By JOHN T. WARD
Visitors to Red Bank may have a jaunty, environmentally conscious and free means of getting around town as early as a next week, when a new shuttle service hopes to begin operations.
The month-old Scooter Dudes, based out of the Galleria at Red Bank, will use two electric versions of tuk-tuks, or motorized three-wheelers popular in southeast Asia and Africa, owner Marc Feaster tells redbankgreen.
The six-passenger vehicles will trace a circuit that that includes stops at the Galleria and several locations downtown, as well as Riverside Gardens Park, Marine Park and the two major performance venues the Count Basie Theatre and the Two River Theater, said Feaster, a hedge fund executive who decided to start his own tuk-tuk operation after riding in one in Oxford, Mississippi.
Feaster said he expects the expenses of the business to be more than offset by advertising and sponsorships, as with similar businesses in Avon and Belmar.
Councilman Mike Whelan said he’d been researching local trolleys for about a year when Feaster, who lives in Shrewsbury, approached the borough as his first locale in which to operate.
“It’s a great opportunity for us, at no cost to the borough,” said Whelan, who’s enthused about the ability of users to broaden their pre- and post-theater dining and nightlife options. “If it takes off, all the better.”
The operation of the trolley is expected to be the subject of a resolution up for a vote at next Wednesday’s semimonthly council meeting, when a 90-day trial period will be authorized, Whelan said.
It was not clear why the operation requires borough authorization, however, given that the vehicles conform to motor vehicle laws and are offering a service at no charge. Borough Attorney Greg Cannon could not be reached for comment, and Clerk Pam Borghi said she had not yet received the proposed resolution Friday morning.
Police Chief Darren McConnell told redbankgreen he participated in meetings with Feaster, Whelan, Cannon and DPU Director Cliff Whelan, primarily to acquire information about the vehicles and provide guidance on compliance with local laws.
The vehicles are registered with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission as low-speed vehicles, meaning they’re restricted to streets with speed limits of 25-miles-per-hour or lower, though Scooter Dudes can seek a waiver from Monmouth County to travel on its roads with limits up to 30 mph, McConnell said.
“It can cross highways, but we want to keep it off Riverside Avenue [Route 35], just to be safe,” he said.
The tuk-tuks won’t be allowed to double-park or cause other traffic obstructions, but they can drop off and pick up passengers in loading zones and some parking-prohibited spots as long as there’s no safety hazard, he said.
Feaster said he’s ready to start as soon as the town gives him the green light.
The service will operate Thursdays through Sundays, said Feaster. The E-Tuks come with heated seats and enclosable sides, so he plans to run them even in January and February to determine the viability of business in cold weather, he said.