What is better than free? “Nothing,” said those of us who happen to be penny-pinchers. And, to top it off, what if said service was not only free but one that would make cruising around Sarasota, with its many construction projects proving to be obstacles to free-flowing traffic-seem like a walk in the park.
That’s right, navigating through the Downtown area, past Marina Jack’s, through the heart of the busiest areas right through the Rosemary District without even an utter of anxiety or disdain for the other drivers. Top it off with a sensible, safe solution for when you have had drinks out with friends and realize you should not drive, and you have a winning combination for area residents called I-Ride Sarasota.
The goal of I-Ride Sarasota is to “connect people with places,” and they are doing that in fashionable style and with great marketing sense. The bright pink electric cars feature advertisements for local businesses to offset the cost of running the vehicles. I-Ride by Gotcha (Green Operated Transit Carrying Humanity Around) has been in operation around Sarasota since the end of March. Over the next two years, the program will evaluate the usage of six electric vehicles to ease the burdens of large buses taking up real estate on the road and foregoing the carbon footprint these mammoth vehicles leave behind. Instead, eco-friendly cars will show up at your destination in a few minutes time, and you are ready to tool around the town in style.
For James Manning, a student at New College, getting from his downtown apartment to restaurants, movies, and to the library has proven difficult. To cut costs, he uses his bike to get him to most places or relies on a friend for a lift here and there. With I-Ride, he is finding new destinations throughout the Downtown area that he wouldn’t otherwise know about. As a result, his discretionary spending at these new watering holes and taco dives has gone up, something the local merchants are obviously loving. But, for James, the freedom to navigate his new city is worth a tip for his driver, in an otherwise free ride. Students are not the only riders so far; many retirees, visitors, and locals wanting a designated driver are utilizing the service. The territories they now cover are from the Rosemary District and downtown area with boundaries of 14th Street to the north, Mound Street to the south, Bayfront to the west and School Avenue to the east.
How do you get I-Ride? Well, we aren’t used to hailing cabs in Sarasota, but, if you see one of the distinctly noticeable vehicles on the road, go ahead and flag them down, get the free mobile app Gotcha Ride, which in the beginning experienced a few glitches due to the timing of the rollout of the program, or call 941-444-2585 and they’ll be on the way to picking you up. How can you top a free ride? Well, leave a tip of course, and smile, because the ride was free, you’re being friendly to the environment, and just look at the scenery along Sarasota Bay as you make your way to your destination.
Photos: I-Ride vehicle courtesy of I-Ride press release, I-Ride vehicle photo 2 from Facebook