The Leesburg Town Council will consider another expansion of the boundaries for CartWheel’s golf cart transport services following a public hearing planned in June.
Launched in 2018 by Asa Rusk, the service was started to shuttle visitors to the restaurants and breweries in the downtown area. Reflective of the town’s growing nightlife scene, he said he gets pick-up requests from residents outside his current service zone and has customers wanting to visit establishments beyond his boundaries. As while the service is geared to entertainment and hospitality venues, Rusk said some customers ask for trips to the doctor or other errands.
The council created a special ordinance to permit the golf cart service to operate on the public streets within narrow parameters. The original service area covering the downtown core was expanded in 2019 to provide rides down South King Street to the Virginia Village shopping center and to the Crescent Place neighborhood along Harrison Street.
This time, Rusk is seeking to branch out into three more neighborhoods, Exeter, Ida Lee Park and the Leesburg Plaza shopping center area; Virginia Knolls; and Prospect Hills. The carts would only travel on roads with speed limits of 25 miles per hour or lower.
In a presentation to the council Monday night, town Traffic Engineer Calvin Grow recommended more study of the operation before expanding the service boundaries. Because the service has not been as active during the pandemic, Grow suggested studying the operation through the summer to gauge ridership and safety concern. He noted that, so far, no negative impacts have been reported.
Police Officer Ryan Martin raised safety concerns about use of the vehicles on the public streets and recommended against the expansion. He based his concern on a crash study of low-speed vehicles published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in 2010.
While council members agreed safety should be the top priority, a majority expressed support of allowing the expanded service area during the summer months and reviewing the performance this fall.
Mayor Kelly Burk noted that many of the communities she has visited have similar shuttle services.
“I have used them. They are great to get around,” she said.
Burk also noted that the staff and the Police Department opposed the service when Rusk first proposed it, but no safety issues have emerged in the years since that vote.
“We’re a tourist town. People want to go from one restaurant to another or from home to a restaurant and back safely,” said Councilman Zach Cummings.
The staff was directed to prepare an ordinance to permit the service area expansion for consideration following a June 28 public hearing. Meanwhile, council members plan to ride with Rusk, with a police escort if required, on the routes he is seeking.