You know about Uber and Lyft, but if you’re barhopping in downtown Sarasota, there’s one more ride-sharing option you need to plug into your phone: the i-Ride.
The City of Sarasota launched the free service this March, dispatching a fleet of seven electric vehicles that from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. cruise between 14th Street to the north and Mound Street to the south and between the bayfront and School Avenue to the east. To grab a ride, hail one on the street or dial (941) 444-2585. (The drivers will eventually respond to an app called Gotcha Ride, but the city is still working out the kinks in the technology.)
It’s no surprise that 4 p.m.—right when happy hours are kicking off around downtown—is one of the i-Ride’s busiest times. The low-speed cruisers make for a fun way to let you pack as many destinations as possible into that narrow happy hour window, without having to drive with a buzz.
The program is catching on. Over 16,500 riders hopped on between April and August, and ridership grew each month throughout the summer. That means lighter traffic on the road, less carbon in the atmosphere and fewer DUIs. The City Commission voted to fund the pilot project for two years; the goal is for the i-Ride to eventually pay for itself by selling ads on the sides of the cars. So ride early, ride often.