During these challenging times, Miamians Alicia Espinosa and Camila Montiel have been looking to stretch their transportation dollars.
Freebee, whose fleet of golf carts jet around Wynwood, Coconut Grove, South Beach and numerous other areas, has been their solution.
Without reliable transportation or a job, Espinosa, 43, had to figure out a way to get around without spending more money than she had.
“I started to become really savvy [about] how to get around. And I would say straight away, I came across the freebie,” she said.
At first, Espinosa was commuting by riding the free Coral Gables trolley. But, she said, it doesn’t run on weekends.
“I try to use Uber and Lyft the least possible because, well, now I’m unemployed,” said Espinosa. “A lot of times I do, I commute really well within my city. But sometimes I need to go further, and I really don’t want to walk because it’s hot out and humid.”
John Janusz, Freebee’s director of economic development, said the idea of the company was to truly connect people to the businesses in their community.
“Instead of just being a company that provides transportation from point A to point B, we know that’s not enough,” he said. ” We also want to connect people with the local community, connect passengers with local businesses, you know, let them know that it’s not just your basic transportation service.”
Janusz said the for-profit company is funded by advertising revenue and contracts with various Business Improvement Districts contracts. A BID occurs when a group of businesses in an area poll funds together to pay for services – such as security, advertising or transportation – beyond what a city might normally provide.
Camila Montiel, 23, and her family members use Freebee in the Wynwood to avoid paying for parking.
“I leave my car parked in my aunt’s house, and we walk a block or two down to get in the Freebee range and request one,” she said. “Not only is it more affordable, but it’s also faster than finding a parking spot in Wynwood.”
According to an online website, Parkopedia, parking near the Wynwood neighborhood can vary from as low as $3 for 2 hours to a $20 flat rate. The parking fee can fluctuate during special events like Miami Art Week.
“I mean, I don’t mind paying the $3, but sometimes depending on where you’re going, time flies by fast, and then before you realize, your hour is up, and $3 turns into $15,” said Montiel. “Currently, I am not at liberty to be spending so much money considering since I am not exactly in the right financial standing… It’s also crazy how in the most touristy location there isn’t much budget-friendly parking too!”
Montiel and Espinosa both said they have noticed fewer people using the service than usual recently, but noted drivers are consistent in wearing masks.
“I was hesitant about taking one because of all that is happening, but I feel like Freebee is safer than taking the Metro or bus right now,” said Montiel. “I rode one not so long ago, and the drivers all had their masks on, the few people using the rides all skip a row or two from each other.”
“[The drivers] been very safe. And they’re very adamant about me wearing my mask too. And by all means, I want them to be safe. And I want to be safe so, I make sure to sit always about two seats back from the driver,” she said.
Janusz said that the Freebee app, which is compatible with both Android and Apple phones, functions similarly to Uber or Lyft. If there is someone who requires any ADA specifications, they can request a specific Freebee ride that will meet their needs.
“Once you request a ride, the driver texts the passenger,” he said. “And so they have direct communication at that point.”