Ride-hailing platforms have taken over the transport game in recent years due to their convenience and ease-of-use. In the COVID-19 era, however, passengers may be more wary of getting in a small, enclosed environment with a stranger. One possible solution could be to borrow a transportation service from across the world: the tuk tuk. Tuk tuks, popular in Asian and Latin American countries, could be the perfect pandemic vehicle for US urbanites since they keep passengers and drivers in the open air.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) recently announced a partnership with Go Tuk’n, a local electric tuk tuk company, for a pay-to-ride shuttle service through two of the city’s neighborhoods. The new service will allow passengers to book rides on the three-wheeled tuk tuks to businesses and restaurants.
Go Tuk’n has operated in Jacksonville since early 2018, but the new partnership with JTA establishes the service as more than just a tourist attraction.
CEO Stephanie Dale said, “If we can show how to move people around urban areas, we might have people saying, ‘I don’t have to bring my own vehicle downtown.’ We cover distances that aren’t walkable, and we can get onto the roads that buses can’t do very easily.”
In Jacksonville, the electric tuk tuks will help replace smaller shuttles that have become too expensive to operate. They offer more flexibility than buses by utilizing side streets and narrower roads that aren’t on bus routes, and are more environmentally friendly than gas-powered cars.
Jacksonville’s tuk tuks, despite being in the open air, provide sanitizer to riders and require masks. The airflow is not everything after all.
Tuk tuks won’t completely replace ride-hailing platforms anytime soon, but maybe this is the first step toward tuk tuks becoming more ubiquitous in the US.