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New ride sharing service begins in West Plains, Mo.

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 10:05 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2021 at 8:28 AM CDT
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WEST PLAINS, Mo. (KY3) - When Michael Mill isn’t busy dispatching helicopters for an air ambulance company, he’s running his new company, called Cartender.

The company features 11 drivers in West Plains, Willow Springs and Caulfield standing by to take you just about anywhere you want to go.

“There’s no limit,” said Mill. “We’ve traveled to St. Louis, to Springfield, to Kansas City, we’ve been to Jonesboro, to Memphis. Wherever anybody needs to go, we can take them.”

Ride share companies have been popular in big cities for years, but in rural areas customers need them even more because they don’t have access to public transportation. And a lot of people can’t afford a car or they do not have a driver’s license.

Mill said often, people have trouble getting or keeping jobs because they don’t have transportation. “Like the people who rode with us earlier,” he said, “they live at a facility, and now they have a home because they’ve been able to go to work every single day.”

Cartender also offers pick-up and delivery service. Mill does have competition, though. Theresa Clinton started Gopherit, mainly to keep drunk drivers off the road at night.

“That’s how it originally started,” said Clinton. “It was just Friday and Saturday nights, just for the bar crowd, and then it just kept snowballing and here we are.”

Gopherit features 14 drivers and three dispatchers. Local bar owner says he’s a big fan of the ride services. He’s seen a big increase in the number of customers choosing to leave their cars at home.

“Before the pandemic, it was like maybe one-percent,” said Phil Wage, owner of Wages Brewery. “Now it’s more like five-to ten-percent, on really busy nights especially.

Wages says ride services are good for business and keep the roads safer. For drivers, the hours are flexible and the money is pretty good.

Lorin Trick works in the office of GopherIt, but she started out as a driver.

“I also loved getting to interact with so many different people,” she said. “I’ve lived in this town my whole life and I got to meet people that I hadn’t met before.”

For now, both services depend on old-fashioned phone calls to schedule rides or deliveries. They’re both working on apps to streamline operations. Mill plans to expand into rural communities in other states, while Clinton focuses on growing a medical transport company she also owns.

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