Island Ride launches transportation system

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LACK of funding makes it hard for the government to realize its vision for improving the transportation system on island, but Sen. Sixto Igisomar expressed hope that Island Ride can upgrade it.

Digital Saipan marketing manager Robert Exley speaks during the launch of Island Ride on Friday at Saipan World Resort.  Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

Digital Saipan on Friday launched Island Ride at Saipan World Resort.

“Our aim is to provide [a] cheap, safe, and reliable form of transportation to [the] community,” Digital Saipan marketing manager Robert Exley said.

Digital Saipan has developed an app for drivers and passengers, and is available on www.islandride.tk and, soon, at the App Store and Google Play.

To avail themselves of Island Ride’s services, passengers must download the app, which can also accommodate non-English speakers. The app allows a passenger to get a ride immediately or by appointment. The passenger can also choose the vehicle type and get an estimated price.

When an Island-Ride registered driver accepts, the passenger can see the driver’s photo and location. The passenger can cancel the ride.

As for the fare calculation, it starts only when the passenger gets on the vehicle. After arriving at the destination, the passenger can see the details of the charges.

Exley said Island Ride’s transportation system is not new. He said around the world, there are about 70 companies using the same system, including Uber, Grab, and Lyft.

He said one of the major concerns of riders is sexual assault. “So with our app, if you’re a female passenger, you can request a driver who is also female. We want to ensure safety,” Exley added.

Island Ride also has a rating system. All their drivers will be rated by their passengers. “If a driver gets low ratings, he will be suspended from driving after an investigation,” Exley said, adding passengers will be rated as well.

Because a significant group of the population does not use a cashless payment system, Exley said: “Initially we’ll use the cash system.”

He added that they are also working on an online payment system, and prepaid cards.

Digital Saipan will not charge its drivers for the next three months, but will require a $100 deposit from each driver who registers with Island Ride.

“Sometimes we may have a driver who does not meet the requirements of the passengers. We will refund them [passenger]. If we have a driver who gets ‘dinged’ and has to pay back the money, then we can use their deposit. However, the deposit will be returned to the drivers as soon as we become cashless,” Exley said.

Digital Saipan is also in negotiations with restaurants and other business establishments for food and grocery delivery services.

Island Ride’s transportation service will start its operations this week.

“We encourage patience among our passengers and drivers,” Exley said. “You might get spotty service at first but it will correct itself as pool of drivers will expand as well as passengers.”

Igisomar, the vice chairman of the Senate transportation committee, attended Island Ride’s launch on Friday and commended Digital Island for bringing a new transportation system to the island.

“I am praying for them to succeed so that more people will be able to go from one end of the island to the other,” Igisomar said in an interview.

He added that he is not promoting Island Ride, but noted that it is a lot safer than illegal taxi cabs, which charge low flat rates.

Igisomar said Island Ride app has several safety features. “It is a win-win situation for a driver and a passenger.”

He asked members of the community to stop patronizing illegal taxi cabs. “It’s not safe. [Island Ride] is a lot safer than an illegal taxi cab.”

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