In June 2007, Clyde Brodt started a shuttle service in the Crosslake area of north central Minnesota to keep himself busy after he retired. Working with a single seven-passenger vehicle, Brodt thought residents and visitors to the popular Minnesota vacation area might appreciate the convenience of rides to and from local drinking establishments during the summer. The popularity of his idea caught on immediately, and within two months he had added another vehicle; two months later he added a third. Today, nine “Safe Ride” 14-passenger shuttle buses operate seven days a week, year-round within a five-mile radius of the cities of Breezy Point, Crosslake, Emily, Gull Lake, and Pequot Lakes, an area with a year-round population of almost 19,000.
Each vehicle is independently owned and operated, but owners agree to work cooperatively. Each shuttle owner possesses the required licenses, certification, and insurance necessary to operate commercial transportation services.
The shuttle service is complimentary between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.; after 10 p.m., riders are given a wristband and are charged $10. The $10 fee entitles a rider to unlimited transportation to, between, and home from almost 20 area bars and restaurants. If a rider wants to visit an establishment that does not participate, the cost is $15. Patrons who drive themselves for an evening out but later decide they do not want to drive home are also welcome to leave their vehicle at the bar and use Safe Ride services for $10. Shuttle service is available until the last riders have been taken home.
Brodt does not keep track of the number of rides he and his colleagues provide, but based on calls for service and revenue, he estimates up to 300 rides are provided each weekend evening in the summer. Approximately 30 percent of rides occur between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. and are complimentary. Brodt says many of the early evening riders are area seniors who appreciate being able to go out for a meal or meet friends for a drink. Shuttle service is often prearranged by wedding parties and other groups.
Participating bars and restaurants contribute between $200 and $400 per month for the Safe Ride shuttle service, depending on the level of service required by each establishment. Marketing efforts are modest, consisting primarily of word-of-mouth at the participating establishments and some advertising fliers printed by the area beer distributor. The beer distributor also provides funding for the Safe Ride lettering on shuttle vehicles.