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Nickel Ride seeks Fort Myers Beach base

August 16, 2017
Jessica Salmond - News Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Visitors and residents might soon have a new way of getting around on the island.

Nickel Ride, a venture owned by Judah Longgrear of Fort Myers, launched in downtown Fort Myers Aug. 4 with hopes of expanding to the beach, too.

Nickel Ride is a free taxi service. It uses a low-speed electric vehicle that offers free rides to those who hail the golf cart-like vehicle down. It pays for itself by selling advertising on the vehicle itself or on its website and in-the-works mobile app. Advertisers can also have branding material inside the vehicle.

Article Photos

Paradise Advertising has partnered with Judah Longgrear for his marketing and public relations.

Riders can hop in for free, Longgrear said, but tips are strongly encouraged.

"Our drivers have 15-plus years of experience in the service industry," Longgrear said, "It's similar to a tour, they can tell you about the city."

Longgrear's venture has a fleet of three vehicles, which he hopes to expand as the business grows. The low-speed vehicles carry a license and insurance like a car, and can be driven on any road which has a posted speed limit of 35 mph or lower. The vehicle can travel about 80 miles on one charge, but Longgrear says he picks a radius the car will drive around in and sticks close to high-traffic areas.

Longgrear got the business idea after watching something similar in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

"I have seen similar concepts work in larger, progressive cities," he said. "I thought I could improve on the model."

He's had about 500 riders so far.

Fort Myers Beach's downtown area is in Longgrear's scope now, but first, he's got to get a business permit.

That's proved to be a little more complicated than filling out a form in Town Hall.

Fort Myers Beach doesn't have an ordinance allowing low-speed vehicles to operate on the island at all.

"Even if it's minimal, there has to be some regulation," said Town Manager Roger Hernstadt. "Every business has to have a zoning regulation to be open, so they have to have that too."

It's an issue that has come up recently; earlier this year, a resident complained during a council meeting about pedicabs on the island - small carts powered by a bicyclist.

Longgrear worked with the City of Fort Myers to be permitted to operate; now, he's working with the Town of Fort Myers Beach to see if he can get permission to work on the beach, too.

"I think there would be a huge benefit to Fort Myers Beach with its traffic concerns," he said. "We're micro-concentrated on areas of congestion."

Hernstadt said after Longgrear approached the town, staff agreed to check the code and see what could be done; however, his operation would still be contingent on approval by the town council.

The council briefly discussed both low-speed electric vehicles and pedicabs at Monday's meeting. Allowing pedicabs was met with a definite no from a majority of the council; the five agreed to talk about low-speed vehicles but most were not enthusiastic about the possibility, but Council Member Anita Cereceda said she was interested to hear more.

"I would totally support this," she said. "It's something to contemplate from our environmental view-point."



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