What has three wheels, seven seats and can be hopped on and off for free, at least this weekend?
It’s the RVATukTuk, a new shuttle service that entered the Richmond market earlier this month.
Lyndsi and David Austin started RVATukTuk after a vacation to Lisbon, Portugal, in the spring.
“It seemed like such a great idea for Richmond,” Lyndsi said.
The RVATukTuk looks like a cross-breed between a scooter and a shuttle. It has a long nose that’s brightly colored in pastel shades of purple, green or orange and is controlled by a throttle on the handlebars like a motorcycle.
The three-wheeled “open air limos” are 100% electric and can motor up to 25 mph.
From 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, the RVATukTuk will be offering a free shuttle service on a designated route from Scott’s Addition to the Fan District to help get the word out.
If you see the RVATukTuk, all you have to do is flag it down to get a free ride.
Drivers also will be handing out free tickets in the neighborhood.
“The idea is to hop on and hop off and keep it free,” Lyndsi said.
The TukTuk has a billboard on the back and spaces for advertising on the sides.
The couple also have experimented with charging a $5 flat fee for the hop-on, hop-off service. But their hope is that businesses, restaurants or breweries will purchase advertising to sponsor weekend hop-on, hop-off rides.
The Sheppard Street Tavern has sponsored free rides for this weekend.
While the sides are open — sort of like a luxury golf cart — the six passenger seats are heated, there are seat belts and rain guards can come down in case of inclement weather.
“I like that the seats face each other. It’s a party atmosphere. We have music and the speakers going,” Lyndsi said.
RVATukTuk also plans to provide brewery tours, city tours and shuttle services for local weddings. A holiday light tour package is in the works that will take guests downtown and to GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
“We’re not trying to replace Uber or Lyft. We’re not a taxi,” Lyndsi said. “We’re meant to go a short distance, from point A to point B.”
For now, the TukTuk typically costs $125 to rent per hour and $100 for each additional hour.
The Austins have a fleet of four TukTuks in their West Clay Street garage in the Carver neighborhood and have hired drivers for the service. They hope to expand the fleet in the future.
Both in their 50s, Lyndsi works full time for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and David spent 20 years in marketing at Capital One, The Martin Agency and his own firm.
The RVATukTuk hit the streets in early October and has been offering rides at First Fridays and the Richmond Folk Festival.
The vehicles are “street legal,” according to the couple, and have VIN numbers and DMV tags.
“People see the TukTuk and they get this great big grin,” Lyndsi said. “It just makes people happy.”