Unique ‘taxi service’ at Jupiter’s Inlet Village takes off


Highlights

Plan is to reduce traffic along A1A in Jupiter

More golf carts are planned for Inlet Village in Jupiter

Entertainer, concierge, parking attendant and promoter — Jeff Isaacs wears lots of hats as he steers his golf cart to ferry visitors to and from the attractions in Jupiter’s waterfront Inlet Village.

“I can find a good restaurant table with an ocean view,” he boasts. “Want to rent a kayak? I’ll sing happy birthday like Elvis. I have a blanket if it gets cold. Plus, I’m helping solve the parking problem,” says the lanky, fast-talking Jupiter resident as he ferries six jolly customers from the Square Grouper to their next stop at u-Tiki restaurant.

Called Zeke’s Golf Cart Taxi Service — named after Isaac’s father — he now has one golf cart. The ride is free and pets are allowed. Gratuities are optional, but once, he claims he got a $200 tip.

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The golf cart taxi is part of the town’s plan to reduce driving and encourage walking, bicycling and other modes of transportation in the Inlet Village, said Vice Mayor Wayne Posner.

The town installed speed bumps and reduced the speed limit and on A1A. About $8 million was spent adding sidewalks, bicycle lanes, lighting and landscaping on the roadway from Beach Road north to U.S. 1. New bicycle lanes, medians and sidewalks are planned for Indiantown Road from A1A west to U.S. 1.

“We’re rethinking the ways to alleviate traffic in the Inlet Village,” Posner said.

Isaacs, 57, is a private contractor whose profit comes from advertising banners on the golf cart, which can go up to 17 miles per hour.

Since May, the Atlanta native has been bringing customers along A1A from the parking lot at Jetty’s restaurant south to Juno Beach. Condominiums such as Ocean Trail, DuBois Park, Publix on Indiantown Road, the Juno Pier, the Pit Stop convenience store, Lighthouse Cove Mini-Golf and Harbourside Place are among his stops. So will be 1000 NORTH when it opens in three weeks.

“Why drive when you can have a free ride? I use this all the time. It’s safer and gets cars off the road,” said Jupiter resident Kayleigh Nolan, a waitress at 1000 NORTH who was celebrating her 21st birthday Thursday night with five pals riding the golf cart.

Isaacs just bought two more golf carts for about $12,000 each. Each seats up to eight people. He’s installing seat belts, tires, mirrors, brake lights and a windshield. He needs permits from Jupiter, Palm Beach County and Florida. Two drivers will be hired before he puts the new 17-foot-long vehicles on the road next month.

The town is considering a grant of between $5,000-$10,000 to Isaacs. He plans to move forward with or without the grant.

By the time he pays insurance, he figures it costs about $25,000 to put each one of the golf cart taxis on the road.

“If the Inlet Village is going to succeed, the town has to solve the parking problem,” said Isaacs, as he motors down Love Street.

Like a barnstorming politician, he waves and shouts out to pedestrians, drivers and valets. Many call his name and wave back.

“We call him Tall Jeff. Everybody knows him,” said Chad Van Boven, owner of Guanabanas.

Long-range plans call for buying more carts, said Isaacs, a former general contractor and landscaper who moved to Jupiter about 10 years ago.

READ: Approved and proposed waterfront developments in Jupiter

Delray Beach, Boca Raton and Palm Beach also have golf carts and electric vehicles that offer visitors free rides through their downtowns. Like the Jupiter service, profits come from advertising.

The Delray Beach Downtowner started six years ago next month. The 10 six-seater open-air vehicles drop off passengers up and down Atlantic Avenue between the tennis center and the Atlantic Ocean. About 200 riders a day ride the Delray Downtowner, said Ryan Spaargaren, one of the owners.

Developing a “grassroots relationship” with the local businesses is important to success, said Spaargaren. As hotels, restaurants and retail stores see more riders, they buy more advertising banners on the Downtowner vehicles.

Hiring drivers who are experts at the wheel and know the nooks and crannies of the the community is key to success, Spaargaren said.

“We are ambassadors to Delray Beach. When a passenger asks why the section of Atlantic Avenue is called Pineapple Grove, our drivers tell them about the pineapple groves that once were here,” Spaargaren said.

Chatting up local knowledge and businesses is part of the job, agreed Isaacs.

That’s one of the lessons he’ll pass on to the two new golf cart drivers who start next month. He’ll also tell them about the short cuts he’s found to local businesses and neighborhoods. And to wave to business owners and pedestrians. Smile.

And when you sing Happy Birthday for riders, pick your spot.

“I don’t want people to see us and go ‘Oh, no, there go those loud, crazy guys,’” Isaacs said.



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