They’re like Uber but free: New electric shuttles popping up all over South Florida

They’re like Uber but free: New electric shuttles popping up all over South Florida

Passengers at the beach on Arizona Street inquire about the new electric vehicle shuttle now available in Hollywood. The Sun Shuttle, operated by Circuit, is available for free in downtown Hollywood, on Hollywood Beach and along Federal Highway. To catch a ride, passengers can download the Ride Circuit app, wave down a driver, or go to a designated pick up location. (Mike Stocker / Sun Sentinel)

You may have heard that in life there are no free rides. Forget about that. In a growing number of South Florida cities, you really can ride for free.

So you’ll have to forego air conditioning, the ride won’t last more than five or 10 minutes, and you won’t exceed 35 mph. But you can take comfort in knowing you are helping to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Tipping the driver is optional.

Partnering with local governments and private advertisers, several companies are building fleets of low-speed street-legal six-seat electric shuttles to ferry the permanently or temporarily car-less over short distances within congested urban zones.

Pedestrians in busy sections of Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and West Palm Beach can use smartphone apps to summon rides from two growing services: Freebee, in the middle of a pilot program in a square-mile section of downtown Fort Lauderdale, and Circuit (formerly The Free Ride), which serves Fort Lauderdale’s beachfront resort area and last week began shuttling tourists and commuters in the core area of Hollywood.

Both companies also serve communities in Miami-Dade, while Circuit operates in West Palm Beach, the Town of Palm Beach and Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens.

Another company, Swoop, operates exclusively in Miami Beach, with vehicles advertising various lifestyle brands as Spanx, Glam Squad, European Wax Center and Coterie.

The services typically operate within densely populated areas no larger than a square mile on streets with speed limits no higher than 35 mph.

As South Florida developers have no choice but to turn away from sprawl and focus instead on building high-rise, mixed-use, “live-work-play” communities, founders of the eco-friendly electric fleets say that — by providing access to train and bus stations — they’re helping residents realize the dream of living without a car.

Circuit loops downtown Hollywood to the beachside

Circuit was founded in The Hamptons, a string of seaside resort communities on Long Island, New York, in 2011 when co-founders Alex Esposito and James Mirras discovered that consumer product brands would fund the entire cost of operation for the opportunity to advertise to the area’s affluent residents.

The company then replicated the concept on the Jersey Shore; in Austin, Texas; and in such popular California beach communities as Santa Monica, Long Beach, Venice, San Diego and Marina del Ray, among other destinations.

“The initial concept was using ad dollars to get people from crowded urban areas to the beach,” Esposito said in an interview. Then as the company started working closely with San Diego in 2016, “we realized our simple beach shuttle concept had great applications in congested urban areas.”

Despite targeting affluent enclaves, the services are used by anyone needing access to and from the companies’ service areas — bartenders who take the train, office workers going to lunch, high-rise condo residents heading to dinner or a show. Unlike fixed route services like trains and buses, the companies’ electric vehicles come to their clients, pick them up and drop them off at their destinations.

Hollywood’s partnership with Circuit began when the city solicited bids to replace its Hollywood Trolley, which will be shut down by June 30. Circuit agreed to run six cars daily — and up to 10 during the busiest parts of the season — within three zones: the city’s beachside, Federal Highway business district and downtown. Shuttles will also run between downtown and the beachside via Hollywood Boulevard.

The city wanted a service that would be free to riders, said Joanne Hussey. the city’s communications manager.

“Riders can use their app to ask them to come and get them. We really liked that. They didn’t have to go to a trolley stop and wait. We had feedback from people saying, ‘When I go to the trolley stop, I don’t know when it’s going to be there.’ We also liked that this uses electric vehicles.” That fit in the city’s goal to be as “green” as possible, she added.

Users can hail rides by downloading a smartphone app called Ride Circuit, or, if they see one of the vehicles approaching, simply hail it as one would hail a cab, Hussey said. The city is calling its service Sun Shuttle.

Hollywood’s contract with Circuit calls for the city to spend up to $884,351 annually, but that can be reduced by an agreement that pays the city half of any money generated by Circuit’s sale of advertising in and on the vehicles.

Freebee juggles three business models

Jason Spiegel, a University of Miami grad who started Freebee in 2011 with fellow Hurricane alum Kris Kimball, said his company can make money giving away free rides by pursuing three business models:

One model calls for cities to fund the entire operation as if it was their own.

