Sick of waiting for that bus to lumber down to the Green Line? Too cold to walk the five blocks to the Blue Line? Well, a new Oak Park business thinks it has a fix for your winter woes.
Recently, Greenline Wheels started offering what they’re calling a “micro-transit” service — a small, electric-powered vehicle that transports people to one of two train stops along Oak Park Avenue. Tom Olis, managing partner for the fledgling bike-rental shop, hopes the new service will gradually gain popularity.
“We thought we could reduce some congestion on the roadways, and I think there’s a lot of people who walk and like the exercise, but we want to provide this service on days when it’s cold and the weather is bad,” Olis said.
Greenline is using volunteer drivers from Rickshaw Rick’s pedicab company, who work just for tips (a $1 donation is suggested for each ride). Two of the vehicles have been riding up and down Oak Park Avenue since October, looking for someone who needs a lift to the train.
They’re driving six-seat, battery-powered neighborhood vehicles that can get up to 25 mph and are relatively inexpensive at about $10,000 a pop, Olis said. Greenline wanted to test them out for taxiing people around. The business hopes the vehicles eventually catch on, and that the micro-transit model can support itself financially so Greenline can roll out more of the vehicles elsewhere in Oak Park.
A fleet could one day be deployed during rush hour, Olis said, or at pedestrian-heavy events such as A Day in Our Village. They plan to keep the pilot program going into March, and then assess. Eventually, Greenline may look at charging drivers a “nominal” usage fee.
“We’re a social-mission business, so we’re not seeking super-high returns, but we’d like to eventually be able to cover our costs,” Olis said.