Start-up transportation company takes you around Delray Beach and Boca Raton for no cost other than a tip to the driver.
Story by Adrian Brijbassi, Vacay.ca Managing Editor
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA — I have spent two days at Delray Sands Resort, one of the finer ocean-front properties in South Florida, and after indulging in the sunshine and warm sand, I am curious about the nearby town. But I don’t have a rental car and it’s about a five-kilometre (3 mile) walk to the action on 2nd Avenue, the heart of downtown Delray Beach.
A taxi ride would cost $12 and Uber might be a couple of dollars cheaper. While one of those pay-per-ride choices are the typical options most tourists in my situation would have to settle on, Delray Beach provides a fascinating alternative to getting around. I discovered The Downtowner while exploring online searches for transportation choices in the area.
The Downtowner is the name of a recently launched start-up company that provides free — yes, free — rides around Delray Beach. The vehicles are Polaris GEM golf carts that are all electric and seat up to six people. The carts can’t go more than 56 kilometres per hour (35 miles per hour), which is an ideal speed for Highway A1A and city driving in general.
It covers approximately 24 square kilometres (15 square miles) of territory, from Lake Uda to the west to Highway A1A to the east and north from NW 25th Street to past Bermuda Gardens Road in the south. Although Delray Sands Resort was just outside of the coverage area, it was a short walk to a pick-up spot and each time I made a return trip the pleasant, friendly drivers always dropped me off at the property’s lobby entrance.
Niko Crosby, manager of the Delray operation and one of my drivers, says the company makes its money through sponsorship from local businesses. The vehicles are plastered with advertising, but so are many cabs, which would never think of providing discounted rides to passengers because they have another revenue stream besides the fare we pay.
I found the ride on the Polaris GEM to be fun and accommodating, with happy, young drivers eager to talk about their town. Delray Beach is a party town, so the vehicles have the added benefit of helping to reduce drunk driving. They also alleviate the traffic and parking issues in the city’s downtown area.
Founded by four friends, The Downtowner has four locations, including Boca Raton, Florida, Newport Beach, California, and Aspen, Colorado. It has ambitious expansion plans, Crosby says.
MORE ABOUT THE DOWNTOWNER
How It Works: Download the free app on your mobile device and complete the registration process. When you’re ready for a ride, request it using the interface, which is similar to the Uber set-up. Once you’ve entered your pick-up and drop-off locations, the app will assign your request to a driver and it will let you know when your driver will arrive. You can monitor your driver’s progress through the app.
Cost: The rides are free but tipping the drivers is greatly encouraged. You can tip cash or pay the drivers through the app using your credit card.
Vehicles: Visit the Polaris website to learn about the GEM all-electric golf carts. http://www.polaris.com/en-ca/gem-electric-car