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Archive for Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Unique taxi service targets bar patrons

Business offers customers a ride in their vehicles

October 5, 2004

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A Comedy Central show sparked an idea for a business to help curb drunken driving in Lawrence.

In mid-August, Tobias Souders, 24, started S-Man Transportation Services, which offers bar patrons a $5 ride to their homes. But unlike a traditional taxi service, Souders drives the customers back in their own cars.

"You don't have to worry about picking up your car the next morning before it accumulates parking tickets," Souders said.

He got the idea from an episode of the Comedy Central show "Insomniac with Dave Attell," which featured Scooterman, a London company that offers pub-goers who have had too much to drink a ride home in their own vehicles.

Souders' take on the idea is simple: The customer calls, Souders drives to the customer's location on a scooter, which he folds and stows in the customer's trunk before escorting the party-goer home.

Souders said the business offered drinkers a good deal when compared with a taxi cab ride, which costs a minimum of $8 for a single passenger.

Souders' business, though, has faced unexpected regulatory problems.

Lawrence Police officers stopped him in late August and told him he needed a headlight, brake light and turn signals for his folding scooter to be legal on the street. So Souders bought and installed the necessary lights and went to register the scooter at the Douglas County Courthouse. There, Souders was told the scooter still was not eligible for registering. The problem is that Souders' scooter, a gas-powered, 40-cubic-centimeter Tanaka PaveRunner, lacks a manufacturer's statement of origin that identifies the vehicle as safe for street use. Now, he's waiting for the proper paperwork from the scooter's manufacturer to prove it is street-safe.

Because he can't legally drive the scooter on the streets, Souders has been relying on his car and friend James Harmon, 29, in lieu of the scooter. They meet each customer at the car, then Harmon drives the customer and his or her car home, and Souders follows in his car and picks up Harmon at the customer's home.

Souders, who previously was a driver for Kansas University's SafeRide, said he thought business would increase when he gets his regulatory issues solved and more people learn about the business.

Jennifer Wilson, a Kansas University senior, used the service Sept. 16 to get home from The Ranch, 2515 W. Sixth St. She said the service had a chance to be successful.

"It's fast, and they took us to Taco Bell," Wilson said.

S-Man Transportation is open from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. every day. Schedule a ride by calling 550-1368.

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