Miami Parking Authority funds Freebee rides downtown
Freebee’s free-ride service continues to expand as it partners with municipalities and others across the county and beyond – and now it’s teaming up with the Miami Parking Authority to service downtown.
The authority’s board last week unanimously approved a one-year pilot program with Freebee for three of the company’s electric vehicles to provide on-demand rides in Downtown Miami. The authority will pay Freebee $180,000 for that.
Alejandra Argudin, the authority’s chief operations officer, said it took nearly three years of discussions to establish a partnership with Freebee. She said there was interest because the service could help mitigate traffic downtown and provide a last-mile solution – a link between mass transit and passengers’ final destinations.
Freebee uses electric vehicles that look like golf carts. Available free of charge, passengers have three ways to access a Freebee car: through the Ride Freebee mobile app, calling a toll-free number or waving down a passing Freebee.
Each vehicle costs $108,000 a year to operate. However, according to the agreement with Freebee, $48,000 of each vehicle will be subsidized by the authority’s guaranteed advertising revenue. While the vehicles will sport advertisements, the Freebees will also feature prominent parking authority signage.
CEO Art Noriega said that while the authority considered up to five vehicles, it settled for three for the pilot.
The service area will be bounded roughly by 11th Street on the north and the Miami River on the south, I-95 on the west and Biscayne Bay on the east. Documents show proposed operating hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, but those hours could change.
During the meeting, Freebee’s Jason Spiegel, co-founder and managing partner, said the company will assume all liability, and the authority will have final say on advertising on the vehicles.
While Freebee was conceived under an advertisement model when it was founded in 2012, it has shifted away from that model by teaming up with municipalities for funding. As a result, it has now become more of a public transportation option.
Though the partnership with the parking authority is new, Freebee’s presence downtown is not. The company currently services downtown, as well as Brickell, Wynwood, Edgewater and the Design District, albeit under the advertisement model, Mr. Spiegel told Miami Today. He emphasized that the partnership with the authority will make the service more reliable downtown, saying that “if we don’t have the advertising dollars, I can’t put the cars on the roads.”
Mr. Spiegel said providing a reliable service downtown will also allow users to park their cars once and move around downtown with ease. He projected the vehicles could roll out in 45 to 60 days.
“It’s going to be a game-changer for downtown,” he said.
The company also services Miami’s Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, South Beach and Mid-Beach, and outside the county, including St. Pete Beach and Delray Beach.
The authority, officially known as the Department of Off-Street Parking, manages on-street and off-street parking assets in the City of Miami. The agency is self-sustaining, financed by parking revenues.