Panthers who don't own cars and others who simply want to use their gas-guzzlers less frequently have an easy, no-cost option for short-distance runs to and from MMC. And now they'll even be riding in style.
The Freebee service that provides free trips to students has replaced its electric, open-air shuttles with a fleet of six Model X Teslas.
The new cars revolutionize the way students without transportation go grocery shopping, visit nearby friends or get back to the main campus from the Engineering Center.
“The Tesla Freebee rides are great for our students,” said Tom Hartley, assistant vice president of Parking & Transportation at FIU. “Not everybody has a car, and car ownership is expensive, especially in Miami. It is critical for us to help provide a community where you can live and work and not have to have a car.”
Free, on-demand transportation services are available to the entire FIU community through the Ride Freebee app. Trips up to about three miles, so long as they either begin or end at MMC or the Engineering Center, cost nothing while cutting down on congestion and emissions.
The new electric vehicles align with the university’s goal to reduce its carbon footprint and create a more sustainable campus environment. To that end, FIU has installed at MMC, BBC and the Engineering Center a total of 16 electric vehicle charging stations available for the nominal fee of $1 per hour, with plans to add more as needed, and 11 cost-free tire inflations stations to increase Panthers' vehicle fuel efficiency. And the Parking & Transportation team plans to replace the existing buses that go between MMC and BBC with newer, greener versions.
Hartley expects up to a 30% increase in the current number of Freebee trips since the Tesla upgrade. Freebee, which has been serving FIU since 2020, currently provides about 5,000 rides to Panthers per month.
“It’s really all about safety, comfort, productivity and efficiency,” Hartley said, noting that the previous vehicles had a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and had to take slower back-road routes, and also were open-air vehicles, which exposed the riders to unpredictable weather changes. “Being able to keep folks on campus safe is huge, especially when you don’t know what the weather will do next.”
Aaliyah Mesidort, a junior who studies biology and has frequently used Freebee, loves the service. “Freebee is very convenient for people who don’t have cars, especially when they’re trying to go do grocery shopping. It definitely takes a load off your back,” she said. “The Teslas make it even better: they have air conditioning, can go on the main roads, look cooler and are still free.”