Tampa — Tourism Funding Sought
The Tampa Tribune reports that the Tampa Historic Streetcar board would seek financial support from the Hillsborough County Tourist Development Council as the system's endowment funds will be used up in fiscal 2014. This source of funding would appear appropriate as the line is more of a visitor ammenity than an urban transit system.
In June more than 8,000 convention attendees rode the streetcar for free as part of a new promotion offering free rides for conventioneers. Streetcar board members will meet with tourist agencies to seek funding to support the $2 million streetcar annual operating budget. The budget has been considerably tightened from $2.5 million when the line was opened in 2002.
Until now operations have been supported by funding from an endowment fund created with $5 million obligated for the defunct downtown People mover that served Harbour Island. Operations have drawn the endowment down much sooner than its expected 2025 end date.
The streetcar endowment was expected to gradually decline to $1.1 million in 2025, but it's been depleted.
Factors weighing on the budget and the endowment have included poor investement returns, a lack of endowment contributions from naming rights, the $400,000 insurance premium required by CSX for a streetcar/rail grade crossing, and less special assessment revenue due to the economic downturn.
Streetcar ridership in May was down 7.5 percent decline from a year earlier.