Myron Gauger

Myron Gauger

Port Townsend company near to launching electric vehicle shuttle

PORT TOWNSEND — A new company is gearing up to establish what it says is the state’s first electric vehicle shuttle service.

The Port Townsend company, PTeRider, will put two open-air electric taxis into service as soon as they arrive in town and are charged and configured, according to company owners Myron Gauger and Kate Dwyer.

“This will improve transportation options in town,” Dwyer said.

“We will serve locals and tourists, who often never get uptown and spend all their time here walking up and down Water Street.”

Dwyer and Gauger are expecting the vehicles to arrive very soon, and the ride share service could begin operation Wednesday if everything falls into place.

Seats six

The “electric roadsters” seat six people each including the driver and are manufactured by Moto Electric Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla.

The vehicles will operate from April to October and will not adhere to a specific schedule, but that could change during festival season, Dwyer said.

The taxis will serve three neighborhoods — downtown, uptown and Fort Worden — with additional service along Sims Way connected to the Haines Street Park and Ride.

The service area is divided into three zones, with passengers charged $3 to ride within one zone and $5 if they cross into another.

In order to get a ride, customers can call, text or hail one of the taxis.

There will be prescribed routes, and the service is allowed use of Jefferson Transit bus stops, but taxis will also pick up people downtown and take them to a specific address that is not on the regular route.

The taxis avoid steep neighborhoods such as Morgan Hill and will generally take the shortest distance between two points that has the fewest hills, Dwyer said.

Dwyer and Gauger came up with the idea while visiting Portland, Ore., in June, then began planning how the service could be accomplished in Port Townsend.

They determined a need for about $55,000 in startup costs, including the purchase of two vehicles ($18,000 each, plus $4,000 in shipping fees) and some administrative fees.

Start from home

To start, the couple will operate the business out of their home, where they can store, charge and administer the vehicles.

Each will take on a driving shift, but they expect to hire four part-time drivers, according to Dwyer.

Drivers will earn the $9.50 hourly minimum wage, but Dwyer hopes most of their income will come from tips.

There are many firsts in this business, Dwyer said, so they had to work harder to explain what they were doing as the processes was a new one.

Dwyer said the company needed to seek permissions from the city of Port Townsend, the state Department of Transportation, insurance companies and Jefferson Transit.

Even so, Dwyer said, officials were thorough and helpful in terms of solving problems.

Some challenges

The application process uncovered some new hurdles, such as when the city of Port Townsend discovered a law that forbade low-speed electric vehicles from state highways.

The road in question was state Highway 20 from the Haines Street transit center to the state ferry dock.

The company sought help from Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, who introduced a bill that allowed such vehicles on state highways as long as the speed limit was 35 mph or below.

The bill, HB 2317, states that it was developed in order to help PTeRider, but noted that it will affect more than 400 registered vehicles in the state as well as 229 miles of state road.

The bill received unanimous support in the House and only three opposing votes in the Senate, Gauger said.

Dwyer, 68, is an artist and landscaper while Gauger, 67, works as a photographer.

“We’ve never done this before,” Dwyer said. “We are just artsy types that came up with an idea that no one else was doing, although we don’t know if there’s a reason that no one’s tried this.”

For more information, go to PTeRider.com.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

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