Under the second, the city pays a contracted rate that gets reduced as advertising is sold. Prior to its current deal with Freebee, Coral Gables agreed to pay $300,000 a year and saw that amount reduced to $110,000 after Baptist Health came on board as sole sponsor. But when the contract came up for renewal, Coral Gables decided it didn’t want outside advertising and agreed to pay $486,000 to expand from three to five vehicles and keep its service self-branded, Spiegel said.

Under the third model, ad revenues fund the entire operation. Riders are greeted with ads not only wrapped around the outside of the vehicles, but inside and on mounted tablets. Often drivers pass out product samples provided by the advertisers. Riders can take selfies with the tablets, send them to their friends and even listen to their requested music, Spiegel said.

Freebee is funding the three-month pilot program in downtown Fort Lauderdale solely with ad revenue, Spiegel said. Beer maker Corona had an exclusive contract during the first month and rum giant Bacardi is sponsoring the final two months, he said.

The company is negotiating terms of a longer-term deal that could include more service areas, more vehicles and expanded hours if the city agrees to contribute financially, Spiegel said.

Hours of operation vary among the services and zones. In Fort Lauderdale, Freebee operates until 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and until 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Circuit operates in Hollywood from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Spiegel said he’s not concerned about competition from Circuit, which beat Freebee to the Fort Lauderdale market with its own fully ad-supported service that operates on the beachside, downtown area and Las Olas Boulevard.

He says there’s plenty of business to go around, even if Freebee achieves its goal of expanding to other areas of Fort Lauderdale, including the beachside and Cypress Creek Road business district.

Founded in 2013, Freebee employs about 75 full time workers in South Florida, Spiegel said, adding, “That should be over 100 over the next few months.”

Circuit, founded in 2011, employs 32 in South Florida — not all of them full-time — and 140 nationwide, according to Circuit partner Jason Bagley.

Ron Hurtibise South Florida Sun Sentinel
https://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-free-electric-shuttles-fill-urban-commuting-need-20190510-hugx4xf5ljfpvnnbb7ovxme66a-story.html

Free to paddle board wherever you want, almost? Hollywood gives it a go

Free to paddle board wherever you want, almost? Hollywood gives it a go

Cat Uden, a Hollywood activist and chairwoman of the local Surfrider chapter, says Hollywood’s paddle boarding rules are among the strictest rules in the region. But that’s about to change. (Courtesy/Cat Uden)

For plenty of South Florida beaches, paddleboarders are just another part of the seascape.

Not Hollywood, where you’re more likely to see a pretty umbrella in the sand than a swift paddleboarder in the ocean.

Paddlers say that’s because Hollywood is known for having strict rules when it comes to their sport.

That’s about to change.

Paddlers, led by Surfrider champ Cat Uden, have complained for years about those tough rules. Now, after months of negotiations, Hollywood is embarking on a six-month pilot program that will give paddlers a little more breathing room.

The new rules kick in March 23.

“I just hope it’s a success,” said Bruce Wilkie, who oversees Hollywood’s 68 lifeguards. “We just hope a lot more people come to the beach and use it for recreation.”

For years, Hollywood has required paddlers and kayakers to stay 300 yards from shore once they’re out on the water, forcing them into the same channels traversed by boaters. The new rules will allow them to paddle 100 yards from shore, helping prevent potentially dangerous collisions.

Paddlers have also been required to use two narrow launch zones, leaving most of the beach off limits.

Under the pilot program, paddlers will be able to launch anywhere along the 4.5-mile beach as along as it’s before 10 a.m. The same rule applies if it’s after 6 p.m. when it’s daylight saving time and after 4:30 p.m. when it’s not.

Paddlers can still do their thing between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., but they’ll have to enter the water and come ashore at one of four launch zones.

Two of those zones are new and will be marked by orange buoys to help act as guides for kayakers and stand-up paddlers, Wilkie said. Those zones will be at Hollywood Boulevard on the south end of the beach and at Sherman Street, near the Positano condo at Sheridan Street.

“We want to give these channels a trial period to see if they’re used or not,” Wilkie said. “If word gets out, maybe people will show up and use them.”

The two current launch zones are being rebranded as recreation areas and will be open to paddleboarders, kayakers, surfers and skim boarders.

The north recreation zone will go from Douglas Street north to Dania Beach Boulevard. The south recreation zone runs from Georgia Street to Eucalyptus Terrace.

It’s too soon to say whether the new rules will transform Hollywood into a paddling mecca, Commissioner Kevin Biederman said.

