ST. PETE BEACH — The city will soon implement its own micro-transit bus service and begin ferrying passengers from the area of the Don Cesar Hotel into Pass-a-Grille.
City commissioners recently unanimously agreed to enter into a contract with Miami-based Beefree, which operates under the name Freebee, to provide transit service currently handled by Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses.
Freebee provides free rides on eco-friendly cars that are similar to golf carts.
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The city received only one response to its request for proposals in August, City Manager Alex Rey told commissioners.
According to its Facebook page, “Freebee is an alternative transportation service and marketing platform that currently services Downtown Miami, Miami Beach, and Key Biscayne with a fleet of fully customized 100 percent electric vehicles.”
City commissioners agreed to accept Freebee’s bid to provide three years of service for an amount not to exceed $794,174, with the option to request an extension of the contract for two additional one-year periods.
Rey told commissioners terminating its PSTA service from the Don CeSar into Pass-A-Grille saved the city about $150,000. Vehicles will also have a video screen that can play information about events and advertisements from businesses, he added.
Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said the service will allow employees who work along the route to use a smart phone app and find a more efficient way to get to work.
“I am so excited about this service,” she said. “When I think of all the people who will benefit from it, it’s going to be amazing.”
Rey told commissioners the company will be procuring a new vehicle, which holds about five passengers and has a manufacturing lead time of six to eight weeks. The micro-transit service is expected to begin operations around mid-November to early December.
The micro-transit service will operate a route through the Pass-a-Grille neighborhood from the Don Cesar Hotel down to First Avenue, following a similar route as PSTA’s Central Trolley service, with the ability to deviate from the route for on-demand trip requests, which will pick up and drop off riders closer to their origin or destination.
In addition, riders can also request Freebee service either by phone app or by flagging down a vehicle.
The Freebee service offers a mobile app platform that allows riders to track vehicles in real time.