APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
Operational Funding

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Operational Funding

Potential Sources of Operating Revenue for Streetcar operations


Not all modern streetcar or heritage trolley operations charge fares, but if fares are charged they can cover some operating expenses. Typically, fares will not cover a very high percentage of operating costs.

Advertising on cars and/or stations

As with other public transit operations, advertising can be displayed in these vehicles in the traditional racks running above the windows along the edge of the ceiling, and/or on larger panels on the exterior sides or dashes of the car.

Traditional transit subsidies

General operating subsidies from governmental sources may be available for modern streetcar heritage trolley operations, as for conventional transit operations.

Charter fees

Streetcars can provide a suitable venue for holding a rolling party or providing group transportation to a special event. Fees for such charters can cover direct operating costs and contribute to general operating expenses. In Melbourne, Australia a dinner tram is operated, on which a multi course meal is served at a premium price as the car rolls through the city. If a line is of sufficient length to enable such an operation, it could be a money maker.

Sale of naming rights to stations, cars

Tampa used this approach to help build the endowment that will support operation of the heritage line. (See Tampa Project Description). Sale of naming rights could also contribute to capital costs.

Holding celebrity benefit events to raise funds

Portland held an inaugural event at the beginning of heritage service selling tickets for $100 to $250, and raised $30,000 toward the fund for operations. (See Portland’s New/Old Trolleys)

Building an endowment to support operations

Tampa raised an endowment from private sector contributions for naming rights to cover operating costs of the line. (See Tampa Project Description).

Combined tickets to sporting, theatrical, or other special events including trolley fare

Joint marketing arrangements with attractions served by a line may provide a source of income and another way to expose riders to a rail line for the first time. In Geneva, Switzerland, the city streetcar system gains revenue from a share of parking fees paid by users of parking garages along the streetcar line. In exchange, parkers have the right to use the streetcars free for a specified period of time. A similar arrangement could be used as an incentive for drivers to park at the end of a heritage line, then ride downtown, thus reducing auto congestion in a central area.


Tampa planned use of CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds) toward operating expenses in the initial years of the heritage trolley. (See Tampa Project Description).

Tax on businesses benefiting from line

Portland implemented a Local Improvement District tax for businesses along the streetcar route (See Portland’s New/Old Trolleys). Tampa similarly enacted a tax applying to businesses in the 300-acre area to be served by the heritage trolley line (See Tampa Project Description). Most systems being planned are counting on this source of funding.

Voluntary contributions from businesses benefiting from line

If owners of businesses served by a line feel it contributes to their business, they may agree to regular contributions toward operating expenses.


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