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Jacksonville, Fla., Transit Partners with On-Demand Provider

Public transit in Florida’s largest city has formed a partnership with a private mobility provider to offer rides in electric, open-air vehicles, providing on-demand service in a number of neighborhoods

A small Tuk'n shuttle
Go Tuk'n - July 2020
Local public transit continues to team up with private mobility providers, in some cases offering an open-air, electric vehicle experience for riders.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has partnered with Go Tuk’n Inc. to provide rides across a wide area serving three neighborhoods: Downtown Jacksonville, Riverside and Avondale. The vehicles used by Go Tuk’n fall into two categories. There’s the 14-passenger Tuk’n Bus, familiar to anyone who has taken an airport shuttle. These vehicles are also ADA compliant. Some routes are served by Tuk Tuks, which are small, electric, open-air type vehicles accommodating about six passengers.

“This on-demand service started in July and supplements our other transportation services like fixed-routes,” explained David Cawton II, communications director for the JTA. “It does not replace other services, it simply provides customers in downtown Jacksonville with a different mobility option during the lunchtime and weekend evening hours in some of the city’s popular dinning districts near Downtown like Riverside, Five Points, Brooklyn and LaVilla.”

Fares starts at $2 and can climb as high as $10. However, given the extensiveness of the service area, these rates are not out of line, said Stephanie Dale, owner of Jacksonville-based Go Tuk’n. Fares are paid via an app or with a credit or debit card during the ride. 

“When you talk about downtown, Riverside and Avondale, those are very long areas, very wide areas,” said Dale.

Aside from their low carbon footprint, the Tuk Tuk vehicles offer an open-air riding experience, which may sit easier with passengers wanting a less closed-in setting during a time of COVID-19 concerns. Even though public transit officials have been quick to point out that due to numerous safety protocols like rigorous cleaning of vehicles and mask requirements for all riders, public transit remains a safe transportation option. And indeed, no U.S. outbreaks have been directly linked to public transit use.

“This partnership was in the works before COVID-19, so our choice to partner with them was not based on the pandemic, although we understand how someone could connect the two given the timing of the service launch,” remarked Cawton, who went on to stress, “there should be no apprehension to riding public transportation in Jacksonville.”

All JTA vehicles and facilities are cleaned several times per day, said Cawton, and “like many agencies, we have implemented several safety protocols like capacity limits, mandatory face coverings for customers and employees, social distancing and advanced cleaning for all services to ensure customers have a safe and reliable ride.”

Partnerships pairing up public transit with private-sector transportation providers are becoming more common as transit seeks to wrap new and added service into its portfolio of options, aiming to serve more transportation needs across a widening cross-section of users, demographics and geographic areas.

Transit agencies in cities like Los Angeles and Seattle have partnered with Via to provide on-demand service, boosting ridership on public light-rail lines. While other cities like Miami have partnered with ride-hailing to provide late-night service in areas not efficiently served by a large, fixed-route bus. 

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.