Name: Sabrina Sussman
Where did you go to college: American University (Undergraduate) and George Washington University (Graduate)
Current job: Zipcar - Manager, Public Partnerships, North America
Where do you live now: Proud DC resident, in New Hill East
1. You’re the manager of public partnerships for North America. What do you actually do?
When I started at Zipcar, a good friend of mine called to ask if I would be responsible for all vehicle oil changes in North America. Six months into the job, I can definitively say that is not the case. Lucky for us, we have great operations experts who manage all of that. Instead, I spend my time talking to cities, states, transit agencies, parking authorities and counties all across North America, helping them solve complex mobility and sustainability challenges. Some days, this means helping cities plan for the future of managed curbspace and parking, and other days it is as simple as explaining car sharing to elected officials. Partnering with public agencies is part of Zipcar’s DNA, and it has been critical to our success and growth over the past 18 years.
2. How would you explain Zipcar and its car-sharing model to a visiting Martian?
First off, welcome Martian! Zipcar can’t take you to our leader…but if you’re looking for the global leader in car sharing, that’s us. We operate in over 500 cities and towns on planet earth, providing human members with on-demand access to a wide-variety of cars—small cars, big cars, and everything in between (though no spacecraft…yet). Once you join and officially become a Zipster, you can reserve cars by the hour or day, on-demand or up to a year in advance. We even pay for gas, insurance and 180 miles of driving. All you have to do is remember to bring the car back to where you found it.
3. What are the biggest challenges for Zipcar in Metro DC?
The GW Parkway. Just kidding…sort of.
Back in the day, DC was one of the first markets Zipcar launched outside our hometown of Boston. Years later, we are still a strong part of the local mobility network. With that said, plenty of people in DC still own cars that sit unused an average of 96% of the time. So, we see that as our challenge. How do we help DC residents continue to shed cars and support shared access over ownership? The more personal cars we can take off the roads in DC and across the globe, the easier it will be to get around, while also easing traffic, congestion, and parking demand. It is an exciting challenge to have.
4. Why did Zipcar discontinue one-way rentals in the DC region?
Enabling our members to take one-way trips remains an important part of our broader vision of providing a comprehensive mobility service. As we continue to improve that offering, we are actively testing products that provide more flexibility to meet more member use cases in key cities. In the interim, we have indefinitely suspended our one-way beta test in DC as we work to improve our comprehensive mobility service. Our one-way beta program remains live in Boston.
5. How does Zipcar compete with emerging services such as peer-to-peer car sharing?
Zipcar is one piece of the broader mobility puzzle. We never want to be the only way our members move around; other transportation options are important complements to Zipcar. Walking, biking, riding, and taking transit are critical to our success. Anything that makes it easier to live without a personally owned vehicle is good for our cities, and good for Zipcar. So, we often say that our biggest and only competitor is personal car ownership.
6. What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now?
When it comes to innovative uses of curbspace, Zipcar is the OG. So, I spend a lot of time thinking about new ways to partner with our friends in the public sector to make better use of city streets, whether it’s a new citywide parking pilot program that makes car sharing available in dense areas of the city, or a new project to create multi-modal transportation hubs at transit stations to help solve first-mile/last mile gaps.
7. How did you get involved in transit?
Like so many of us in the industry, it was completely by accident. When I started at US DOT, I thought it was going to be a brief stopover before I moved on to working in education. But, I very quickly fell in love with transportation (shared cars, buses and bikes, oh my!) and haven’t left since. During my time at DOT, I had the chance to work for some exceptional mentors and leading thinkers in the transportation policy space. I saw firsthand that transportation is a basic need, and yet so often overlooked in favor of more hot button policy issues. To me, we will have achieved our goals when people feel empowered, prepared, and excited to make decisions on how and when they move.
8. Tell us about your commute. Metro, bus, walk, bike … or a mixture of everything? How long does it take you to get from door-to-door?
It’s a complicated question, actually, since my role involves quite a bit of travel. The DC Zipcar office is my “home” location, but I’m often on the road visiting our markets across the US. When I am in DC, I like to Metro to the office in Penn Quarter, which takes about 30 minutes, and sometimes I mix it up with a bus/bike/walk component. When I need a set of wheels for a meeting outside the Metro area, or am hauling some Zipcar swag, I reserve a Zipcar right outside the office for a few hours.
9. We do our research: Your LinkedIn profile says you know Farsi, French and Turkish, which in our book makes you very unique and accomplished. How did you pick up these languages and how do you stay fluent?
Well, your book is very complimentary. Where do I buy a copy? But for real, Farsi is by far my strongest language. (With that said, don’t ask me to give a speech on the history of the federal gas tax in Farsi.) My mom is Persian, so I grew up speaking and listening to Farsi with her and my extended family. My French is almost passable; and much better when I am surrounded by actual French speakers. Turkish I learned while studying abroad in Turkey, but unfortunately that has faded fast.
10. The zombie apocalypse has arrived and you’re stuck in traffic on I-395. What are your three survival items and why?
Coconut La Croix - What’s better to pass the time than feeling like you’re on a mini tropical escape?
My Calendar- Just because the apocalypse has arrived doesn’t mean that my life has to completely fall apart. In general, if my it isn’t on my calendar, there is no way it will get done. Plus, since I keep my schedule on my phone, this also means I’ll be able to make all those important rescue calls.
President Zombie’s Chief of Staff - So, that isn’t really an object. But, if I am trying to survive, having the leader of the apocalypse’s key strategist by my side seems pretty crucial. It’s sort of like, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em? But in this case, the goal would be to join, and then beat them.
11. Who would be your battle buddy and why?
Easy. My brother. There is no one who is a better complement to me during times of chaos. Over the years, we have weathered many storms, and he is a perfect balance to my strengths and weaknesses. During battle, the person at your side needs to know when to pass the puck, and when to shoot it. After nearly a decade as a hockey goalie, my brother knows this deep in his core. He knows me better than anyone else, and he is a strong force of logic and reason. I’ve been super lucky to have him at my side for all the important battles in life thus far—and through it all, he still makes me laugh.
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