The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is known for providing goods and services to troops stationed globally. But the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall store now offers service to customers in immediate need of four wheels.
“A lot of individuals who are stationed or work at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall either carpool or use public transportation,” said Veronica Reese, AAFES services business manager for AAFES stores at JBM-HH and Fort Belvoir.
“In addition, there’s challenges with public transportation getting on post. So [AAFES] wanted to support the joint base community with a service that would provide them flexibility when they have an immediate need for a vehicle. Not to mention, the installation is a very centralized location.”
AAFES’ answer: Zipcar. A car-sharing, self-service, on-demand automobile reservation company that offers vehicles by the hour or day. Two of them, a Jeep Renegade (compact SUV) and a Honda Civic (compact car), are now parked in the AAFES main store’s parking lot at 450 McNair Road.
This is the first Zipcar venture to debut on a military installation, Reese said, adding that AAFES has a contract and partnership with Zipcar for the next five years.
A military special is being offered for active duty and reserve component military personnel and retirees. There’s a $35 annual sign-up fee and a cost as low as $9.75 per hour to use the vehicle, and a daily rate as low as $69 to use the vehicle for up to seven days. Drivers are limited to 180 usage miles per day.
“Once you become a Zipcar member by signing up online or using a mobile app, you will receive a zip card by mail, which serves as your key for all of the 12,000 vehicles located across the globe,” said Lindsay Wester, Zipcar public relations manager.
“You don’t just have access to the two vehicles at the exchange, you also have access to all of our vehicles wherever you travel. It’s really kind of the keys to freedom.”
“There’s about a thousand vehicles [available] in the D.C.-area,” said Chris Stockwell, account executive for Zipcar, who manned a booth at the JBM-HH AAFES main store on Feb. 8, informing shoppers of the new service.
Members can find the nearest vehicle for use either online (www.zipcar.com/exchange) or using the mobile app, and can then proceed to make a reservation.
Members unlock reserved vehicles using the mobile app or by hovering their “zip card” over a placard on the reserved vehicle’s windshield. The vehicle will automatically unlock. And the keys are located in the vehicle. Review this video for a complete demonstration on Zipcar usage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaiSk9_aShA.
Additionally, Zipcar covers the cost of gas and insurance, Stockwell said.
“One of our simple rules is that members don’t return a car with less than a quarter of a tank [of gas], but there is a gas card in every car that allows them to go to any major gas station and fill up the tank on our dime,” he said.
Zipcar members can take advantage of two options depending on their needs: a roundtrip option and a one-way option.
The roundtrip option requires that members return a vehicle to its originating location, whereas the one-way option (only available in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore) allows members to pick-up a vehicle and drop it off in a different location.
Vehicles at JBM-HH are only available for roundtrip use.
“It’s on-demand access,” Wester said. “Where you want it, when you want it. It really is access to mobility wherever you go.”
In response to whether or not AAFES will expand the partnership with Zipcar to other military installations in the U.S. and abroad, Reese said the company is still testing the pilot program and reviewing usage over the duration of the contract.
“We want to see how this partnership goes before we have a further conversation about expanding,” Reese said. “But we are located at a lot of installations that are training bases and in more remote locations that could potentially benefit from having this kind of service at their reach.”
Pentagram Staff Writer Arthur Mondale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.