It’s smaller than a car. It seats more people than a taxi. Riding costs nothing. Whether it’s 2 p.m. and you’re late for class or it’s 2 a.m. and you don’t have a ride home, GOTCHA Ride has “got ya.”
GOTCHA Ride is an open-air electric vehicle that seats six people. It is approved on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less and travels anywhere within four miles of campus. The GOTCHA Ride operates during the day and at night.
The name stands for Green Operated Transportation Carrying Humanity Around. The goal is to provide students and faculty with safe transportation free of charge.
Sean Flood, CEO of GOTCHA Ride, came up with the idea while talking to college students after a football game at Florida State. He found that all of the students shared similar complaints about the transportation situation on campus. Flood recalled the struggle to find rides around campus when he was in school.
“I believe that students need as many options available as possible, and GOTCHA definitely fills a need on and around campus,” Flood said.
The GOTCHA Ride originated at Florida State University in 2009 and has since expanded to the University of Florida, Auburn University and Georgia Tech. It started running at The University of Alabama last fall. In addition to being a large university, the campus setup met the criteria.
“It fit exactly what we wanted,” Flood said. “The areas for the bars, restaurants and off-campus apartments are close, but not an easy-little-walk close.”
Students went through an application process to be hired as drivers and were selected based on their driving history, social skills, and campus involvement.
“We narrow it down to people who are the most outgoing. It’s not like riding a taxi where people might not be as friendly, we always want GOTCHA to be fun,” Flood said.
Senior Darrin Shafer received an email about the opportunity and was immediately interested. Shafer’s cousin was killed in a drunken driving accident and he has since advocated for safe driving habits.
“I was up driving my friends around all the time, so I thought to myself, ‘why not?’” Shafer said.
In addition to making tips, the social aspect has been a highlight of driving the GOTCHA Ride for Shafer. He said it has allowed him to meet a ton of new people and that he has been asked to many sorority date parties since becoming a driver.
In addition to the large “free ride” sticker pasted on the front of the vehicle, the GOTCHA Ride plays videos on mini television screens and blasts music to attract riders.
Advertising pays for the vehicle and operation costs. Businesses can pay to paste stickers with their names on the vehicle or advertise on television screens between music videos.
At the University, GOTCHA Ride is sponsored by Bama Dining to promote its various dining halls and eateries.
“While students are riding, they see that Bama Dining is paying for them to get around for free,” Flood said. “Our hope is that they not only see the messaging on the GOTCHA Ride, but then go visit the great Bama Dining locations. Advertisers are always trying to find ways to reach college students and drive traffic back to their business, and GOTCHA Ride does just that.”