NEBRASKA CITY, Nebraska — Two men have satisfied state regulators to resume their all-but-free shuttle service for late-night patrons of Nebraska City bars.
Travis Gillespie and Frank Trombino climbed back into their $1,800, 1993 van earlier this month and took some people back to their homes inside Nebraska City limits. The charge was a penny, which the two said they didn't collect.
Billboards that discouraged drunken driving inspired Gillespie and Trombino to begin their service, they said.
Safe Ride Shuttle Service cranked up in February but was ordered to halt in March. The Nebraska Public Service Commission got a complaint the two were charging money but didn't have a permit. Among its regulatory duties, the commission watches over taxi, limousine and some bus services.
Gillespie said the commission got the impression the shuttle was a for-hire service, which he said it was not.
But they did accept donations and tips, which the commission said put the operation into a commercial category. That required higher insurance coverage and special permits.
"They didn't know how to write me up as a business, because I didn't charge rates," Gillespie told the Lincoln Journal Star. To meet the commission requirements for a fee schedule, Gillespie wrote down a penny per passenger.
"They said it was silly on paper," he said. "I wasn't being rude about it, but I don't see how they can dictate what I charge as a business."
Bar patrons raised slightly more than $1,000 since the shuttle stopped running in March and donated it to help with insurance and other expenses.
Gillespie and Trombino have raised their insurance coverage to $1.5 million, obtained the necessary permits and resumed their work with the help of volunteer drivers.
The service runs overnight on Fridays and Saturdays, from 8 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.