Free electric shuttles will begin whisking downtown employees from remote parking lots and the Marion Transit Center to businesses throughout the city’s core within a couple of months.

The Tampa City Council, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Area board, voted Thursday to give the Tampa Downtown Partnership $550,000 toward the $1 million it will take to offer rides from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends.

The app-based shuttle program, coupled with another new initiative to bring the car-sharing program Zipcar to the city, should “put a real dent” in the issue of finding a parking space downtown, said Karen Kress, the partnership’s director of transportation and planning. She has been working on this shuttle project for about two years.

The money approved Thursday comes from two different CRA districts — the Channel District and the downtown district. It’s an 80-20 split, since most of the use will be in downtown. The remainder of the funding comes from federal, state and local entities as well as private sector donations.

The on-demand shuttle service will begin operations with 12 vehicles, each able to hold six passengers. Called an on-demand “micro-transit” service, the shuttles will help solve the last-mile puzzle — getting people from transit or parking areas to their final destination and vice versa.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, the county’s bus service, also is working to implement a first-mile, last-mile pilot program by fall that would enable bus riders to call 15 minutes ahead of time and pay $3 for a ride to or from a bus stop.

The $833,322 contract HART signed with Transdev Services Inc. includes service in Brandon, in the Innovation Zone/University Area and in Carrollwood.

HART CEO Katharine Eagan said the Downtown Partnership’s shuttle is a great complement to the area’s transit system.

“We’re always happy to see another option for folks to get around downtown, whether it’s carpooling or bike sharing or an innovative program like this one,” Eagan said.

Kress said the shuttle program will be similar to an Uber experience. Customers will be able to go to an app and order the shuttle anywhere in the downtown CRA or on Harbour Island.

She said the Zipcar car-sharing program could be in place within a few weeks. The Downtown Partnership is using federal grant money from the Surface Transportation Program, about $50,000, as an incentive to get the private company to begin operating here, Kress said.

Zipcar, a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, charges a monthly or annual membership, and customers pay an additional fee to reserve a car by the hour or day.

Convenient monthly parking downtown has become an issue as business grows. And with new development coming down the road, it is expected to get worse without some relief, Kress said. The Downtown Partnership’s goal in the new initiatives is to encourage alternatives to driving to work downtown and then seeking limited parking space nearby.

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