Everyone in downtown Houston has somewhere they need to go — that’s a given. But you can’t always find a taxi, and walking even a few blocks in the heat of summer will really make you sweat.
Now there’s a new way to get around town: The REV Eco-Shuttle, an all-electric, eco-friendly way to travel from point A to point B.
And that’s exactly what REV founder, Erik Ibarra, had in mind.
“It started out as a tips-only service, meaning it was a free ride as long as you tipped the driver,” Ibarra says. “We had a lot of regulars. There was a guy who did his laundry at a laundromat every Saturday, and he’d call us for a ride when he was finished. He’d pile all his laundry on the REV seats, and we’d drive him home. We also picked a lady up and took her to get her medicine at the pharmacy once a month.”
But the need for REV’s services took an interesting turn.
“Eventually, using the REV for a ride became an evening thing,” he says. “People would call us for a ride so they could bar-hop or so they could get home after a night of partying.”
So where did the idea for such a cool energy-efficient shuttle service come from?
“The concept for REV Eco-Shuttle came from going to opening day at Minute Maid park in April 2007,” Ibarra says. “I saw a pedi-cab carting people around and I thought: ‘That guy is working really hard. Why doesn’t he just get a golf cart?’”
Ibarra did some research and discovered that golf carts aren’t street legal, but then he found an all-electric vehicle that was legal. So his next thought was—“How do I turn this vehicle into a business?”
Working with the City Council
Before Ibarra could get his REVs on the road, he needed to go in front of the Houston city council.
“I pitched them my business idea, and they said ‘we look forward to working on permitting you,’ which concerned me,” he says. “Turns out, the city didn’t have a specific place for us. There were no prior permits that fit what we wanted to do.”
So the city had Ibarra apply for a “Jitney Permit,” which hadn’t been applied for in more than 15 years. He applied and was permitted, but the permit came with all kinds of regulations.
“I had to change a few things on the Eco-Shuttle,” he says. “The color, the word ‘Jitney’ had to appear on the top, etc. But I did what I had to do to get my business going.”
Soon after Ibarra received his permit to drive the Eco-Shuttles on the streets of downtown Houston, the city revised the ordinance, causing several challenges.
“The changes to the Jitney Permit now said the vehicle had to hold a minimum of nine passengers,” he says. “The Eco-Shuttles only hold six passengers.”
Ibarra didn’t give up, though. He kept meeting with the city council and explaining to them the revised Jitney Permit didn’t fit his business.
Eventually, the city decided to create a new ordinance—one specifically for Ibarra’s type of vehicle.
“The new ordinance passed on October 27, 2010,” he says. “Now we’re permitted as a ‘Low-Speed Shuttle.’”
These changes have allowed Ibarra to expand his business.
“We have three Eco-Shuttles right now and are planning to add one or two more before the end of the year,” he says.
He also has a “REV-to-Work” program in the works, where people would pay a monthly fee to ride REV to and from work.
As of right now, REV runs in two zones: Downtown/Midtown and Washington Ave., but will soon be also operating in the following zones: Galleria, Lower Westheimer, Montrose, Reliant Park, Rice University/Village, Texas Medical Center and Upper Kirby.
REV hours of operation are Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m, and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m.
Rides cost $5 flat per zone, and both cash and credit cards are accepted. You can also get a free eco-pass from your REV driver that you can add money to and use whenever you ride.
“You earn one point each time you ride and pay with your eco-pass, and after 15 rides, you get one ride free,” Ibarra says.
Now that’s a deal.
To book a ride on REV, call 877-Go-REV-Go (467-3846) or book online at: www.goREVgo.com.