By: Diana Bello Aristizábal
On January 10, the City of Doral took a step forward with the goal set by the mayor and council members of providing accessible and inclusive mobility services for city seniors by giving the green light to an On-Demand Pilot Transit Program for individuals 65 and over. This will be possible with resolution 24-5426 that was unanimously approved at a council meeting.
This new program, which will last six months and would come into operation in approximately 30 days, will be run by Freebee with two vehicles and 40 hours per week for city-wide rides and not just for the Downtown area where the general population currently has access to circulator vehicles.
Those who request this new free service will be able to be picked up in their residential communities to be taken to around 27 chosen locations in the city marked on a map such as parks, the government center, the cultural center, police stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, hospitals, and Our Lady of Guadalupe church.
“It will be a pilot program because we want to see what the demand will be and if people really need it,” explained Mayor Christi Fraga in an interview with Doral Family Journal. For her, launching this program is to partially comply with the promise she made during campaign on expanding the public transportation system for the benefit of senior residents. This new alternative comes to complement the Trolley system after its fleet was expanded to 30 vehicles.
“Silver Club members told us they require this service to get to the places they visit in a more convenient way considering parking has changed in the city, it costs money to purchase a vehicle and the majority of them have family members who work and don’t have time to drive them,” Fraga says.
A carefully thought-out project
Since the city began to receive comments about the need to expand the current transit system, a research process began aimed at allowing this idea to be materialized. The first approach on this matter happened on August 9, 2023, when the issue was discussed at a City Council meeting in which its members and the mayor expressed interest in moving forward with the program.
Then, at the December 6, 2023, council meeting, the transportation division of the Department of Public Works presented its findings on this project including funding sources, costs, and optioned transportation companies to launch the program with.
It was concluded that Freebee was the best option, among other things, because its electric vehicles are ADA compliant and there is a dashboard to monitor vehicles and generate reports. At the end of the meeting, the department was asked to study further on costs, locations and timeline and comeback with this data for the January meeting.
Finally, the project was submitted for a motion to approve at the council meeting of January 10, 2024. In this session, it was announced that 59 surveys had been conducted with seniors to inquiry about the places they visit the most and their specific needs, and that a meeting was held with Freebee in order to gather more key data and learn if they could meet the targeted public needs.
Based on the information collected, the Department of Public Works suggested that the program be launched with 70 hours a week and three vehicles, but council members agreed that it was best to start small with 40 hours a week and two vehicles while public acceptance and more funding sources were analyzed. The resolution was approved under the condition that the program could be adjusted as necessary.
“We have been studying this for a long time. The program with Freebee is the most convenient and efficient one of all the alternatives presented to us, and participants can even share rides with their neighbors,” the mayor says.
Those interested in taking advantage of this service must download the Freebee app, provide their home address so that it can be verified that it’s located within city boundaries and other information to confirm they are in the age range of the program.
If someone can’t access a cell phone or cannot request a ride through the mobile app, you can call the Freebee line to request the service at 305-482-1284 or 855-918-3733 for ADA assistance.
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