You drink, they drive you and car

| Friday, Nov. 20, 2009

Providing vehicular transport to the inebriated is pretty far down on the list of preferred career choices.

But that's not to say a trio of 28 year-old South Hills residents doesn't enjoy making a few bucks doing it part-time.

They launched the Pear Transportation Company last month in hopes of making it Pittsburgh's premier designated driving service. Being that it appears to be the city's only designated driving service, their chances of success appear good.

"It's gone well so far," said company co-owner Tony Ciotti of Green Tree. "Aside from losing a few hours of sleep every night, it's been a lot of fun."

Pear was conceived over the summer -- appropriately enough, over several adult beverages -- by Ciotti and fellow Bishop Canevin High School graduates Mike Conley of Green Tree and Danielle Danzuso of Scott.

"A lot of our friends have had DUIs or been in accidents," Danzuso said. "We wanted to provide a safe way of getting people home that is more reliable than taxi services, which are just awful. It takes forever to get a cab."

Pear is distinct from a cab company or jitney operation in that its drivers -- all of whom have passed background and driving record checks -- get you and your car home.

Here's how it works:

You are attending a party, participating in a pub crawl, or have been trapped into appearing at some horrid family function that you can only get through by consuming copious amounts of alcohol.

You know you're not going to be in any shape to drive home.

So you reserve one of Pear's part-time drivers by calling the company or going to its Web site ( The driver meets you at your vehicle, takes your keys, gets in the vehicle and drives you to your desired destination.

In-trip entertainment occasionally is provided.

"We have a few Breathalyzers, and we'll have people breathe into them," Ciotti said. "If they can correctly guess their blood-alcohol content, they get a free T-shirt."

Upon your arrival, your vehicle is parked safely, your keys are returned and another Pear employee picks up the driver you just paid.

Your biggest worry at that point is not a possible police checkpoint, but how to remedy the hangover you are sure to have the next morning.

Although the fledgling company is receiving holiday bookings, the Pear founders don't plan to give up their day jobs. Ciotti works for an information technology firm, Conley is in the health care field and Danzuso owns a spa.

That could change if Pear become as popular as Chris Dilla, the owner of Bocktown Beer and Grill in North Fayette, thinks it could become.

"It's a terrific idea that encourages responsible drinking," she said. "I really want to partner with them to make sure that everyone who comes into our restaurant knows about this."

Ciotti and Conley certainly knew about Pear when they planned a night of imbibing last week. After attending the Pittsburgh Whiskey and Fine Spirits Festival at Heinz Field, they had Danzuso drive them home.

What did Ciotti think about using his own service?

"Oh, it was fine," he said. "Except that just like everyone else, we had to pay."

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