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San Diego Launches Free Downtown Shuttle Service Accessible Via Mobile App

San Diego launches free Downtown shuttle service. Pictured (l-r) are Downtown San Diego Partnershippresident Kris Michell,Civic San Diego president Reese A. Jarrett, and San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Falconer arriving on FRED.

San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, Civic San Diego and the Downtown San Diego Partnership launched a new, free, sustainable transit option on Tuesday for Downtown residents, visitors and workers called Free Ride Everywhere Downtown, or simply FRED.

“Downtown is one of our city’s most vibrant communities, but some San Diegans stay away because parking can be a challenge,” Mayor Faulconer said during a news conference at Horton Plaza Park. “We heard those concerns and are proud to introduce this all-electric, sustainable transportation solution that lets residents and visitors park anywhere downtown and still easily get to the great restaurants, shops and attractions downtown has to offer.”

The new program, initially funded by $500k in Downtown parking meter revenues, features five-passenger, all-electric vehicles designed to augment existing transportation options with a short-trip service within Downtown’s eight neighborhoods. The initial launch includes 15 vehicles, but the fleet is expected to grow to 20 within the first year.

Users can request pickup via a mobile app called The Free Ride. The shuttles are free to the public thanks to dedicated funding from Civic San Diego, which manages the Downtown Community Parking District and private sponsorships.

“We are very excited about the launch of FRED as we continue to increase mobility options in our Downtown,” said Civic San Diego president Reese A. Jarrett. “Through this public-private partnership, we are reducing congestion and decreasing our carbon footprint within the Downtown community. Residents, workers and visitors will be able to navigate Downtown to enjoy lunch or dinner, attend events or venture to any of Downtown’s distinct neighborhoods in a free and convenient way."

While the program is funded by parking meter revenue, the goal is to secure private sponsorship dollars over the next few years to fully sustain and maintain this service, at which time public funding will be phased out.

Downtown San Diego Partnership president Kris Michell, who played a major role in launching the service, said, “We are excited to bring this new free transportation option to the mix of available ways to navigate Downtown. Downtown is already a dynamic environment for businesses and residents alike. This new service will only add to the quality of life that makes our urban center a dynamic place to live, work and play.”

FRED shuttles will operate seven days a week, from 7am to 9pm Mondays through Thursdays; 7am to midnight on Fridays; 8am to midnight on Saturdays; and 9am to 9pm on Sundays.

FRED is in use in two other California locations—Santa Monica and Venice—as well as New York’s South and East Hamptons and Montauk, Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in South Florida, and Asbury Park on the Jersey Shore.