Bummin a Ride Is Easier Than You Thought
No need to stick out your thumb out for a free ride. The Free Ride is, you guessed it, a free transportation service, one that got its start on the East End. The concept tackles a trifecta of rideshare sore spots, using gas-free electric shuttles to get people where they need to go, alleviating that summer crush for parking, taking more cars off the road during busy times and even handing out treats sometimes. No longer just a Montauk thing, The Free Ride has operations in parts of South Florida, California, The Jersey Shore and coming soon to Texas (no word on if they’ll be bigger there).
WB sat down with Alex Esposito & James Mirras, co-Founders, to learn a little more about the service.
Enjoy the ride.
How did this all get started?
James and I grew up in the area and there’s always been an issue parking at Main Beach. At the same time, there’s an under-utilized parking lot near the YMCA, so we kicked around the idea of a “beach bus” for a while. Then we thought what if we used electric cars, worked with great sponsors and made it FREE. We started our first pilot season in 2011, and it’s grown from there.
So, it’s really free to ride?
It’s really free to ride. We use electric cars to cut out the cost of fuel and work with municipalities and sponsors to fund the service. Sometimes the riders even walk away with a free sample or some swag from the sponsors!
I had a mother of two kids ask me to drive her kids around for an hour or so while she went to enjoy some refreshments at a local watering hole and another who lost her kids and we drove her around town looking for them. We found them.
Tell us the rules for passengers. Can you bring your beer, your dog, your pet iguana?
We encourage people to bring both dogs and iguanas. There’s no extra charge for pets. Unfortunately, the law kind of gets in the way of bringing open beers on board.
On that note, what’s the craziest rider experience you’ve dealt with?
Picking one is tough. I’ve had some fun and crazies from Montauk to San Diego over the years. Anybody that left the Tuna in 2014 after 4 pm was always a good time for different reasons. Also in Montauk, I had a mother of two kids ask me to drive her kids around for an hour or so while she went to enjoy some refreshments at a local watering hole and another who lost her kids and we drove her around town looking for them. We found them. But the vast majority of our riders are those who enjoy and use the service on a daily basis, whether from the BD to the beach in Montauk or the train station to work in San Diego. We love them all.
The question that every Uber driver in the world gets asked: Does The Free Ride have an aux cord?
We don’t have aux cords, but drivers do often bring their Bluetooth speakers. If you’re nice and keep the EDM down, they’ll normally you connect.
What’s next for The Free Ride?
We’ve been working with more municipalities, like San Diego, to help solve downtown parking and congestion issues. It’s great to see cities embracing the service as a real solution to urban mobility. There are a lot of places where people don’t want to or can’t walk that last mile, so we’re able to help bridge those gaps in an eco-friendly way. The plan is to continue to expand the service to new cities around the country. More cars, more markets, more free rides. We’ll be rolling out our app to all of our markets in 2018, available to download at thefreeride.com/app.
What would be a dream location for Free Ride to be in?
That’s a tough one. I find myself walking a lot more than I want to in NYC. We’ve been speaking to some people in Hawaii, too. That wouldn’t a bad location to “have to check up on.”
When do you think we’ll see flying cars?
Hopefully next summer so you can cross The Stretch in less than 45 mins.