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West Palm Beach seeing return of downtown shuttles

Free rides will continue through mid-January
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Posted at 10:12 PM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 23:26:18-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It's Friday night and Jim Kovalsky is busy. He just got a notification that it's time to pick someone up.

"Clematis (Street) is always busy. We also do a lot of calls out of both the Marriot and the Hilton," he said.

Kovalsky works part-time driving shuttles around downtown West Palm Beach.

His first pick-up is with Song Kien. He just moved to Florida and is using the shuttle to get around.

"If you live in the area and you have a mundane task, it'll help you out," Kien said.

The shuttle system went through a re-introduction during the height of COVID-19. The program slowed to one vehicle per day and passengers were charged $3 for a ride. But now, the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority, along with the owner of Circuit electric shuttles, is launching a three-month project offering free rides in parts of West Palm Beach and the town of Palm Beach.

"To test the impact of having Circuit as a free service," said Raphael Clemente with the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority. "Does it increase ridership? How many rides are originating or terminating in the downtown area? Where are they coming from? To give us information to them to consider building this into what is a growing set of mobility options, non-private mobility options for downtown West Palm Beach."

Kovalsky is back on the move. This time he's picking up Kathy Harrington, who likes the convenience of it all.

"It's difficult to find parking sometimes, so this is so much easier," she said.

Kovalsky said at full capacity there will be roughly three to four shuttles at a time. He said there's a science to driving downtown.

"I look at the call that comes in. Where am I picking them up? Where are they going? Which way do I want to approach that call? So once I pick them up, I'm pointing in the right direction," he said.

Monday is when the project starts. Free rides will continue through mid-January.