No Indy 500 fans means less rides for transportation companies

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indy 500 generally brings in hundreds of thousands of fans, and those fans use local transportation companies. But with no fans this year, local drivers will suffer a loss.

“Safety is number one, so we recognize why there aren’t fans around,” says Lime Scooter Indianapolis Operations Manager Ryan Kowalewski.

Lime Scooters just reached their one millionth ride in the Circle City. They say it was delayed due to COVID-19. Last year’s 500 was their biggest sales day so far in Indianapolis. Since the pandemic hit, they have seen ride numbers dwindle, but ride times double.

“Seems like they have been replacing shorter trips that they may have been using an Uber for,” details Kowalewski, “We are not just seeing someone take a scooter say from here to Massachusetts Avenue, we are seeing lots of rides from apartments to Needlers, groceries stores, things like that.”

As for those Uber drivers, “I’ve only been driving for a month, I took a break between March and July essentially because I didn’t want to be exposed to COVID,” explains driver Zachary Alexander. “I’m actually making more money than I typically do [pre-COVID-19]. I think there are less drivers out, so the demand is higher. I’ve been hearing from a lot of passengers that they have to wait 15-20 minutes sometimes in order to get a ride.”

Alexander says the Indy 500 is typically a huge payday for Uber drivers. During the weekend of the 100th running of the 500, Alexander made $600 which was enough to pay for a vacation.

“I know the other year I specifically drove for the 500 because I needed the extra bump in cash,” explains Alexander.

Since the pandemic hit, Alexander has yet to take anyone to the airport. Typically, the Indy 500 brings in international fans who frequent Indy’s bars and restaurants.

“We have honestly missed busy season,” says Craig Mariutto, owner of Shoefly Public House restaurant. “You don’t recover from that.”

Shoefly is one of over 85 restaurants offering prix fixe menus and discounts leading up to the 500. It is being called Fan Fuel Restaurant Week. The hot spots hope people utilize the deals in the coming weeks or for 500 porch or watch parties.

“I think people are going to take advantage of it because it is a good deal. It’s two weeks long, so folks can get out, try different places,” Mariutto adds. “We have decided to extend it this year and do carry out with it too.”

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