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HT Neighbors, Meet Low Speed Vehicles

Co-organizers are Huston-Tillotson University (HT) and the Institute for Community MicroMobility, a resource to HT.

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Our solution is to introduce low speed modes to our East Austin neighbors, inviting them onto the Huston-Tillotson University campus to experience Low Speed Vehicles (aka Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) and pedicabs. We propose engaging HT's students and community neighbors in hands-on learning about a low speed, low emission, low cost mobility alternative: LEAN mobility. We will host  events on-campus, working with churches, neighborhood organizations, and/or employers so that our students and neighbors gain hands-on experience with these low cost, low speed, low emission modes. HT will host neighborhood events, gather feedback from participants, and share findings. 

It is estimated that fewer than 3 percent of Austinites know what a Low Speed Vehicle is. Even fewer have ever ridden in one, much less driven one. We want to change that, not only for our students, but also for our community of neighbors.

What better way to introduce a new paradigm than bringing a demo onto a university campus with young people? ...where community engagement is central to what HT does? 

Imagine nearby neighborhood leaders, parents, children, and teens having a chance to experience a new low cost, low stress, outdoor-oriented transportation mode while interacting with our students and faculty. If our neighbors are intrigued—and we expect they will be–then we will develop meaningful relationships as we become a hub for learning more about alternative mobility. 

Simple test drives and test-rides open up minds to what is possible by thinking differently.  The key is engaging people hands-on with Low Speed Vehicles so they can imagine using one. 

We also believe that our institution can play a small but pivotal role in accelerating Austin's plans to become net carbon emissions neutral. The goal for 2050 is too little, too late. We would like to help accelerate that by twenty years, to 2030. It will take paradigm changes of this scale in cities around the world to accomplish this. We want to be a leader in modeling how accomplish this.

HT is the oldest Historically Black University (HBCU) west of the Mississippi River. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in Austin. We are both innovators and stewards of our legacy. Our students are diverse and driven. For a century, HT has helped many students from low income families join the middle class. With that privilege comes the responsibility to make the world a better place. This pilot project will offer opportunities for students to shape the future of HT and improve the lives of our community of neighbors.    

The University is guided by the leadership of President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, who serves as the first female president of the merged Huston-Tillotson University and only the second female president in the institution’s history. Dr. Pierce Burnette is an experienced leader in higher education with a deep commitment to student success.

HT nurtures a legacy of leadership and excellence in education, connecting knowledge, power, passion, and values. Discover more at, #IAmThePipeline, and #GeniusGeneration.

The Institute for Community MicroMobility will serve as a resource to HT and guide to implementation.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

1. Our 700 students. Many are the first in their families to go to a university. They are starting their adult lives, thinking about the world and their place in it. They are learning to think critically. 2. Our East Austin neighbors. At HT, we look for ways to interact with our neighbors, and especially to invite them on campus to experience all that we have to offer. Many of our neighbors have mobility challenges or impairments, as described in the Ford City:One Challenge background. We believe that micromobility can help solve mobility issues that prevent our neighbors from fully participating in our city's economy, employment base, and recreational activities. Many must spend 20+% of their household income on transportation. Imagine a hands-on event where students and neighbors talk, laugh, share, and learn about a mobility alternative that cuts costs, congestion, and carbon emissions. Then multiply that several-fold to see the impact a series of events can have.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

The Institute has conducted test-drives and test-rides in Dallas at City Hall Plaza and Community First! Village (a project of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, located in in east Austin ). Typical responses? "I love this!" "Where can I get one!?!" Faces light up when people experience these vehicles and realize that transportation doesn't have to be expensive, dangerous, and congested. That we don't have to pollute our air with carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. There is a better way.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

HT is a small liberal arts University, offering associate and master’s degrees in addition to Bachelor of Arts and Science degrees in 19 areas of study. The campus at 900 Chicon is 23 acres with more acreage located off Chalmers Ave. A historically black institution, HT nurtures a legacy of leadership and excellence in education, connecting knowledge, power, passion, and values. The Institute's mission is to foster protected networks for safe. low speed, low cost, climate-conscious mobility.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Team or Organization URL

Funding Request

  • $50,000

Rough budget (500 characters)

We will use the grant funds to pay for on-campus test-ride/drive events, community outreach, social media, gathering resident feedback, and project management. We will acquire our first Low Speed Vehicle with this money and seek grant assistance through from the Austin Community Foundation and the Polaris Grant program to purchase more LSVs. We will pay students a stipend for their assistance with the neighborhood events.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

With this pilot project, HT will learn how best to engage the community and involve our students in educating the public on new, low speed, low cost, low emission modes. We will engage a group of students in assisting with the test-drive and test-ride events. We will reach out to neighborhood groups, churches, and other organizations to invite them to HT for demo events. We want to learn how people respond to this new micromobility mode and how they might see it in their lives. We especially want to understand how Low Emission Alternative Network (LEAN) mobility can ease their financial stress and improve access to job and educational opportunities. We will use a six-seat LSV shuttle to engage with neighbors as our student team drives them around on campus. Our hope is a dialogue on how NEVs and other micromobility modes could help solve their mobility challenges.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

We will measure success both quantitatively and qualitatively. How many students/faculty participate? What is their contribution? How many community neighbors participate? What is their feedback? Most important, we will know we are successful if we are preparing for Phase 2 to deepen knowledge, broaden exposure, and pilot the LEAN infrastructure.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

In Phase 2: 1) Implement an LSV free shuttle for our students get across campus. This shuttle will engage students in learning about low emission mobility alternatives, and make this part of the HT experience. 2) Prototype a segment of LEAN infrastructure using movable barriers and off-road paths. We will seek climate crisis-related grants to engage our students and East Austin neighbors in thinking differently about what is possible for mobility—safe, low speed, low cost, low emission.

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