The app-based shuttle service known as FRED (Free Ride Everywhere Downtown) has become so popular that it might just roll into neighborhoods such as Mission Hills, Hillcrest, University Heights and Bario Logan.
The taxis began taking riders throughout downtown two years ago and since then have become popular among tourists. So much so that according to the San Diego Union-Tribune they broke a ridership record in July.
What started out as a fleet of 15 has grown to 22 and will increase to 25 and then 30 by 2020. FRED is funded by parking meter revenue and private advertising, but the latter is not coming close to the $1.2 million projection needed by 2020.
Hotels have been encouraging their guests to use the stretch golf cart-like buggies, but families who require a car seat cannot take advantage of the service because of safety restrictions.
The primary benefit of FRED is as an unofficial extension of the public transit system or reaching that last few miles at the end of a destination.
"There are a lot of people coming into downtown who get off at Santa Fe (Station) and they are able to take FRED throughout downtown," said Ben Verdugo, Civic San Diego’s project manager for parking, transit and transportation.."I know there can be certain walkability issues in certain parts of downtown."
The Uptown parking district will need to approve funding for the courtesy service.
“It makes it a little bit tricky because you've got two different parking districts -- Uptown and Downtown -- how do you account for the money, where does the money go, how do you pay for the operation of FRED?" Verdugo said.
Hillcrest is becoming inundated with several paid ridesharing options including LimeBike, Ofo, Bird and more recently Razor. Some communities have deemed these dockless services as a nuisance because of saturation and users leaving the vehicles in the pedestrian right-of-way.
FRED, could potentially relieve some of that concern if brought into Hillcrest since it is free and people can hail them as they would a regular taxi. However, app users are the first priority.