SHIFT Tampa Bay: Let's rethink how you get to where you're goingParticipants earn discounts on purchases

Aiming to encourage people to use environment-friendly, non-motorized options for getting to work and traveling around town, SHIFT Tampa Bay has created a new app with a reward system that can lead to discounts on shopping and dining.

By downloading the app Commute Tampa Bay, you get the opportunity to log how you’ve traveled (biking, ride-sharing, walking, etc.) and gain points for your conservation efforts.

In accumulating your commuted distance over time, you’re able to redeem your points for discounts at restaurants and stores or enter raffles for larger discounts. There are over 4,000 rewards that you can earn through the app.

“It ranges from local food places within the Tampa Bay area, to fast foods like Taco Bell or Steak and Shake, to clothing stores like Aeropostale, to eye doctors, to a super lube oil change,” says Akiliaha Rankine, a USF senior studying Business Management and working at CUTR (Center for Urban Transportation Research).

For example, with 500 points you can enter to win a $25 gift card, get 25% off Papa Johns, a free burger from Checkers, and so on. Saving your points will get you bigger deals. For example, with 1,000 points you can earn 20% off $65 at Forever 21, 5% off of any Lenovo PC, etc. 

This program is funded by the Florida Department of Transportation and facilitated by the Center for Urban Transportation Research in the University of South Florida. Researchers behind SHIFT include Phil Winters of CUTR, Dr. Mahmooda Pasha of USF Health, Kevin Hawley of the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, and several students. 

SHIFT is partnering with TBARTA, Love to Ride, Bike Walk Tampa Bay, and Best Workplaces for Commuters. The program is initially focused on getting around in Brandon, Town n’ Country, and Tampa Heights. 

CUTR chose these locations based on the availability of alternative transportation options, including HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority) Flex Route services.

“Points are rewarded for the first two trips that you record in your account each day,” Rankine says. “Greener trips earn 100 points per one-way trip and 200 points per round trip. Drive-alone trips earn 10 points per one-way trip and 20 points per round tip.”

Referring a friend to the app will grant you an additional 1,000 points. The rewards are provided via the Entertainment Coupon Book and TBARTA.

“Originally, the intent was to conduct outreach in the three communities with visits and participation in events to connect with residents and businesses,” Rankine says. “COVID forced us to ‘shift’ our tactics to include more social media emphasis.” With the burden the pandemic has put on small businesses, commuting and redeeming points will, in turn, come full circle by bringing people into these small businesses eager to get their discount.''

In addition to the Tampa Bay Area, the app is also being used in cities across Central Florida and Southwest Florida. By setting up your profile on the free app, you’ll have the ability to engage with others via SHIFT social media and share pictures of your commutes.

More local neighborhoods may be added later.

“I think this app has amazing potential to motivate people to log their trips and consider other forms of commuting,'' Rankine says. "Also, it can make people more aware of why their commute matters and how it’s affecting the environment around them.''

A unique feature the app has is its ability to allow you to see how much money you’ve saved on gasoline throughout this effort. 

“My ultimate goal is to help the environment and shift the public attitude on taking public transportation through SHIFT Tampa Bay, all while hopefully bringing down my own carbon footprint and helping others do the same,” Rankine says.

For more information and to download the Commute Tampa Bay app, visit the SHIFT Tampa Bay website or follow them in social media. 
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Read more articles by Lauren Wong.

Lauren Wong is a graduate of the University of Tampa with a degree in journalism who is freelancing while she looks for a full-time job. Originally from the Chicago area, she enjoys travel and aspires to be a travel photojournalist. During the summer of 2019, she worked for Premier Travel Media in Chicago and as a correspondent for Input Fort Wayne, another Issue Media group online magazine based in Indiana. She loves spending time outdoors camping, kayaking, and taking pictures.