Free downtown Hamilton shuttle service in line for city funding

LocalMotive plan for loop service ‘makes a lot more sense’ than RTA, city official says.

It appeared the free shuttle service LocalMotive would not become operational because of costs, but the city of Hamilton has recognized the need and is aiming to help.

LocalMotive is a free ride-hailing service designed to pick up visitors and residents within the city’s urban core, shuttling people around a designated loop route. Hamilton Economic Development Manager Jody Gunderson said the city received an email in November from the company that informed them they would not be moving forward with the business.

But this type of service is needed, said Gunderson. Working with the Wards —Dustin, Devan and Derrick — Hamilton is considering a $90,000 Commercial Revolving Loan Fund. The loan would go through the Hamilton Community Improvement Corporation, which recommended approval of the low-interest, seven-year loan.

Gunderson said Hamilton had looked at different ways to move people throughout the downtown and urban core, including having the Butler County RTA involved, but the shuttle service “makes a lot more sense.”

Now, he said, they’re “at a point where we can push this forward.”

The free shuttle service is designed to be funded through advertising inside each GEM e6 vehicle, which requires communication with the corridor’s businesses. Each vehicle has an in-vehicle iPad showing categories of activities to do, along with digital advertising opportunities for local businesses.

“If they’re going to be successful at what we do, they’re going to need to work very closely with the businesses,” he said.

As it stands, the operational plans call for the service to run Thursdays to Sundays, but the route is still being worked out, according to the city.

“It’s a definite asset to our businesses to keep more of that tourism and shopping traffic in our city,” Gunderson said.

Gunderson is recommending City Council consider approving the loan in two readings at its March 13 meeting.

The terms of the proposed loan would be a $90,000 loan at a 3% annual interest rate beginning on March 20, 2024. This expedited request will allow the Wards to assume ownership of the vehicles as quickly as possible.

The vehicles will be collateral for the loan, Gunderson said.

LocalMotive will not just aid the corridor in economic development, but it could also help with potential traffic issues. It keeps more people downtown and more cars in parking spaces and off roadways.

“It will be nice, especially as the (planned and projected) hotels come online,” he said, calling LocalMotive’s service “an added value” for guests staying in Hamilton.

Mayor Pat Moeller hopes this business is a success, especially with Hamiltonians behind it.

“I think it’s a great use of the revolving loan fund, and I hope they succeed in a big way,” he said.

Councilman Tim Naab echoed similar sentiments from others on council, saying he’d like to see them succeed, and expand the route as the corridor develops further down Main Street.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” he said.

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