Pedicab-like shuttles could begin transporting passengers from Naperville's Fourth Avenue Metra station to the downtown business district as soon as next week.

Naperville resident Bill Hamik, co-owner and partner in Tuk Tuk Naperville, said he expects to take delivery of two covered, six-passenger, three-wheeled electric vehicles next week. Two drivers have been hired and the shuttles, called "tuk tuks," will begin carrying passengers soon after.

The idea is to offer a transportation alternative for someone getting off a train or parking at a downtown garage who doesn't want to walk several blocks to get to a downtown Naperville restaurant or attend a concert at North Central College, Hamik said. Enter Tuk Tuk Naperville, which proposes shuttling those guests that last leg, Hamik said.

"The basic premise of this is the last mile," Hamik said.

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Tuk Tuk will primarily cover the downtown district in about 1 mile in each direction, with rides ranging in cost from $1 to $5 depending on the distance. Drivers work for tips, and the remaining cost of the service will be funded with local advertising on the vehicle.

Hamik said he plans to start with two tuk tuks and add more as demand grows. Naperville's tuk tuks would be the first fleet employed in Illinois.

The all-electric tuk tuks weigh about 2,200 pounds each and have a steel frame, laminated windshield and safety gear, said Michael Fox, co-founder of Denver-based eTuk USA, which manufactures the vehicles. They're street legal and approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Fox and two friends came up with the idea while visiting a small village in Guatemala, where rustic gasoline tuk tuks were the primary mode of transportation. Similar vehicles are popular in a number of other countries around the world.

The three men returned to Denver and launched a shuttle fleet in the Mile High City. They went on to sell tuk tuks as hotel house cars, electric food trucks and corporate shuttles around eBay's Silicon Valley campus, among other uses.

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"We realized this was a much bigger deal than a shuttle service here in Denver," Fox said.

Tuk Tuks are in use in 25 states.

One advantage over a golf cart or other electric vehicle, Fox said, is the six passengers in a tuk tuk face each other instead of staring at the back of fellow travelers' heads.

In Naperville, tuk tuks will feature heated seats and plastic drop-down side walls to protect passengers from inclement Midwest weather, Hamik said. They travel about 25 mph.

Passengers will hail them from a mobile phone app, similar to calling a car from Uber or Lyft.

Katie Wood and Chris Finck, executive director and chairman of the board of Downtown Naperville Alliance, respectively, wrote a letter in support of the tuk tuk program to the city's Transportation Advisory Board. The board will hear information on the program at its Saturday meeting.

"Our board members unanimously agreed that anything that helps optimize the distribution of people around our downtown, from the train station to downtown, from their homes or businesses to downtown or even within the downtown would be very beneficial," the letter read.

"This is also a progressive, ecologically sensible mode of transportation that we think will add to the appeal of our community."

The tuk tuk program does not need Naperville City Council approval to begin and is not regulated by the city, Naperville spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said.

Councilwoman Patty Gustin, who sits on the city's downtown advisory commission, said she supports the tuk tuk idea and is curious to see how it fits in.

"We're always looking for new ways to people-move," Gustin said.
 

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Article was originally posted by the Naperville Sun on September 29, 2016 at 6:29pm.
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About eTuk USA, LLC

Headquartered in Denver, CO eTuk USA manufactures 100% electric, eco-friendly tuk tuks to suit a variety of customer needs throughout the USA. The company’s electric vehicles are well suited for a variety of applications. eTuk USA licenses the design from their partner, The Tuk Tuk Factory, and is the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of the eTuk in the United States. Check out the company’s passenger eTuks for shuttle and tour operator applications or its commercial eTuks for vending, delivery, or food truck applications. 


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