Free Fares or Extensions?
The Tampa Tribune reports that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn floated the idea of eliminating fares on the TECO Line streetcar to attract more ridership. This would eliminate $600,000 in annual income, which amounts to about 44 percent of operating costs (twice the national average). The proposal was made to counter the drop in passenger figures which dropped 15 percent over late summer 2011.
The streetcar continues to face funding challenges, including a route that appeals more to visitors than locals and the annual $400,000 insurance premium required by CSX for crossing its line at grade.
Michael English, a board member since the line's inception, noted that budget cuts eliminated morning service which would be attractive to commuters. English has advocated for members of the nonprofit board overseeing the line to continue to evaluate extensions to the line and to take a proactive role in enhancing the system.
Others have advocated extending the line into neighborhoods that would serve more residents and turn the line into a more effective transit service.
The line could also be helped if Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, gains control of the Channelside development and expands it.
Ten Year Anniversary Celebrated
Tampa's streetcar system opened on October 19, 2002 and the 10 year anniversary of this date was celebrated on Saturday October 20, 2012. To commemorate the event, the cash fare was rolled back to 10 cents for the day. Events were held at Centro Ybor including circus and magician performances, followed by varied music acts.
Circque du Soleil staged a photo contest and tours of the streetcar maintenance facility were offered hourly during the afternoon.