EVLN: Naperville-IL e-Tuk fleet doubles in size in less than a year

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EVLN: Naperville-IL e-Tuk fleet doubles in size in less than a year

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Naperville Tuk Tuk fleet doubles in size in less than a year
Erin Hegarty

Naperville Tuk Tuks have been transporting people around the city's downtown since October 7, and the fleet has grown from two electric vehicles to four.  (Tuk Tuk Naperville)

(Tuk Tuk Naperville)

Just 10 months after hitting the streets, the Naperville Tuk Tuk fleet has grown from two to four vehicles, co-owner Bill Hamik said.

Residents seem to be embracing the electric people-movers, which are now operating under summer hours of 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Hamik said. The three-wheeled, six passenger vehicles, piloted by eight drivers, were in high demand during Ribfest, he said.

"Every day's a little bit new," Hamik said. In November and December, Tuks Tuks transported people for the city's inaugural Christkindlmarket and generated enough rides beyond that to justify adding a third vehicle in January and a fourth about two weeks ago.

When it comes to anticipating the number of rides Tuk Tuks will give in a day, it varies by day and what's going on in the city, Hamik said.

"It's really based on the number of calls," he said. "You do get kind of in the rhythm of how many should be out, but this (Ribfest) weekend has thrown that off the charts."

Tuk Tuks, while being able to accommodate just six people at a time, have helped with the Ribfest traffic flow, said Erin O'Donnell, spokeswoman for Ribfest.

"They have been phenomenal, and they are a great service for us," O'Donnell said. "It fits a niche, it fits a need. We have people who are waiting for the shuttle buses and people waiting for Ubers or Lyfts, but this allows people to get out of the area and into downtown if they don't want to walk the couple blocks there."

With the summer hours, drivers — all of whom live in Naperville — work in two shifts, usually from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then 5 to 11 p.m.

"I picked up Mayor Pradel yesterday, he lives across the street from where the Tuk Tuks are housed," Hamik said. "I took him down to Ribfest for the judging, and he gets out and he says, 'Bill, I gotta tell you, now I'm known as the person who lives across from the Tuk Tuk house."

Pradel occasionally stops by the business to make sure the drivers are doing what they're supposed to be doing, Hamik said.

And it's not just the city's beloved Pradel who's embraced the alternative mode of transportation.

Tuk Tuks are also the official vehicle of the city's Centennial Beach. "We rotate a Tuk around there all day long to get people from the beach to get things like ice cream," Hamik said.

Hamik and his business partner Mike Belgio also added 15-seat shuttle vans that can be used for trips involving larger groups. "Uses of those are for shuttles to Cubs and Sox games, concerts and hopefully wedding parties," Hamik said. The vans can be used for three to six hours at a time.

As far as logistics of moving people throughout Naperville's downtown goes, Hamik serves as the dispatcher receiving calls, texts and online reservations while sitting at a desk in his home. He and the drivers use an app that allows them be plugged into a group email or text through which Hamik directs the drivers to pickup locations.

Most Ribfest attendees made reservations in advance, and the city of Naperville has traffic control "down to a science" Hamik said. Both make the people-moving process more efficient.

"This is a first so we didn't know what to expect," he said. "We just thank the people of Naperville for their patience."
[© chicagotribune.com]

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