“I think we just had to have a trial period to see how things go with some relaxed rules, so that the paddling experience can be more convenient on Hollywood beach,” he said.

After the pilot program, commissioners will have to vote on the new rules before they can become permanent.

The changes won’t come free.

Hollywood plans to spend around $73,000 on 30 orange launch buoys, lifeguard equipment and 29 white buoys to mark the line where boaters aren’t supposed to cross.

The boating buoys are not part of the pilot program, but are needed to help make the beach safer, Wilkie said.

“Practically every beach but Hollywood has them: Hallandale, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano, Miami Beach, Deerfield,” Wilkie said. “We do get boats trying to come in close to pick up a friend or family member. The buoys won’t stop that, but they may cut back on it a little.”

They will be 4 feet high and placed 150 yards offshore in front of all 28 lifeguard towers along the beach. They will cost $38,000 and likely won’t arrive until September.

The orange launch zone buoys will cost $2,250 and might be in place as soon as April.

Some beachgoers are already worried about the prospect of buoys marring the natural beauty of the beach.

That includes Heather Schueler, who has lived at the beach for 20 years and been paddling for eight.

“Hollywood beach is one of the last beaches to remain quiet, natural and not overcrowded,” she said. “I would hate to see the natural beauty be destroyed by man-placed buoys in our ocean.”

Uden says she doesn’t think the buoys or extra launch zones are necessary.

“There’s no reason to create a channel for us,” she said. “We’re not like Jet Skis. No sense in spending money on all of these buoys that we don’t need.”

by: Susannah BryanContact Reporter
South Florida Sun Sentinel

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/hollywood/fl-ne-paddleboard-rules-hollywood-beach-20190315-story.html

Boca Raton company buying back plastic straws in exchange for eco-friendly alternative

Boca Raton company buying back plastic straws in exchange for eco-friendly alternative

Robert Stillman, founder and CEO of FarFromBoring Promotional Products in Boca Raton, will begin buying back plastic straws as well as selling paper straws as an alternative to plastic. (File photo)

As more municipalities and businesses move away from plastic straws, one company that already offers an alternative is offering to buy them back.

FarFromBoring Hospitality is offering to swap out local establishments’ current stocks of up to 20,000 plastic straws. The company founded an alternative paper straw called rhino straws, which it says is eco-friendly and reasonably priced. It’s also offering 15 percent off any paper straws it purchases in March.

“Americans use more 500 million plastic straws every day,” said Robert Stillman, CEO of FarFromBoring Promotions, FarFromBoring Hospitality’s parent company. “These pollute our oceans and are ingested by sea birds, turtles and other marine life. Many counties across the state of Florida have enacted a ban on plastic straws entirely.”

The Boca Raton company was started last November as more cities, counties and individual businesses and chains decided to decrease or effectively ban the use of plastic straws. It also offers cocktail and coffee stirrers and customizable designs.

Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach, Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Hallandale Beach are among the municipalities that have voted to ban plastic straws, citing plastic pollution in the oceans and beaches, as well as the harm they cause birds and marine animals that accidentally ingest them.

Most cities still allow restaurants and bars to carry plastic straws, but require them to be given only when asked by customers. Straws will also still remain in hospitals, nursing facilities, schools and other places where people may have specific medical needs that necessitate their use.

“We know many vendors have current stock and don’t want to lose the money by throwing their plastic straws out,” Stillman said. “We hope our offer to purchase their stock helps them to move quickly in an effort to preserve what we are losing. Plus, we will also pick up the straws and dispose of them in an eco-friendly manner.”

With every case of paper straws sold, FarFromBoring Promotions will be making a donation to Trees for the Future, a Maryland-based nonprofit organization that plants trees in deforested regions around the world.

“Before we brought our paper straws to market in South Florida, there was very little product availability,” Stillman said. “What little inventory was available felt like cardboard and dissolved too quickly in drinks. Finally, the price point for these inferior-quality straws was far too much for restaurants to spend on a one-time use consumable.”

By: Austen Erblat Contact Reporter
South Florida Community News

Sea Turtle Nesting Season is underway on our beaches.

Sea Turtle Nesting Season is underway on our beaches.

From March through October these creatures will return to their home beaches to lay eggs. Hollywood residents and beach visitors can help sea turtles during the nesting season by keeping beaches clean, being aware of nesting sites and reducing artificial lighting near beaches that can distract and confuse mothers and hatchlings. Sea turtle hatchlings use light and reflections from the moon to find their way to the water at night. Artificial lighting discourages adult females from nesting on the beach.

