Delaware / Startups / Transportation

Golf-cart taxis are coming to downtown Wilmington

The WilminGo app launches this Thursday, a day before the taxi service officially hits the road.

Mayor Mike Purzycki takes a ride on the WilminGo taxi. (Photo courtesy of Moon Loop Photography)
Update: WilminGo is pushing back its launch to mid-September. Read more here. (8/23/18, 12:53 p.m.)
It started with a trip to Nashville, where Chris Buccini, co-president of The Buccini/Pollin Group, saw golf-cart taxis offering rides with a side of city history.

It’s no secret that BPG, which is behind some of the city’s biggest projects, including the 76ers Fieldhouse, DECO food hall and The Residences of Mid-Town Square, is passionate about Wilmington. Golf-cart taxis have added vibrancy to other cities — why not here?

The idea opened up an opportunity for BPG to partner with the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship program, something the real estate firm had been looking to do. The startup, called WilminGo, is run by two Horn students, Andrew Cercena and Matthew Lombardi, who were chosen after a detailed selection process.

The WilminGo app launches this Thursday; the company’s first taxi starts giving rides Friday.

It's really about bringing more vibrance and life to the city.

With WSFS signing on as the startup’s first major outside funder, the bright red golf cart that had been unveiled at the grand opening of The Residences at Mid-Town Square seemed to clash with the bank’s brand.

“Their color is green,” said Cercena. “With the red and the green, we didn’t want it to look like a Christmas tree.”

So red was out, replaced by a neutral white. Instead of a new paint job, they had Carvertise, founded by Horn alum Mac Nagaswami, “wrap” it in plain white, ready for their own branding application.

Nagaswami, for his part, is enthusiastic about the new service.

“I think it’s great that BPG helped put this together,” he said. “It’s a step in the right direction for people who want that ‘big city’ feel. It shows [BPG’s] level of commitment to Wilmington — they get behind things at are new and different.”

When WilminGo launches, it will have one golf cart and several drivers — including Cercena and Lombardi — to keep it running daily. The cart is street legal, with all of the safety features of a car, including airbags, seatbelts and headlights. Since it’s classified as a “slow-moving vehicle,” the drivers (called “golf cart ambassadors”) need to pass a special classification on their license.

Matt Lombardi and Andrew Cercena present WilminGo at a Happy Hour event at The Mill. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Parsons)

Matt Lombardi and Andrew Cercena present WilminGo at a Happy Hour event at The Mill. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Parsons)

More importantly, they have to be passionate about Wilmington. New ambassadors are given a course in downtown Wilmington history with the Delaware Historical Society, so as you ride down Market Street, they can point out historic sites and the vintage architecture above the storefronts we easily take for granted from street level.

“It’s about bringing a cool mode of transportation to downtown, no doubt about that,” said Buccini/Pollin Group COO Dan McCarthy. “But it’s really about bringing more vibrance and life to the city.”

The service will work similarly to Uber or Lyft — when you need a ride, you open the app and tell it where you are within the 39-block service area (roughly from 10th & Market to LOMA) and where you need to go. For up to two people, there is a flat rate of $3; for 3–5 people, the fee is $5.

Eventually, Cercena and Lombardi hope to add more golf carts and more ambassadors, and possibly expand the service area to include the Riverfront. A downtown pub-hopping service is also on the list of goals.

The app will be downloadable for Android and iPhone Aug. 23.

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