Tampa — Port Authority Pitches In
Tampa's Port Authority reluctantly has approved an annual subsidy of nearly $100,000 for the TECO streetcar line which links downtown Tampa and Ybor City over a 2.7-mile route, the Tampa Tribune reported.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a member of the Port Authority board, expressed frustration. In his opinion the line was poorly located and operated under the wrong business model, with inadequate marekting.
"We can't stop it, so we'll have to fix it," the Mayor told fellow board members as quoted by the Tribune on September 18. "We're pregnant fellas, ladies – and there's no going back."
Local leaders, he said, need to stop managing the line as a transportation system like a subway because raising rates and reducing hours to balance its budget will only drive away riders. Instead, the system should be run as an amenity, almost like a city park, that's an attraction for tourists and city dwellers, he said, and likely be free to ride.
Fellow board members concurred and voted unanimously to approve the annual payment, with some noting that local governments would have to pay back millions of dollars in federal grants if they shut down the system.
The budget for the TECO Line Streetcar System has already been cut another 15 percent from last fiscal year, with hours limited to noon to 11 p.m. and runs frequency cut to every 20 minutes – helping push ridership down from 466,536 in 2009 to 366,808 last year.
"The real question," said board member Carl Lindell Jr., "is do we keep this running or just abandon the $40 million, $50 million commitment already there – It would be a shame to do that."