles to student groups, he did say that Tufts is in the process of hiring a new position to manage the university’s vehicle fleet.

According to Director of Public and Environmental Safety Kevin Maguire, the new position’s title will be “Transportation / Fleet Manager”, and the new hire’s responsibilities will include overseeing transportation demand management, sustainability and parking resources, among other duties.

“The need for this position was documented through an examination of current university practices in transportation/fleet management as compared to best practices at other institutions of higher education,” Maguire told the Daily in an email.