All aboard! Tampa’s iconic TECO Line Streetcars are now free to ride for the next three years. Along with the reduction in fare, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority
(HART) has launched expanded service hours and higher frequency of rides along the 2.7 miles of tracks from downtown Tampa to Ybor City.
The move from a $2.50 fare fee to free was supported by an $890,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation. The grant will also allow the streetcars to run more frequently, departing from stations every 15 minutes (rather than every 20) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The free and expanded service is intended to better connect downtown Tampa with Ybor City, giving residents and visitors more efficient and reliable means to navigate among the 11 stops between Downtown Tampa Station and Centennial Park Station.
"The Tampa Bay area is consistently one of the fastest-growing areas of our state, adding more than 33,000 new private-sector jobs in the last year," says Jeff Seward, HART Interim CEO. "By the Florida Department of Transportation providing this grant to HART, they are giving Tampa residents another option as they travel around downtown. Serving one of the fastest-growing cities in the state, expanded service for the TECO streetcar will help to alleviate traffic congestion in the downtown area."
The fare-free expansion is one of many local initiatives to revamp transportation options in the Tampa Bay Area. A citizen-led effort called All for Transportation
is pushing for a transportation funding referendum
that will appear on November’s ballot. Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been vocal about his support for a higher-speed rail system
to connect Tampa and Orlando. And Seward says HART has been implementing a variety of initiatives to boost ridership, including a real-time transit information app, OneBusAway Tampa, and new routes, such as 275LX, the Authority's first seven-day-a-week inter-county service to downtown Tampa and the airport.