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i-Ride Sarasota
Sarasota Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 2 years ago

City to terminate agreement with i-Ride operator

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The downtown transit option will continue to operate as a private venture, city officials said.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The city’s partnership with a private transportation company is set to come to a close early.

City staff is in the process of terminating its contract with the Gotcha Group, the company that operates the i-Ride downtown circulator vehicles. The service offers free rides to users via electric carts within the city center. Staff said the split should be finalized soon, six months ahead of the scheduled end of the two-year contract.

City Parking Manager Mark Lyons said the Gotcha Group intends to continue to operate i-Ride as a private service, no longer bound by the terms of the agreement with the city. In 2017, the city approved spending up to $338,000 to subsidize the service in its first two years with hopes of making i-Ride self-sustaining. Lyons said the Gotcha Group recently determined it could not continue running the service under the conditions outlined in the contract without more public money.

In a statement, Gotcha Group CEO Sean Flood said the i-Ride would “continue to operate as it exists today for the foreseeable future.” Flood noted the service has provided rides for 69,000 people since it launched and expressed optimism about the transition to a private operation, though he did not disclose information about what that transition will look like.

“We’re in the process of finalizing the details, but i-Ride will indeed continue to operate as we work those out, which will ultimately lead to a more robust service for residents and tourists alike,” Flood said in the statement.

During a March City Commission meeting, the Gotcha Group said it would need continued funding from the city to maintain the free service. Commissioners balked at the proposition and questioned why the Gotcha Group didn’t better anticipate expenses associated with i-Ride. The board directed staff to continue discussions with the Gotcha Group on possible adjustments to the service.

Although the agreement with the city is ending, Lyons said he believed the partnership was a success because it demonstrated public interest in a downtown circulator. He was hopeful i-Ride would become a lasting presence as a private transportation option in the city.

“There’s a need for this service,” Lyons said. “They are committed to developing this even further.”

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