Downtown San Diego free ride program could get big boost

Posted at 6:23 AM, Oct 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-12 11:58:24-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diegans could be in for even more free rides throughout downtown.

That's because FRED, or Free Ride Everywhere Downtown, could be in for a $3.7 million boost.

The program already has 17 electric carts buzzing around the heart of the city, offering rides anywhere from the Gaslamp to Little Italy. 

The city and Civic San Diego launched the program last year, committing $2 million in operating costs. So far, it's picked up and dropped off 140,000 people, with 32 jobs paying the city's "living wage" of $14.95 an hour. People can request a cart by downloading the free ride app

But the program is becoming too popular, with wait times increasing and drivers swamped.

"I'll end a ride and I'll have another one lined up waiting, so yes, it's pretty busy," said David Aragon, who drives an electric cart during the day.

Now, Civic San Diego could add another $3.7 million to the program over the next three years. It would mean expanding the number of carts on the road from 17 to 30, and upgrade them to lithium ion batteries, which have twice the range. 

"That means there's more on the road for the whole day, we run 14 to 18 hours a day," said co-founder James Mirras. 

A Civic San Diego committee gave the extra money a vote of confidence Tuesday, but some members urged the organizers to sell more advertising and apply for grants to offset the cost. 

The full board could approve the extra funds at its meeting later this month.