Downtowner Out, New Provider May Be In For Downtown Delray Transportation Service

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By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

After closing up shop in Delray Beach, the Downtowner free transportation service was slated to return to its home turf this year.

The Delray Community Redevelopment Agency board awarded the hometown favorite two contracts to run downtown transportation services in late February.

The company’s pitch to integrate a fixed route and point-to-point service wooed the board members. The board awarded them both contracts even though they were not the highest ranked option according to a review board.

In the middle of negotiating the contracts, the Downtowner said it had an issue: a requirement to hold a $5 million insurance policy on each contract.

Downtowner officials said they would only like to move forward with the point-to-point contract and not the fixed route. It also said for the company to “break even” it would have to provide less vehicles than originally proposed.

Downtowner officials said they thought they would be able to negotiate the insurance policy down. They say industry standard is a $1 million insurance policy.

The change, so late in the process, prompted the board to decide to move in another direction. The board awarded the fixed route service to First Transit, which is currently operating the trolleys.

The company will replace the trolley with a new, more environmentally friendly vehicle. The contract is for a two year period. The route will run from the Tri-Rail station through the downtown to A1A. It will cost the agency about $512,000 for the first year.

The board also decided to negotiate with Freebee for the point-to-point service. The contract is for a one year pilot program.

“Quite frankly, I feel had,” Commissioner Adam Frankel said of the news from the Downtowner.

The $5 million insurance requirement was in the request for proposal that the agency put out.

In addition to backing out of the fixed route contract, the Downtowner then changed its proposal for the point to point service. The company went from providing eight electric vehicles to six. There would still be a handicap accessible vehicle. The cost to the agency only went down about $10,000.

“I am very disappointed,” Mayor Shelly Petrolia said. “We are spending just as much for having a quarter of it gone. That’s problematic for me. I feel had, too.”

To help keep an integrated system, the Downtowner offered to provide First Transit with its technology at no cost.

But the board said that offer is not something it can enforce.

Agency officials will enter into negotiations with Freebee. If negotiations fail, the board will likely send the contract back out to bid.

At that time, the board could consider lowering the $5 million insurance policy requirement.