San Diego city and business development leaders have officially launched a previously announced free downtown circulator shuttle service, now called FRED. The acronym for the service, which uses all-electric vehicles, stands for Free Ride Everywhere Downtown.

The program started Aug. 9 with 15 advertiser-supported vehicles, with the fleet expected to grow to 20 within the first year. Civic San Diego has budgeted $500,000 initially from downtown parking revenue, to cover startup costs in expanding a previously existing five-vehicle service that was already being operated by The Free Ride, a Florida-based company.

A statement from Civic San Diego said the service uses five-passenger vehicles that can be hailed or scheduled for pickups via a mobile app. Shuttles have been made free to the public through dedicated funding from Civic San Diego, which manages the downtown community parking district, and private sponsorships.

Officials said FRED is the first program of its size in a major metropolitan U.S. city. The city’s goal is to have the program become fully sustainable through private sponsorships over the next few years, with public funds to be phased out.

Circulator vehicles will operate for short trips throughout downtown’s seven neighborhoods from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to midnight Friday; 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. More information is at thefreeride.com/fred.

The service was formally launched by officials in a public ceremony at downtown’s Horton Plaza Park. FRED is part of larger efforts by officials to ease mobility, while cutting down on car trips, congestion and pollution in the downtown area.