The Free Ride—a car service referred to by founders as a “micro transit solution”—has been in operation giving Hamptonites free rides to the beach since 2011.
What started as a fixed-route service in East Hampton has now expanded to multiple Hamptons towns and to other beach destinations across the country. In the last year, the company has made their services more accessible by developing a mobile app where riders are now able to request a ride from anywhere within the limits of the available routes. In the past, people using the Free Ride would wait at one of the pick up stops or flag down the cars when they saw them coming.
The company makes money by selling advertising and, in some markets, receiving funding from municipalities. They also cut costs by using electric cars to eliminate the need for fuel. Because of this, anyone can hitch a ride without paying a cent to get to the beach, and can avoid the pain of finding a parking spot or paying a daily fee for village beach parking permits.
This summer, the Free Ride’s mobile app will debut its routes in East Hampton and Montauk, and is expected to get their Southampton route on the app in mid-June. The cars will still operate in Southampton, but riders won’t be able to request a car from the mobile app quite yet.
The app services have already been available in locations like San Diego, Long Beach, and Palm Beach, and it’s making its way to the East End this summer, where the company was founded by Hamptons locals, Alex Esposito and James Mirras.
The Free Ride isn’t just limited to taking locals and visitors to the beach. You can also request a ride from the beach and get anywhere in town that’s within the route. In East Hampton and Southampton, the cars are in operation from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and in Montauk from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Some other urban locations where the Free Ride has become available has extended their hours to appeal to the nightlife crowd, but since the nightlife destinations in the Hamptons are so spread out, that late-night service isn’t available.
According to Esposito, the average wait time between requesting a car on the Free Ride app and the car arriving to pick up the rider has been about 7 minutes in other locations. But this is the first year that it will be available in the Hamptons, so an average wait time for out here hasn’t yet been determined.
At any given time, there are between five and eight cars in operation in each town.
Montauk typically has had more of a “wave down” way of operating in the past, but the East Hampton and Southampton locations do have designated stops. In East Hampton, the stops include central village locations like the train station, Main Beach, Hedges Inn, the Palm, and Chase Bank.
Right now, the app is available on the App Store and the Google Play Store, but interestingly, the ratings are quite different.
While the app has a 4.1-star rating on the App Store, it has just a 2.6-star rating on the Google Play Store. Regarding the app ratings, Esposito told Curbed that often people will mis-rate the app for things like getting stuck in traffic, even if it has nothing to do with the app or the service itself.
Esposito also mentioned that they’re constantly making changes to the app to keep it working well and fixing bugs.
The problem we’re thinking of is that the Hamptons is notorious for having poor cell and internet service. While the routes are within town village hubs where service tends to be more accessible, we’re still anticipating that a lot of people will have trouble setting their pick-up spot because of the spotty service. However, cars will still be stopping at those central pick-ups, so riders won’t miss the opportunity to catch a Free Ride car even if their cell isn’t cooperating—or if it just dies after a long day at the beach.