City of Tampa eBike Voucher Program

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City of Tampa eBike Voucher Program

The City of Tampa recently launched the first eBike Voucher Program in the Southeast. The program is modeled after the City of Denver’s existing program but tailored to fit the residents and businesses in Tampa. The eBike Voucher Program is designed to provide residents sustainable, reliable, and affordable transportation options to work and essential trips. As one of the fastest growing cities in Florida, Tampa has seen exponential growth. With this growth, the city has experienced an increase in traffic stress to the roadways. The eBike Voucher Program is intended to help residents attain and utilize car-alternate transportation in an effort to reduce high levels of traffic within the city and carbon and greenhouse gas emissions in the air.

The program was developed through continuous conversations with City of Tampa staff, key stakeholders, and local bike shops; we reviewed the road map of cities with similar programs in place.  We really wanted to ensure that this program could have a positive impact on all our community members including our residents and local businesses. It was important that representatives from every area who would be impacted by the program have a say in its development and process.”

Tampa’s eBike Voucher Program is unique in that the application window was opened for a two-week period. Applicants were selected through a random lottery process to ensure an equal opportunity selection of residents. This program was designed with every resident of Tampa in mind. We wanted to ensure that individuals without access to reliable internet access at home would have the same chance of receiving a voucher as someone who would be in front of their computer on Friday, April 14, at 8 a.m., when the application window opened.

Tampa’s program is based on a voucher system rather than a rebate system to add further support to income-restricted households who have less money for the cost of an eBike upfront. In-person application assistance sessions were offered throughout the application window to help potential applicants obtain and provide appropriate information and documentation for the program.

With a program funding of $170,000, four voucher types were offered to residents based on their household income. A standard eBike Voucher: valid for $500 off the purchase price of a Class I eBike, was available to all city residents. The standard eCargo Bike Voucher: valid for $1,000 off the cost of a Class I eCargo Bike, was available to all residents. The program offered two income-qualified (IQ) vouchers to provide additional purchase assistance to individuals with a household income of $59,893 or less (the City of Tampa’s census reported area median income). An IQ eBike Voucher: valid for $1,000 toward the purchase of a Class I eBike, and an IQ eCargo Bike Voucher: valid for $2,000 toward the purchase of a Class I eCargo Bike were made available in this category.

Participating bike shops needed a completed application and several basic criteria including: having a physical business located within the City of Tampa boundary, selling qualifying class I eBikes and eCargo Bikes at their store, and have the ability to provide basic onsite maintenance for the eBikes being sold were required.

To further capitalize on safety, the City of Tampa’s eBike Voucher Program required all participating bike shops to provide a helmet to voucher recipients redeeming a voucher through their shop. On top of the helmet requirement, we are in the process of developing several month-long bike safety and education campaigns which will feature many in-person sessions, giveaways, local advocates, and business partnerships. The goal of these events will be to engage the public in roadway and sidewalk issue, as we all are users – ideally creating a safer environment for everyone.

The eBike Voucher program just closed its first round of applications in April and saw a staggering 978 applicants vying for the 180 available vouchers. The interest in the program has been astounding. We are so grateful that the Tampa community is as interested in reliable, sustainable, and affordable car-alternate transportation options as we are! We completed the live lottery drawing and drew the first 20 voucher recipients via YouTube Live at one of the participating bike shops. There were over 140 viewers participating in the live stream, which was incredible! All voucher applicants, regardless of selection, were informed of their application status that same day.

With nearly 1,000 applicants and only 180 vouchers to be awarded, there were many residents, who understandably, received the news that they had not been selected for this first round of the program. The City of Tampa, however, developed the program with this fact in mind. All applicants who submitted a completed and approved application to the program, but were not selected through the first lottery selection process, were automatically enrolled in future iterations of the program, ensuring that the applicant will not have to go through the full application process again.

One of the most telling metrics to come from the program application is the distribution of age groups that applied for the vouchers. Most program applicants were between the ages of 31 and 50, with the ages more closely split between 22 and 65. It was surprising and inspiring, to see applicants of all ages show interest in this program! It really speaks of the interest of residents to be outside – exploring our beautiful city in car-alternate modes of transportation. With a main goal of this program being to provide the ability to support our low-income households, it was great to see that the majority of our applicants indicated a household income of $50,000 or less, showing we created the program to best fit our target demographic.

After seeing the success and interest from both the public and private sector for this program, I felt confident that the city will be able to identify and secure additional funding for future rounds of this program. Based on the immense support received, I would love to explore potentially tapping into our CRAs (Community Redevelopment Agencies) to provide support for residents and workers within their districts, as well as explore the opportunity for public private partnerships to further support the program. It would be awesome if we could partner with our local sports teams (The Tampa Bay Lightning) and really expand this program to as many of our residents as possible.

The next step of the program is to issue the remaining 180 vouchers and begin measuring the impact the program has on traffic patterns, the use metrics of the recipients, and collecting data from both the program applicants and the participating bike shops to improve the program for potential future iterations.

Austin Britt is Parking Planning Coordinator, Mobility City of Tampa. He can be reached at: Austin.Britt@tampagov.net

Article contributed by the Parking PT team.
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