By Gabriela Rico
The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Women in business, listen up! Could golf cart taxis be the next ride sharing service on the horizon? It certainly seems to be working in Arizona where a new golf cart taxi service just launched near the University of Arizona. Riders can be shuttled back and forth from campus or restaurants and bars downtown. The cost is dependent on the riders’ generosity since the drivers all work for tips. Company revenues are derived from advertising on the sides of the golf carts.
Everyone could use a lift now and then — University of Arizona students going back and forth to campus, attorneys walking to the courthouse, and club hoppers along North Fourth Avenue.
So a group of investors went in on a new golf-cart taxi service, which began operating last month with four carts.
The service has been so popular that the owners of Wildcarts have ordered two more golf carts for their fleet and hope to have 10 on the road by the end of the year.
The idea for the business started with an evening downtown and a pair of high-heel shoes, said Mark Bertram, one of the company owners.
After walking from a restaurant to different clubs, his wife removed her shoes and Bertram thought how it would be nice to have a quick mode of transportation within the downtown area without having to pay for a taxi.
A conversation ensued and someone mentioned the golf cart taxi service in Tempe along Mill Avenue.
A serial entrepreneur, Bertram drove up to see the fleet and rode with more than 50 drivers to get their perspective on the business and experience.
“I was sold,” he said after seeing the service.
The gas-powered carts can accommodate up to five passengers and drive up to 17 miles per hour.
The service operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the downtown area and around the UA and from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. between downtown and North Fourth Avenue.
Just last week, Wildcarts entered into a partnership with The Junction at Iron Horse to drive by the student housing complex at 504 E. Ninth St. every 30 minutes during the day shift to give students a lift to campus, which is .9 mile away.
“We’re definitely within walking distance of campus, but sometimes you’re wearing high heels and it’s just more comfortable getting a ride,” said Candice Dunford, property manager for The Junction, which houses 232 residents.
“My staff and I went to lunch the other day at the Hub and used the service because we were all in high heels,” Dunford said.
As an advertiser on one of the carts, The Junction received the perk at no additional cost, she said.
Bertram said the company has received support from UA administration to drive the carts on campus to drop off or pick up students.
The cost is dependent on the riders’ generosity, since the drivers all work for tips.
There are up to five spots on the carts for advertisers. A full side ad runs $375 a month, a half ad $275 and the rear ad $225.
Rates go down if an advertiser buys three-, six- or 12-month ads, Bertram said.
Wildcarts has also been contracted by a couple of large hotels when they’ve had big events, to bring guests from the parking lot to the front door.
The carts cost the company between $10,000 and $14,000 each and an additional $2,000 is put into lighting and signage.
The biggest ongoing expense is the insurance, which runs more than $350 a month per cart, Bertram said.
Drivers have been earning an average of $18 per hour since the business began operating. There are nine drivers working for Wildcarts.
They must have a valid driver’s license and have a clean driving record for at least five years. Citations for driving under the influence, speeding or reckless driving disqualify an applicant, Bertram said.
Passengers cannot have drinks on the carts and may not stand on the cart once it’s moving.
Drivers use the Voxer walkie-talkie app on their smart phones and Bertram can review all transcripts of conversations.