ST. PETERSBURG — As downtowns grow — like St. Petersburg's burgeoning central city — so does traffic, carbon emission and the amount of money spent on gas.
The Nickel Ride, a free, eco-friendly taxi service, is looking to change that, and the next city on its rollout is St. Petersburg.
This will be the ride-sharing service's fourth city, after starting in Fort Myers in 2017. Judah Longgrear, the company's founder and CEO, said coming to St. Petersburg's downtown is a "no-brainer," and that he hopes to expand to other Tampa Bay metro areas soon.
The Nickel Ride gets its name from offering rides to five people at a time, taking them to their desired locations in most of downtown. It's funded by partnerships with local businesses through advertising, Longgrear said.
"You can think of our vehicles as interactive billboards," he said.
Each of eight electric vehicles used in St. Pete will have television screens inside that display advertisements, and drivers will pass out business swag products and coupons to riders.
Longgrear said The Nickel Ride will hire 15 drivers who will work for tips. The company will start posting job opportunities on its website website within the next week.
Users can hail a ride along the route or use the mobile app, which will be up and running in time for the service's local launch. It will be available for locals and tourists alike, including people working in downtown that want to catch a ride to lunch as well as for safe bar-hopping on weekend nights.
The Nickel Ride will operate within the I-175, I-275, and I-375 highways to North Straub Park to The Dali Museum area.
Its proposed hours of operation will be:
Monday- Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday: Noon to 6 p.m.
Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill will host a launch party at 6 p.m. Aug. 3 open to the public, including potential business partners.
"I think it will be a home run, " Longgrear said.
Contact Hannah Denham at email@example.com. Follow @hannah_denham1.