Coral Gables

Need a ride in downtown Coral Gables? The city is offering them for free

A rendering of one of Freebee’s shuttles parked off Giralda Avenue
A rendering of one of Freebee’s shuttles parked off Giralda Avenue City of Coral Gables

As streetscape construction work continues on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, the city has hired a local company to provide free rides around the downtown area.

Freebee, which launched in Miami Beach in 2012 before expanding to Brickell and downtown Miami, uses open-air shuttles to take shoppers on short trips. And now the Wynwood-based startup will be providing rides in the Gables.

The service started in Coral Gables June 21 and runs seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The rides are concentrated in downtown but go as far north as Navarre Avenue, south to San Sebastian Avenue, east to Southwest 37th Avenue and west to Anderson Road between Coral Way and Valencia Avenue.

Freebee Map
Freebee’s coverage area in and around downtown Coral Gables. The company provides free shuttle rides to various locations in the area. City of Coral Gables

Freebee works through an app where customers request a pickup, select a destination and can take advantage of deals when they arrive at certain businesses.

The city paid about $175,000 for a one-year pilot program with the company. The electric-powered shuttles seat five passengers and include space for strollers and shopping bags.

City leaders hope that Freebee will provide relief and another option for Miracle Mile visitors as streetscape construction continues. The work is currently set for substantial completion by January or February 2018, and work on the northern part of the Mile started a few months ago.

Javier Betancourt, the city’s economic development director, said the service area and the hours of service could change depending on when and where customers use Freebee.

The shuttles are also covered in advertising for businesses, a feature that Gables leaders hope to utilize to feature downtown merchants.

Jason Spiegel (right) and Kris Kimball, (left) in 2012 started Freebee, a free transportation service designed for short trips. In June, the city of Coral Gables contracted with the company for a one-year experiment. Roberto Koltun

Some merchants and businesses have said that part of the financial losses they’ve suffered, since construction kicked off last year, is due to regular customers being deterred by the reduction of storefront parking or by the walk from garages and parking lots.

“We certainly encourage everyone to grab a ride and check it out. It’s free of charge and supporting our businesses and getting around in a sustainable way,” Betancourt said.

The city entered a similar partnership with Uber last December to establish pickup and drop-off zones along the Mile and designated areas for UberEats food delivery.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3