Visitors and locals needing a ride to restaurants, hotels or businesses on Upper Matecumbe Key will still have Freebee to choose. But the service may very well be extended to the rest of the islands in Islamorada.
The environmentally friendly shuttle service was on a six-month trial period in the village, and it was set to end May 31. Village council during its May 30 meeting decided to extend that agreement with Freebee by two more months. In addition, they asked Jason Spiegel, Freebee co-founder and managing partner, to return during the June 27 meeting with a plan and number to service all of Islamorada.
“In the big picture, I heard nothing but good things how you operated, and no complaints about drivers,” Councilman Jim Mooney told Spiegel. “I see the customer rating is good and their driver rating at 4.92. I know locals love it.”
A free on demand, door-to-door transport system, Spiegel says Freebee’s goals are being met in terms of reducing traffic congestion, cutting the carbon footprint, delivering customers to the footsteps of local businesses and slashing the drinking and driving. Residents who have yet to try the free service can download the Ride Freebee from the App store or Google Play.
“When the service began, we had a long-term vision,” Spiegel said. “Our commitment to the village is here for the long term.”
In terms of ridership, data from the past two months shows Islamorada, with its two shuttle cars, has the highest passenger per hour number, nine, than other new Freebee programs underway. The company’s pilot program in Fort Lauderdale shows eight passengers per hour, and in Pinecrest, data shows six per hour.
“We do feel really good about the amount of riders we’ve transported and the growth we’ve experience during the first six months,” he said.
Freebee is available Thursday and Friday from 4 p.m. to midnight and Saturday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. As to the biggest feedback Freebee’s received, Spiegel says it’s coverage across all islands in Islamorada. Spiegel says a brand new, nine-passenger, 100-percent electric vehicle recently began operating in Miami that’s able to travel on all roads.
“This electric van would be the perfect vehicle to service all of Islamorada, and our strategy would be to run a combination between a fixed route and on demand,” he said. “Larger vans traveling north and south on U.S. 1, passengers could request rides wherever they’re at. The vehicle would deviate off their route, pick them up at their location, get back onto the route and deviate off when they have to drop them off at their location.”
Councilman Ken Davis told Spiegel the service is cutting the carbon footprint just by how many people are not getting into a car. Davis asked what a hybrid vehicle would cost. Spiegel said there’s not many out there besides mini buses.
“I think it could be a great compromise if it saved a lot of money,” Davis said. “A hybrid vehicle is still going to cut the carbon footprint by a third when you combine that with number of riders we’re going to keep off road. I think it would be a cost-effective measure and something we might be able to work with.”
During the six-month trial period, 6.24 tons of CO2 emissions were prevented from being released into the atmosphere.