Tampa — Streetcar Faces Financial Roadblock
Rail Transit Online, February 2009
A trust fund established to cover operating losses of the TECO Line streetcar could be drained in two or three years, forcing the line to either shut down or be transferred to the city. When the line opened in 2003, a $4.75-million endowment was established that was expected to subsidize the 2.4-mi. (3.86 km) streetcar for 10 years.
But higher than expected costs drained the fund, weakened by the plunging value of its investments caused by the Wall Street crisis. During the past year the balance dropped from
about $3.3 million to $1.4 million.
"We're all concerned and we're trying to cut operating expenses," Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc. board president David Mechanik told The Tampa Tribune. The streetcar has already
reduced service and increased fares, but average daily ridership is only around 1,200.
Mayor Pam lorio said the city may have to take over the operation in 2011 but in the meantime wants her finance staff to closely monitor how the trust fund is invested. "I learned of this a couple of months ago and
was extremely concerned that the endowment money would be invested so heavily in equities," she told The Tampa Tribune. "They should have taken a more conservative investment approach. It's better to make a 2-percent gain than a 40-percent loss."
Meanwhile, the Hillsborough Area Transit Authority has advertised a request for proposals on a four-block extension of the streetcar from the convention center along Franklin Street into downtown.