A project to provide free electric car rides in the downtown Tampa area is reportedly in the works. The Tampa Downtown Partnership has a plan under consideration to provide a small number of electric cars for residents and visitors to travel around downtown. Similar plans are already being implemented in Orlando and Key West.
The electric cars, known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, would be used for short trips around the area and could be hailed using a smartphone app or a dispatcher. The electric cars each have six seats and are currently legal on area streets that have a posted speed limit of 40mph or less. Christine Burdick, president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership, said in a statement to the Tampa Tribune, “The vehicles are cool; they’re nimble, kind of unique and fun to ride.”
According to the Tampa Tribune, the Tampa Downtown Partnership is a non-profit agency that “contracts with Tampa to attract and retain businesses in the city’s downtown and Channelside areas.” The partnership plans to work with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission on the project. Burdick commented, “It’s a research project at this point. We’re looking into possible funding sources.”
The downtown Tampa area has been struggling with a dearth of transit choices and more mass transit options are needed to meet demand. The city has been challenged by the need to connect people from their doorstep to the nearest bus routes or streetcar stop. The electric cars would be an interim measure to provide additional transportation until more mass transit options are available. Burdick said of the plan, “It’s an idea for a solution for very short rides in Downtown. Often there is a short connection that is not accomplishable by foot or other methods.”
The program would begin with four cars at a cost of roughly $30,000 each once properly outfitted for the endeavor. According to the proposed plan, the vehicles would be available for ride from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the possibility of later times available on the weekend.
The plan calls for the vehicles to be driven by downtown guides employed by the partnership. The guides are trained to look out for security in the downtown area and provide directions to local businesses and attractions to visitors. There are currently about a dozen people employed in these positions.