Workers and visitors in busy downtown Tampa — where parking can be a challenge — will soon have the option of catching a ride around town in bright yellow electric Tesla SUVs.
The ride share service, called Dash, kicks off in October, using a mobile app to pick people up at hubs around the city and ferry them to meetings, restaurants, parks, events and errands.
Trips in the fleet of six SUVs will cost less than traditional rideshares — “a few dollars,” according to a news release from the Tampa Downtown Partnership, the nonprofit that manages the downtown district through an agreement with the city.
“A ride in a Dash Tesla will be low-cost, protected from the weather and ideal for medium-length trips within downtown,” said Shaun Drinkard, the partnership’s interim president. Exact pricing will be announced at a later date, he said.
How much do people in downtown Tampa want transportation options?
A free rideshare service called the Downtowner that started in 2016 got so popular that 500 people were using it daily and wait time could be 45 minutes to an hour. The program shut down when it ran out of funding in 2021.
“We learned a lot from what the Downtowner was,” Drinkard told the Tampa Bay Times Monday. “This is not the Downtowner.”
While that service was door-to-door picking up one person at a time, the new Dash option will send riders to one of more than 20 strategically placed hubs around the city to be picked up. Riders may be paired with up to four people sharing a trip.
“That right there helps cut down the wait time dramatically,” Drinkard said.
The service will run between downtown’s seven neighborhoods — the Downtown Core, the Downtown River Arts Neighborhood Association, Encore, Water Street, the Channel District, West River and Tampa Heights. But it won’t be available for outside trips, such as to the airport.
The zero-emission, all-electric Tesla Model Y vehicles will be driven by what the partnership is calling “driver-ambassadors” who will get in-depth training about downtown to share with passengers, according to the release. Drivers will also be “eyes and ears” for the police and maintenance issues.
The partnership is accepting job applications for Dash drivers beginning Tuesday at tampasdowntown.com.
The Dash service will be funded through the partnership’s existing budget and through fares collected.
Besides traditional cars, downtown transportation options currently include scooters, e-bikes, the TECO Line Streetcar, the Pirate Water Taxi, bus service and bicycle lanes.