Robin Chase, SM '86
Zipcar founder promotes sustainability in transportation and urban planning.
For Robin Chase, SM ‘86, global warming trumps all other issues. “We can and must address global warming now,” says the founder and CEO of Meadow Networks, a consulting firm that applies wireless technology to reduce dependency on fossil fuel and minimize carbon dioxide emissions.
Chase founded the innovative car-sharing company Zipcar, and until 2003 served as its CEO. In 2005, she started Meadow Networks after completing a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, where she focused on transportation financing and urban planning.
“The future is Internet Protocol – based devices connected to a wireless Internet, accessible throughout our environment,” she says. Chase was named among InfoWorld’s Top 100 Innovators of 2001 and cited as a “trendsetter” in Fast Company’s 2002 Champions of Innovation awards.
Chase, who earned a master’s at the Sloan School of Management, takes her ideas and inventive spirit to city governments around the world. She urges leaders to adopt open-standard communications technology and multipurpose devices, which she believes will change the way the world uses roads and values vehicles. “By improving information access and enabling market pricing, we can help individuals make rational economic trade-offs when choosing among transportation alternatives,” she says.
Wireless technology is already helping governments reduce fuel use. With congestion pricing, for example, fees are levied for driving on overcrowded roads at peak times. With road pricing, cars and trucks pay for miles traveled; fees are based on such things as vehicle weight and emissions.
As she forges fundamental changes in transportation policies, Chase feels grateful for allies at MIT. “Over the last two years, my MIT colleagues – the best minds in their respective disciplines – have been very much engaged with my work,” she says.
Chase and her husband, Roy Russell ‘79, live in Cambridge with their three children, who are 18, 15, and 12. Russell serves as Zipcar’s vice president of technology.
“My husband and I teach our children how to consume as little as possible,” says Chase, connecting the dots between consumption and sustainability. “Right now, nothing is more important to sustainability than addressing global warming.”