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Chip Chandler, owner of the HopOn shuttle service, poses on one of the golf carts used to transport people around downtown Athens, Georgia, and the University of Georgia campus. (Photo/Raini Singleton)

A new shuttle service in Athens is offering a fun, affordable way for students, citizens and visitors to get around town since its inception approximately four weeks ago.

Based on tuk-tuks, which are popular forms of transportation in Thailand, HopOn features three-wheeled, open-air, electric shuttles that blend a golf-cart and a motorcycle. The founder and president of the company, Chip Chandler, was inspired to start his business when he wanted to find an efficient yet different way for students to travel.

“I thought about how students travel on campus and downtown and what would be a good method to get students where they need to go,” Chandler said.

With a total of two shuttles, one red and one blue, HopOn offers riders an experience that includes features such as music, a TV with featured advertisements, heated and cushioned seats, lights and seatbelts. As low-speed vehicles that can reach max speeds of 25 miles per hour, the shuttles can operate on roads 35 mph or below. However, it is the open-air and electric concepts that make the shuttles stand out from other forms of transportation.

“The shuttles are zero-emissions and good for the environment,” Chandler said. “And being open-air, the drivers and riders are very visible, making for a safer experience. This is unlike Uber or Lyft, which has experienced riders being robbed or even having to jump out of the cars out of safety concerns.”

HopOn operates Wednesday through Friday 4:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m.- 2:30 a.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. There are three areas of operation: the downtown district, the campus area and game day services. All times offer a flat rate cost, no matter the distance, and the service provides both pick-up and drop-off services.

The downtown district includes nine hotels, 12 student apartment complexes and any of the locations in the main downtown area. This service costs $2 per rider.

The campus area includes the dorms, sorority and fraternity houses and every building throughout campus. This service costs $3 per rider.

The game day service features bookings, which can be placed either on the HopOn website or by phone, with bookings being accepted up until two hours before and after game time. The shuttles run a predetermined route and drop off riders as close to the stadium as possible. This service costs $5 per rider.

“People can hail shuttles and take them wherever they want to go, kind of like a taxi in New York,” Chandler said.

One essential use the shuttle service has proven to offer has been for those who have more trouble getting around.

“On game days, it’s been very neat that most people we have given rides to have been the elderly, disabled or pregnant,” Chandler said. “The shuttles are providing a service that is needed in those instances that is not normally offered.”

Olivia Craig, a junior genetics major from Marietta, had her first experience with HopOn this past week when making her way back to her apartment complex.

“My first thought was ‘Yay, maybe this could take me home!’” Craig said.

Craig uses apps such as Uber and Lyft but was attracted to the services the shuttle had to offer.

“As long as [the shuttle] is cheaper than the Uber, I would definitely use it,” Craig said.

The shuttles are built to withstand all weather conditions, except snow and ice, and are set to operate year-round, Chandler said. During the winter, seats can be warmed, a heater can be attached to the interior roof of the shuttle and a clear, plastic attachment can be added to create an enclosed space during rainy days and cold months.

Depending on the temperature outside and the number of riders, the shuttles can function up to six to eight hours on a single charge.

Alyssa Moffitt, a junior biology and psychology double major from Woodstock, has seen the shuttles around before but has never ridden one.

“If it is available, I would use [the shuttles] over Uber or Lyft,” Moffitt said. “Uber can be so expensive so I would definitely use it, especially for game days.”

As of now, HopOn currently has two shuttles and two drivers, one of them being the owner of the company himself. Chandler said he has already established a “consistent base of regulars” and hopes in the near future to not only have a total of six shuttles but to also offer a semester-long pass for students to access the shuttles.

The owner is also in the process of developing an app that can be used to make bookings, and, upon its release, will be available on the iPhone and Android. Until then, bookings can be made online at the HopOn website or by phone.

Shuttles through HopOn can be primarily found at the corner of College Avenue and Broad Street as well as the corner of Washington Street and Lumpkin Street during any of HopOn’s operational hours.

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