Free Ride Company Downtowner Services Boca Raton, but Not FAU

Despite FAU's sponsorship of Downtowner, students cannot hail a free, eco-friendly ride to or from campus.

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Free Ride Company Downtowner Services Boca Raton, but Not FAU

The Downtowner app displaying where it can be used on a map. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

The Downtowner app displaying where it can be used on a map. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

The Downtowner app displaying where it can be used on a map. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

The Downtowner app displaying where it can be used on a map. Mohammed F Emran | Staff Photographer

Sonni Ferraro, Contributing Writer

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CaptureWelcoming Downtowner to Boca Raton two months ago, residents now have access to a free, on-demand electric ride service previously available only in downtown Delray Beach.

“It’s cheap, convenient, and gets to you quickly,” said Ryan Hoffman, a senior studying political science and user of the app. “It would be a great method of transportation for FAU students, and I think it will cut down on drunk driving, which will be a plus.”  

Downtowner’s cost-effective and environmentally friendly rides would allow FAU students to save money as well as travel safely, but the company’s services do not extend to the campus.

“I would love the option of a free and safe ride when going out locally with my friends,” said Morgan McElligott, a junior studying education who lives in Boca Raton.

The service area covers a radius that is too far south or too far east to include FAU, meaning that students cannot enjoy the perks of the service.

“I don’t understand why FAU would promote a service like that when it’s not directly available to students who live on campus or spend most of their time here,” McElligott continued.

FAU sponsors Downtowner, as evidenced by vehicles wrapped in the university’s logo. The FAU owl and contact information can also be found scrolling by on tablets placed between seats, as well as on www.ridedowntowner.com.

Regardless of the partnership, the campus remains out of reach of the service area.

“It doesn’t make sense, why FAU would advertise unless they got some endorsement deal,” said Michael Desjardins, a senior studying multimedia journalism.

Downtowner co-owner Stephen Murray says that the company is an advertising venue for FAU, and service to the campus is in the foreseeable future.

“We just opened in Boca, and we’re building our fleet,” said Murray. “Our goal is to open up to the FAU campus…we just don’t have the number of vehicles to service FAU right now.”

Murray added that Downtowner must grow sustainably as a business, and is adding two more vehicles this month. He also noted that Downtowner often services FAU students who live off-campus downtown, and frequent local bars.

Potential customers can quickly request a ride by downloading the free Downtowner cell phone application. A Downtowner driver pinpoints the pickup location and gives an estimated time of arrival, typically between 10 and 15 minutes. Because the company depends solely on advertising revenue from sponsors as a source of income, the trips are completely free for all riders. However, tips are strongly encouraged.

According to the Downtowner website, the company aim is “changing the way you get around town.” Drivers who are licensed, insured and screened are available seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. The open-air rides serve as an alternative to driving and searching for a parking space, or biking and walking, as well as discouraging driving after a night on the town.

Downtowner’s founders “realized the need for a better short distance transportation option and Downtowner was born,” but for now, FAU students in Boca are unable to utilize that option unless they are off campus and planning to remain in another part of Boca.