Sarasota ride-hailing service Gotcha abruptly ends

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Company blames city’s choice of a different company for a bike share program

Gotcha, the ride-hailing service that operated a fleet of electric vehicles in downtown Sarasota, announced Monday that they are leaving town — apparently miffed that the City of Sarasota has selected another vendor for its proposed bike share startup.

“We have enjoyed being a part of the Sarasota community and regret any inconvenience to our loyal riders,” a Gotcha Group statement said. “We had hoped to operate a multi-modal system, incorporating e-bikes with our electric ride share, but the City selected a different bike share provider.”

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The firm has deleted Sarasota from its list of three Florida locations on its website, which says that a St. Augustine operation is “coming soon.”

The company had been operating as a private business, unaffiliated with the city, since August 2018, city spokesman Jason Bartolone said Monday. Gotcha Group sent the city no formal notification of its plans to depart.

The city, he added, “solicited proposals for a bike share program and ultimately selected VeoRide, a national company operating in cities throughout the United States. Their proposal was chosen based on their qualifications and knowledge of bicycle share systems, their operations in similar markets, the quality of their equipment and an outline for making the bicycles available to people without smartphones or credit cards for the purposes of social equity.”

The bike share contract, now being negotiated, should cost the city nothing, Bartolone said.

The popular electric-vehicle shuttle began tooling around downtown Sarasota in March 2017, known as iRide, with a plan to turn a profit from advertising. In January, when the formerly free service was rebranded as Gotcha and started charging $3 a ride, the company had 16 locally based drivers and dispatchers.

 

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