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“Free ride” a reality in New Smyrna Beach

Posted on August 11th, 2011

They say: “There’s no such thing as a free ride.” New Smyrna Beach residents and visitors are debunking that adage daily, and they’re doing it in an eco-friendly way.
“It’s fun, convenient, and no one needs to worry about who’s driving,” said Leslie Long, NSBFREE owner.
Long said she averages 50 rides a day. Drivers often begin their travels with a 10 a.m. pick up at Bert Fish Medical Center, where patients prefer a “fun” alternative to public transportation. The “regular dinner crowd” starts calling around 4 p.m.  The day finishes by toting the nighttime crowd at 2 a.m. That’s Long’s version of a typical day, but drivers see a variety of riders.
“This week, we’ve met people from North Carolina, Texas, Chicago, Ohio and Indiana,” Long said. “We always have people coming and going from homes, condos and hotels.”

After a little more than two months of operation, the owners already need a second vehicle to keep up with demand.  Since Memorial Day, NSBFREE has given nearly 4,000 people a lift without asking for a dime to cover the gas. That’s because the vehicle runs on electricity. To further cut costs, the drivers are volunteers who work for tips.

“Some people come into town on a yacht and want to go to Publix,” Long said. “It’s hysterical, and they tip well.”

All NSBFREE drivers are tour guides who call out points of interest to their free fares, according to Long. There’s much to see along the way. The service route is east of US 1 and stretches from Minorca to 27th Avenue.  “Our longest trip is five minutes,” she mused.

Long enjoys providing a service to the community that is environmentally friendly. However, this also is a business. NSBFREE sells ad space inside the six-seat, low-speed vehicle. This helps sponsoring businesses to share their messages with riders either in print or on a video that plays throughout the trip. It also helps to familiarize riders with things to do in New Smyrna Beach.

This type of service is not a new idea. Long did her homework by researching similar free-ride providers in destinations such as Miami and the Hamptons, New York. One of those providers is preparing to franchise. That’s not a surprise to Long who has seen interest in her service grow both in ridership and sponsorship interest. The future looks bright either way she looks at it. “Worst case scenario is that we own a golf cart,” Long said.

For more information or to schedule a ride, please call NSBFREE at 386.424.5655

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