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Ride sharing, Ely-style

Canoeber: Ely’s answer to Uber, draws April 1 spotlight to the “end of the road”

Keith Vandervort
Posted 4/5/17

ELY - The ride-sharing app craze of Uber and Lyft has yet to hit Ely, but a distinctly Northwoods-specific ride-sharing service called Canoeber (“It’s like Uber, but for canoes”) launched, so …

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Ride sharing, Ely-style

Canoeber: Ely’s answer to Uber, draws April 1 spotlight to the “end of the road”

Posted

ELY - The ride-sharing app craze of Uber and Lyft has yet to hit Ely, but a distinctly Northwoods-specific ride-sharing service called Canoeber (“It’s like Uber, but for canoes”) launched, so to speak, last Saturday in the city at the end of the road.

They’re calling it the world’s first water-based, ride-sharing service.

A quick check of the calendar gave away the clue that the “big announcement” was another April Fool’s Day marketing event sponsored by the Ely Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s the story:

Now with a tap on the Canoeber mobile app, visitors on any of the area lakes can summon a nearby Ely-based canoeist to transport them to campsites, resorts or anywhere else along the 1,500 miles of canoe routes. It also allows Ely residents to earn extra income using their own personal canoes to transport passengers, although paddlers can also rent a canoe from an area outfitter to provide Canoeber services.

While Uber gained tremendous awareness and success as part of the sharing economy around the world, the service had never been introduced in this picturesque part of Northeastern Minnesota. Ely officials, sensing an opportunity in the marketplace, worked with a local technology company to develop the service and a mobile app.

Critics of the ride-sharing canoe app dispute the need for the service and complain that the installation of hundreds of cell towers around the edges of the million-acre wilderness area (needed to provide the necessary wireless service) quietly took place during the winter months when no one was paying attention.

When asked to comment, Ely Mayor Chuck Novak said the unsightly presence of the new cell towers will soon be forgotten as Canoeber explodes in popularity. Other Ely residents, when asked to comment, said those in competing wilderness areas are simply jealous of the city’s independent streak and are just a bunch of whiners anyway.

When asked if Canoeber is meant to be the first step in a total transportation offering in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Ely officials demurred, offering only that there’s been a surge of interest in self-paddling canoes, especially after the acclaim generated by last year’s release of the Original Ely Electric Paddle. They also noted that the service is available outside the BWCAW so vacationers can be paddled to a favorite fishing spot or lakeside resort, restaurant or picnic beach.

Meanwhile, gondola operators, or gondoliers, in the Italian city of Venice are disputing the claim that Canoeber is the first water-based, ride-sharing service.

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