Tampa — Subsidy Required by 2018
City of Tampa taxpayers may be on the hook to subsidize operations of the TECO heritage streetcar line by 2018, The Tampa Tribune reports. The nation's economic downturn contributed to the problem.
The streetcar system might need a $304,000 annual subsidy from the city of Tampa starting in 2018, a figure that would more than double by 2023, a draft streetcar business plan shows.
A $5 million endowment was assembled at the time the streetcar began operation in 2002. The endowment was supposed to be slowly drawn down; initial projections were that the endowment would still be larger than $1 million by 2025. Now the endowment is expected to be drawn down by 2016. Streetcar officials say that's because of multiple factors, including the nation's economic downturn.
"If the city wants the streetcar to thrive, it must be funded and it must be expanded," according to streetcar board member Michael English.
The possible expansion is an unfunded $47 million plan to double the 2.7 mile streetcar route. A loop though downtown and Ybor City would be built. The proposed route would improve service for both local residents and the visitors the current route was designed to serve.
The city faces prospects of repaying the federal government some portion of its $55 million investment in the system if the streetcar is shut down so local officials are likely to keep trying to salvage it.
The 2013 streetcar budget has not yet been approved. The $1.4 million budget includes lowering single fares from $2.50 to $2 and one-day passes from $5 to $4.50. Passengers carried are expected to decline to 330,000 in the new year, 23 percent lower than in 2010.
Economic conditions including unemployment and fewer tourists and prior fare increases have been cited as causes for decreased ridership.