Students now have a new way to get around town in style: golf carts.
FreeRide LLP, a startup that began operations in May, uses golf carts that can transport up to six passengers around downtown, the Short North and the campus area.
“One of the benefits of us is that we’ve found it’s kind of deterred parking and parking problems, you can park a little further away and catch a ride to your destination,” said Nate Milliken, co-founder of FreeRide.
Since the carts are able to venture all the way to Lane Avenue Bridge, students can use them if they need to make it back to campus from the Short North or downtown. However, the carts are currently unable to go onto campus property.
On Jan. 1, Columbus began allowing golf carts on residential streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less, which is what helped lead Milliken to the idea for the company.
After seeing an article about golf carts being allowed on city streets in Columbus after being a customer for a similar service in Nashville, Milliken and his business partner, Micah Myers, decided a golf-cart rideshare would be a lucrative business to bring to Columbus.
“We worked together doing heating and cooling, and we were just looking for ideas on how to venture off on our own,” said Milliken. “We were just having a conversation and I had happened to read the article and it kind of hit me and we just went with it from there.”
FreeRide officially rolled its fleet onto the streets of Columbus on May 1. Milliken said they currently have 10 employees and two carts, but are looking to secure more with football season approaching.
Mike Dobronos, a third-year in finance and a driver for FreeRide, said the service is not only convenient, but an exciting way to get around town.
“It’s a safer way to go rather than getting in your car after having a few drinks,” he said. “We have a ton of people say how fun it is. There’s no doors on it and you’re flying down High Street.”
The company currently does not have an app, so the easiest way to get a ride is to just flag down a driver, similar to waving down a taxi.
Unlike more popular rideshare services like Uber and Lyft or taxis, FreeRide drivers get their income solely from tips. However, according to Milliken, drivers are still averaging $14 to $16 per hour, despite not receiving a baseline pay.
“There’s no cap on earning potential, so what you put into it — the hours you want to put into it, and obviously your personality and how personable you are — will factor into what your tips are like,” Milliken said.
Milliken said he hopes to be able to make a connection with Ohio State at some point so that the carts are permitted to go onto campus property. The service could look a little different on campus than it does in the Short North, with carts taking passengers to class instead of to bars.
“We would like to form a relationship with the university and get whatever lines we have to go through to cross there,” Milliken said. “Then hopefully we’ll be able to be on campus providing students with a little different experience as far as traveling around campus or to and from wherever they want to go around town.”