Close up of battery pack of an modern electric bicycle (Shutterstock)

Bay Area wants low-income residents to swap polluting cars for sustainable transportation

Low-income residents of the Bay Area can now swap their older, more polluting vehicles for money to go toward a transit pass, electric bicycles or bike-share membership.

The Clean Cars for All program, run by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, is designed to encourage individuals making up to 400 percent of the current federal poverty income level to opt for more sustainable modes of transportation.

First created years ago to provide low-income individuals with financial support to buy a clean electric vehicle — either a plug-in hybrid or battery-operated car — mobility options such as transit passes, e-bikes and bike-share memberships were only recently added to the program as a pilot at the tail end of last year in the Bay Area.

Now accepting applications, the Air Quality Management District is offering pre-paid cards with a $7,500 value to eligible applicants to purchase one or more e-bikes plus any necessary accessories. Leftover funds can go towards transit passes.

Awards for electric vehicle purchase continue to range from $5,500 to $9,500.

In addition to the income threshold, applicants must also live in zip codes determined to be “disadvantaged communities,” which, in San Francisco include Bayview Hunters Point, South of Market and the Financial District.

Eligible vehicles must be fifteen or more years old, in good condition and registered to the applicant for at least two years.

Recipients of the Clean Cars for All grants must be approved before they can bring their old cars to a dismantler pre-approved by the Air Quality Management District, who will then scrap the retired vehicle.

The program echoes a broader statewide effort to make access to and use of more sustainable modes of transportation more equitable across the state.

According to an assessment from the California Energy Commission, for example, low-income communities on average have the fewest total car battery chargers per capita, as compared to high-income communities, which have the most.

To that end, Governor Gavin Newsom also proposed allocating $150 million of cap-and-trade auction revenue for the program as part of his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, and he has asked lawmakers to approve funding to build a more expansive network of vehicle charging stations.

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