Hollywood’s new lifeguard towers hit the beach – for $2 million

Hollywood’s new lifeguard towers hit the beach – for $2 million

Crews work on the first of Hollywood’s new lifeguard stands on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The tower sits next to an old stand at Liberty Street. Another new tower is at Azalea Terrace to the south. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Two lifeguard towers stand side by side on Hollywood beach, one old and one new.

The battered wooden shack with faded yellow paint has weathered the elements for a quarter of a century. Just a few steps to the north sits the new arrival, a sign of things to come.

By the end of the year, 21 stylish new towers will dot the beach.

The new lifeguard stand at Liberty Street arrived two weeks ago. Its twin sits several blocks to the south at Azalea Terrace. Soon they’ll be painted a spiffy blue and white, with yellow accents.

The new look may turn heads — but so will the price, some say.

Hollywood is paying $2 million for the new towers — a bargain compared to earlier estimates of $4.8 million.

But so far, the new towers are a hit with visitors.

Sylvie Lauzon, a snowbird from Canada who owns a condo in Pembroke Pines, marveled at the clean lines and modern look. But the price tag — $117,000 apiece for six first-aid stations and $90,000 apiece for 15 lifeguard towers — left her stunned.

“Are you friggin’ serious!” she said, her mouth agape. “Oh my God! That’s the price of a condo!” Lauzon asked if the new lifeguard stands come with air-conditioning.

“For that price, you’d think it would have AC,” she said, shaking her head.

A new lifeguard tower sits next to the one it will replace at Liberty Street in Hollywood on Feb. 28, 2019. (Susannah Bryan/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

The new towers have neither air-conditioning nor plumbing.

Like the towers they’re replacing, the pretty new stands with their Art Deco design will be on the beach for the next two decades or more.

That’s how Mayor Josh Levy sees it.

“We’re a world-class beach,” he said. “We don’t want flimsy off-the-shelf lifeguard stands. Even they would’ve cost over $1 million.”

The new towers will arrive in phases, with four more expected by the end of March. Another eight will be on the way by July. And the final eight will be settling into the sand by Dec. 31.

Nostalgic beachgoers who like the old towers will find them on the north and south ends of the beach.

Hollywood is keeping seven old lifeguard stands — two first-aid stations and five towers. But 21 others will be auctioned off, said Jorge Camejo, director of Hollywood’s redevelopment agency.

What kind of price will they fetch?

One has already been sold to the highest bidder for $40, Camejo said.

“I’m not sure if they wanted it for a tree fort or what,” he said, chuckling.

The good news, according to Camejo: Taxpayers won’t have to pay to have it hauled to the junkyard.



Susannah Bryan: Contact Reporter South Florida Sun Sentinel

March 4, 2019 | Hollywood
https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/hollywood/fl-ne-lifeguard-stands-hollywood-here-20190301-story.html

Welcome back Debra Case, the newest addition to the HBBA Board of Directors.

Welcome back Debra Case, the newest addition to the HBBA Board of Directors.

Hope you are all doing well.

I wanted to take a brief moment to officially announce the latest addition to our HBBA board of directors.

At our last membership meeting there was a unanimous decision made to have Debra Case rejoin our team. Debra brings a wealth of experience, including past HBBA president along with serving as city commissioner for district one for the past 2 years. She also owns a great restaurant on the Broadwalk Ocean Alley!

I am pleased and excited having her back as she will be chairing the CRA, Chamber of Commerce and Government affairs topics reporting directly back to the board members.

Again I want to welcome Debra back and look forward to working with her to make HBBA a formidable presence in our community.

– Dan Serafini, President of the HBBA Board

Time to renew your HBBA membership.

Time to renew your HBBA membership.

Please renew your HBBA membership by January 15, 2019.

You can renew easily right here.
https://hbbafla.com/join-hbba/member-renewal/
Or mail your check directly to the HBBA at1722 Sheridan Street #170 | Hollywood, FL 33020

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

Manatee Season – Be on the look out!

Manatee Season – Be on the look out!

Manatee Season runs from November 15th – March 31st.

So be careful and be on the look out for them.

If you see an injured or sick manatee:
Call FWC 888-404-3922
Text *FWC
Email tip@myfwc.com
or you can download the county’s “I Spy a Manatee” App.