By Jane Smith

Free rides in electric cars are returning to downtown Delray Beach.
Freebee vehicles are set to take to the streets in September, offering point-to-point service that starts or ends in the city’s downtown core. BeeFree Holdings, based in Miami, operates under the Freebee name.
Because the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board members did not want advertising on the vehicles in the first six months, the CRA will have to pay $90,000 extra for the six vehicles, which will cost $401,560 annually.
The Freebee vehicle wraps will have four Delray Beach themes, said Ivan Cabrera, CRA project manager. All will have white lettering that says: Welcome to Delray Beach.
“Frogs will represent Frog Alley, pineapples for Pineapple Grove, the Crest Theatre building for Old School Square and palms for the beach,” Cabrera said at the Aug. 13 CRA workshop.
Operating hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.
Freebee rides serve only the CRA district.
That area has the interstate as its western boundary, the beach as its eastern one. It straddles Atlantic Avenue and goes north to Lake Ida Road and south to Southwest 10th Street.
On the barrier island the district covers two blocks north and south of Atlantic.
The limited coverage area concerns Shelly Petrolia, the CRA chairwoman.
“When the Downtowner operated, it served the Lake Ida area and the north and south areas of the beach,” she said at the Aug. 13 workshop. Residents living there may be disappointed, she added.
Cabrera said the CRA staff would track the calls and let the CRA board know the results in six months.
In addition, the fixed-route, free service continues to serve the Tri-Rail station, west of the interstate, with a stop at the beach.
Its new route was to start Sept. 3.
The gas-powered minibus will go east on Atlantic Avenue to Swinton Avenue where it will turn north, then east on Northeast First Street and stop at the Old School Square garage. The vehicle will continue east on Northeast First and then turn south on Northeast Fourth Avenue and then east on Atlantic to the beach.
That route was selected to avoid the congested traffic of Atlantic Avenue.
The minibus has two vehicles, operated by First Transit. The first runs 6 a.m. through 7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. The second vehicle runs 6:45 a.m. through 11:15 p.m. weekdays and noon to 11 p.m. weekends.
The white minibuses each have a blue wrap that depicts palms and white lettering that says: “Welcome to Delray Beach.”
Riders using either transportation option can use the Freebee app for smartphones to call for a Freebee ride or find the schedule for the minibus.
The electric car and minibus services operate under the brand Connect Delray.
At the Sept. 10 CRA meeting, board members will decide whether they want to rebid the fixed-route portion to get electric-powered vehicles and will hear about an upcoming $900,000 federal transportation grant and the types of vehicles it covers.

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