APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
October 2017

[Back to Tampa]

Tampa — Routes Identified

October 2017

The floridapolitics.com site reported on October 18 that two potential expansion routes have been identified for the Tampa heritage streetcar line in west-central Florida. Click here for the full story.

Further detail on the selected routes can be found in a tampabay.com story:

Expanded Tampa streetcar system gets first public approval

The plan to extend the TECO Line Streetcar system north through downtown got its first positive reviews from the public on the evening of October 24.

The streetcar system already runs from Ybor City to the Channel District. The aim of a $1.7 million study to look at expanding service is to choose the path to reach more of downtown and extend the system north to Tampa Heights.

The Tampa Streetcar study selected two preferred routes for the extension of the existing 2.7-mile streetcar line. Both routes travel an additional 1.3 miles from E Whiting Street north to E Palm Avenue.

The main difference between the two options is that one runs there and back on N Franklin Street while the other is a loop along Tampa Street and Florida Avenue.

"It's really getting into the core of downtown, which is what the current line misses," said Steve Schukraft, project manager with HDR, the firm running the study. Planners presented the recommended routes at a community workshop October 25 evening.

Of about 50 people in attendance, most voiced support for the routes. In a poll asking for immediate reactions to the choice, voters overwhelmingly responded "very favorable," signified by a heart-eyes emoji, or "favorable," a simple smiley.

The decision to move forward establishes a corridor on which the team can focus. Asked how they would measure success, HDR vice president David Vozzolo said they would compare ridership and other measurements to cities with streetcar and light rail options they find successful. Those include Kansas City, Mo.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Charlotte, N.C.

Schukfraft said this step represents a milestone in the process. But he added that expanding the streetcar isn't the only needed improvement. The service itself most also improve to make it a more attractive transportation option. Higher ridership in turn would help make it a more sustainable option, too.

"No matter what we do, no matter what technology, we've got to provide more frequent service," Schukraft said.

Ideally, the streetcar would run every 10 to 15 minutes and make stops about every third of a mile, Schukraft said. The streetcar currently runs every 20 minutes, but officials have long desired to make the system more user-friendly to get more people to use it.

"One of the arts of the project is to figure out enough stops to make it convenient for people to walk to, but not too many stops that you're slowing it down," Schukraft said.

The study considered other routes, such as an east-west option out to North Hyde Park and another that makes a loop around the city. The two recommended options fared well in a range of factors, including capital and operating costs and connections to jobs and housing.

Both options would cost between $94 and $97 million to build and about $3.6 million to operate each year. They're also the shortest of the seven options that were considered.

"That shorter length still provides really good service to places with really strong projections for population and employment," Schukraft said.

The second phase of the study, expected to wrap up next fall, will evaluate ridership projections, specific stops and costs. The goal is to apply for federal funding through Small Starts, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) or other federal grant programs. But federal and state grants almost always require a local match of some sort.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has advocated for transit improvements for Tampa and the region, said the sticking point continues to be whether leaders can find money to build and maintain the system.

In Florida, only counties, not cities, can hold voter referendums. Sales taxes are the most popular method nationwide for paying for transit. But one such initiative failed in Hillsborough in 2010, and commissioners refused to even put the question on the ballot in 2016.

"As long as the city is held hostage by the county and their inability to look at a potential referendum for transportation," Buckhorn said, "we're going to have a problem."

Other midsized cities, such as Cincinnati and Kansas City, have recently spent millions of dollars to bring streetcars to their downtowns and expand their existing transit networks.

The InVision: Tampa Streetcar study is coordinating with a larger regional effort to bring "premium" transit options, such as commuter rail, light rail or express bus, to Tampa Bay.


[Back to Tampa]