If you’re on Balboa Peninsula and want a free ride to a bar, the Wedge, or the pier, Laravie can give you a lift. The Newport Beach resident is a driver for Downtowner, an app-powered ride service that makes money through advertisements—which appear on its six-seater electric shuttles and on iPads mounted inside. Drivers rely mostly on tips. The company started operating in Newport Beach nearly two years ago and has made a big impact on how visitors and locals get around.
How do you entertain your passengers?
I like to talk to customers and see if they’re locals and find out what’s going on in their lives. I see some of the same people all the time. Some drivers blast music, but I don’t because I like to interact with customers on a personal level. They can also use the iPads to check out menus from local places.
How do you feel about the city running a new public shuttle on summer weekends?
I don’t think it will affect our service whatsoever. If anything, they are bringing more people down who will need rides. They will see us zooming past and flag us down. And we operate every day, year-round. Honestly, Uber is more of an issue, competition-wise.
What is the best part about the job?
I’m a transplant myself. I moved here eight years ago from Dayton, Ohio. Just to see our local community take care of our drivers with tips and great attitudes is definitely my favorite. I’m stoked to be part of something like this.