Many a conversation, news article and Facebook rant have been dedicated to transportation and parking issues in Columbus. As the city lays out its big-picture plans for the millions of dollars from the Smart Cities Grant, two local entrepreneurs are ready to be a part of the solution on a neighborhood level.
Slated to be cruising the streets of Short North and Downtown this spring are Hopper Carts. The startup offers a free-to-ride, on-demand ride hailing service with a fleet of eco-friendly Polaris Gem E6 fully electric vehicles. Riders will use an app to summon one of the six-seater carts for a jaunt across town.
That jaunt could be many things: a ride to work, a quick trip to the grocery store, a lunch date, a sober ride on a night out, or the preferred mode of transportation for a hotel visitor.
“What’s great about the service is it provides value to a huge range of demographics” says Co-Founder Tomos Mughan.
Hopper Carts expects a business crowd to turn to city explorers from day to night.
“It’s definitely going to vary throughout the day,” says fellow Co-founder Chris Potts.
Hopper Carts offers more than just a ride, though.
“Everyone’s going to be a CTA [certified tourism ambassador],” Potts says of their drivers.
Drivers can make recommendations on the happenings about the neighborhood. Hopper’s proprietary app will also curate featured destinations with specials, as well as an interactive events calendar.
“It improves the experience for both residents and out of town visitors alike,” Mughan says.
And, it all comes free of charge for riders (although drivers do appreciate a tip). A sponsorship model is responsible for the attractive price tag. Hopper Carts has already signed two supporters – Wolfe Insurance Group and Germain Toyota – and is in talks with local and national brands to sponsor the rest of their fleet.
Potts got the idea after seeing a golf cart wrapped in ads during a trip to Florida. He’d also caught wind of an Ohio law that golf carts would be permitted on the road in Columbus. The initial idea was golf cart + Uber-like technology and charge a few dollars, but red tape said otherwise.
“I was trying to find a way to do the same idea without having to charge for rides,” Potts says, and sponsorship provided the ideal solution.
Hopper Carts combines many passions and solutions into one micro transportation option.
Potts and Mughan are familiar with the challenges of parking and transportation in the neighborhoods Hopper Carts services. They live in the area, and Mughan saw how parking could affect a business first-hand as the owner of now closed DareDevil Dogs.
In the short-term, Hopper Carts aims to help alleviate parking problems, and “We really help connect the neighborhoods to the city,” Mughan says.
Looking at the big picture, places like the Rossi and the Palace Theater or Oddfellows and 16-Bit are relatively close to each other in terms of miles, but there aren’t a lot of efficient ways to get from point A to point B without hopping in a car. (And those Uber fees can add up.)
“One car, one person – that model is dying,” Mughan says. For the “transportation movement” to happen, more cars have to get off the road.
“It’s not going to be one company or one group that changes transportation,” Mughan continues, but Hopper Carts wants to be one company in that movement.
Hopper Carts hopes to move more than 300,000 people in its first year, and with its electric vehicles, that equates to some 27,000 plus gallons of gas saved. The service is currently in the test phase, assessing battery life, logistics and more. Passengers will hop in for their first test trips starting April 1.
Stay up to date at hoppercarts.com.