A free shuttle service covering routes around New Rochelle’s downtown made its debut on Aug. 22. The fleet consists of three electric vehicles covering high-trafficked areas of the downtown. When pedestrians want to become riders, they can flag down one of the compact minibuses or use a cellphone app to summon one.
The service in New Rochelle is being operated as a six-month pilot program, funded by the city’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA). The IDA has committed $164,000 for a transit contract with the company Circuit, formerly known as The Free Ride. Circuit also funds its services by selling advertising on the outside and inside the vehicles, but that will not be the case in New Rochelle at least for the time being. If the service continues beyond the pilot period, the sale of advertising to help defray the costs would be considered, the Business Journal learned. Among the major brands working with Circuit in other communities are JetBlue, CocaCola, CNN, Verizon and Heineken.
“These are great for the business climate because it will make it easier for people to get to and around our downtown,” New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said during a ribbon-cutting and inaugural ride event. In addition to benefiting the business climate, Bramson said the shuttle vehicles will be “great for the environment because they are 100% electric and because they reduce our general dependency on driving our own cars and they send a signal about the kind of community we want to be.”
Circuit currently uses 140 vehicles in 20 communities. Major cities served include Boston, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and San Diego. New Rochelle is the first municipality in Westchester where the service is operating.
Ivar Hayden, who serves on the New Rochelle City Council and is vice chair of the IDA, said, “As an eco-friendly service that serves to reduce traffic congestion, CircuitNR is also a perfect fit for our broader efforts to create a more sustainable New Rochelle.”
“By getting people out of their cars for short trips and connecting with the train station, we can make a real impact on congestion and pollution,” Alexander Esposito, co-founder of Circuit, said. “We’re not only increasing productivity but we’re reducing congestion and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” Esposito and his associate James Mirras first became involved in a “free to the public” advertiser-supported shuttle service in Southampton on Long Island in 2012. They held full-time jobs at the time, eventually developing a business plan and venturing off on their own. Circuit indicates that so far it has given more than 1,000,000 free rides and saved 200,000 gallons of gas by using electric vehicles.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said that the free shuttles should make it easier for people to spend time and money in New Rochelle. “So many things that are worth experiencing in this community from New Roc City, a movie, to a restaurant that’s a few blocks away from here are now going to be all brought together by this service.”
CircuitNR will operate Mondays through Thursdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.., Fridays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays between noon and 10 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 7 p.m.