Andrew Bennett was beginning to question his decision to give up his car last year. The downtown Miami resident used the Metromover and trolley for some routes, but it didn’t go to Wynwood, where he works. Besides hitching rides with friends, he tried biking to his workplace but didn’t feel safe on two wheels in the traffic.
Then Lyft came along in May, and he has been using the ride-sharing service nearly every day, to commute to The LAB Miami and go to Miami Beach, where his girlfriend lives. While he spends $6 to $15 for the rides, depending on distance, he has run the numbers and he is well ahead — considering the $150 charge to park in the building where he lives, as well as meters and tolls, the cost of insurance, gas and upkeep, and the car payment.
Bennett also says he arrives at his destination more relaxed than he would be otherwise. “You can save all the stress.” he said. “Life’s too short.”
Lyft is just one of the many smartphone-activated services popping up recently in South Florida. Whatever an urban dweller may need, it seems — transportation, parking, food and grocery delivery, even moving services — increasingly, there’s an app for that.
DecoBike of Miami Beach, which has logged more than 4.5 million rides since its launch in 2011, is expanding to Miami. Rebranded as Citi Bikes in Miami, the bright blue bikes sponsored by Citibank will be serviced by a network of 75 closely spaced stations, allowing users from Miami’s Upper East Side to Coconut Grove to run an errand or commute to work by picking up a bike at one spot and returning it at another. Members swipe a card or a key fob to grab a bike.
Miami-based ParkJockey lets you find and pay for a parking place in advance so you don’t waste time, gas and sanity circling for a spot and squinting to read prices at garages. With an estimated 30 percent of traffic actually looking for a parking place, ParkJockey also is helping to make a difference in easing city traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
The fast-moving startup launched in Miami and London earlier this year, and recently added Chicago and New York City. It is in discussions with Amsterdam, Paris, Dubai, Istanbul, San Francisco and Los Angeles, said Scott Rosen, ParkJockey’s general manager for Miami.
Last week, ParkJockey announced a partnership with the Miami Heat and AmericanAirlines Arena to make parking easier for patrons, whether it’s for a Heat game or a concert. It also offers a rewards program for loyal users.
For even more convenience, ParkJockey is launching a sister app, PlumValet, With PlumValet, a valet will meet you wherever you are, park your car for you, and deliver it back to you when and where you summon it. PlumValet plans to launch in London this week, and New York, Chicago and Miami may not be far behind.
Food delivery is a sector that is taking off, both locally and nationally — a convergence of the health and fitness trend and urban living. In South Florida, a number of startups offer fresh meal plans delivered to your door or help get your favorite restaurant food to you. Here are a few:
Downtown Miami is one of the biggest markets for Fresh Meal Plan, a three-year-old food delivery service of healthy meals. Fresh Meal Plan, which also fights the obesity epidemic, has gained more than 3,000 customers in Florida, mainly in the Dade-Broward-Palm Beach counties area, said Marc Elkman, founder and CEO of the Boca Raton-based company. The company plans to expand to New York City.
Elkman has found that large, urban, condo-heavy markets like Miami are hungry for Fresh Meal Plan because they are full of health-minded people who don’t have the time to cook. From the company’s app, a customer can sign up for as short as a week, and there are multiple plans to choose from, starting at $79 a week.
Some urban dwellers perhaps crave their favorite restaurant but want it delivered and want to pay through their smartphone. For them, there is FoodOozle, which launched in Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach and Boca Raton last year. Now, with the help of a partnership, FoodOozle plans to add 350 more restaurants and launch in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Dallas and College Station, Texas, and Chicago soon, said Andre Melo. Originally from Brazil, Melo started the company with his wife, Flavia.
With a robust platform geared for the logistic challenges of making deliveries, it partners with restaurants, some too small to be able to efficiently handle deliveries on its own. FoodOozle charges $4 for deliveries, a price point that the company’s research has shown consumers can stomach.
Postmates.com, which is California-based but launched in Miami’s urban core in September, says it will deliver from restaurants, grocery stories and retail stores, just about anywhere in the coverage area. Postmates has more than 5,000 couriers across 16 markets who complete more than 20,000 deliveries per week in total, but the company does not disclose local market numbers, said spokeswomen April Conyers.
MOVING ON UP OR OUT
Need to move? MooVooZ wants to take the hassle out of moving, whether it’s across town or down the hall. According to the American Community Survey, residents of close-in urban neighborhoods tend to be younger, more often are renters, and tend to move more often. Add to that the real-estate run-up in some condo-centric city centers, and MooVooZ wants to capitalize on these trends. MooVooZ launched its Snap N Move Android app in the South Florida market last month.
With MooVooZ.com, there’s no need to call multiple movers. Just pick up your smartphone, enter your information and photos or video of what you want moved, and view your quotes from vetted moving companies, said Joel Burlin, CEO of the Miami-based company.
At the end of the day, the corner bar will always have its place in urban living. But even that could use some reinvention, some startups think.
Bennett, the Miami Lyft rider, has been working on his own startup to serve his fellow city dwellers. BarEye (BarEye.com) provides a digital way to buy drinks in a bar. Want to buy a friend a drink even though you can’t make the birthday toast? You can do it from afar and pay through the app. You can also buy yourself or friends drinks on-site to avoid opening a tab or waiting for service.
After launching in Tallahassee, Bennett has his eye on expanding nationally and is signing up distribution partners. BarEye hopes to launch in central Miami before the end of the year with a number of bars, including the popular Brother Jimmy’s, Gramps and Will Call.
Technology enables and enhances the urban life. “It’s about living fully and living mindfully,” said Bennett, who hopes you’ll take a Lyft ride home from the bar.
Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter.