Winston-Salem residents will have access to a new method of transportation in January when a downtown golf cart service begins operation.
The service, as approved by a city ordinance, will be free of charge to passengers and is entirely funded by advertisements.
“Our main goal was to create a transportation project in the downtown area,” said Reid Hinsely, an owner of the new business. “We wanted to provide free transportation to those downtown and decided that golf carts were the best option.”
Hinsley will run the business with his wife, Kristin, and will drive the first golf cart himself on Jan 1. At the start, there will only be one cart running on a set schedule, but Hinsley hopes to expand his business as time goes on.
The city ordinance granted the business the ability to charge up to $3 per passenger, but Kinsley doesn’t ever plan on charging for the service.
“As long as the advertisements sell, we won’t charge for rides,” Hinsley said.
Hinsley expects the customers to be people who are enjoying the nightlife of downtown and wish to travel more than a few blocks from their parked car. He believes people are currently limited in this ability.
Hinsley began the process of approval in October of 2013, but the project did not gain momentum until this past spring. The business plan was discussed at length during the July meeting of the Public Safety Committee, where concerns over pricing, safety, traffic, and regulation were deliberated.
Reid, 33, married Kristin last March after they met downtown and have been looking for ways to add to the community. They currently run CamelCityPromotions.com, a website that highlights bars, restaurants, and cultural events in downtown Winston-Salem.
According to Hinsley, the project received help from many in the community including Jason Thiel, President of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, as well as City Councilmen James Taylor and Jeff MacInstosh.
“We have worked with many people in the city and received a lot of advice,” Hinsley said. “Our experience with the city has been great.”
According to Hinsley, he and his wife did experience some minor opposition from the local cab companies, but none of them ever attempted to stop his business from starting up. He said doesn’t view the cab companies or the horse and buggy service as competitors to his business and doesn’t expect to affect their profits.
“In the very beginning, one of the cab company owners came and spoke at the Public Safety meeting and voiced some opposition, but he didn’t return so it must not have been too big of a deal to him,” Hinsley said.
Thiel said that the project has been progressing smoothly and that Hinsley has not experienced any backlash or criticism that isn’t standard for new businesses.
“It’s normal for issues to come up and I think the problems for them [have] been the same as working through the details of any idea,” Thiel said.
According to Thiel, the couple will have to follow financial and safety regulations from the city. Hinsley said he was recently informed of new regulations from the city council that have forced him to slightly alter his business plan.
“The city has set some limits on the number of advertisements allowed per cart which have changed our projections for profit,” Hinsley said. “We are currently working on new projections.”
According to MacIntosh, Hinsley has been agreeable with all of these regulations and offered an explanation for the advertisement limit.
“[The limit is] just so it is not a rolling billboard,” MacIntosh said. “We want to cut down on how commercial it appears.”
Other regulations that the new business will have to follow will be its allowed hours of operation. According to Hinsley, the city has prohibited the golf carts from running during rush hour of the week. This will not be a major problem because, as of now, the cart is only scheduled to run from 9:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on weekends.
In addition to being a for-profit business for Hinsley, city officials are hoping that this new transportation service will increase the number of people who explore the downtown nightlife.
“It’s a service that is free for people to enjoy restaurants and bars downtown,” MacIntosh said. “It should bring a couple more people downtown.”