City of Tampa proposes plan to extend, modernize historic streetcar system

During a busy year of development for downtown Tampa, the City of Tampa has been conducting a study to determine the feasibility of extending and modernizing the city’s historic streetcar system to provide better public transportation options for people visiting, living, and working in downtown. Called InVision: Tampa Streetcar, the study team presented their design concepts and recommendations for the project at a public meeting on December 12.

The current streetcar system traces a 2.7-mile path from Ybor City to the Channel District. The proposed extension would add a looped route north from the Channel District to Palm Avenue in Tampa Heights.

Among the feasibility study’s goals have been to define strategies; evaluate available vehicle technologies; estimate costs, benefits, and impacts; and coordinate with other planning efforts around the city. 

The proposed extension plan would see an additional 1.3-mile loop added to the current streetcar system. Modernizing the system would include extending hours and upgrading vehicles, tracks, and stations.

The study has estimated a cost of up to $102.6 million for the extension and $69.9 million for modernization. The City of Tampa expects to receive funds from the Federal Transit Authority to support the extension effort but not modernization.

The end goal is to facilitate the development of downtown Tampa by providing better transportation options to the neighborhood’s 15,000 residents and roughly 100,000 weekly visitors.

“We did a lot to study prospective riders,” says Jean Duncan, Transportation and Stormwater Services Department Director for the City of Tampa. “We have weekly visitors, students, residents who are coming into the area. There is a mix of folks who are either coming downtown short term or long term. Many of them are interested in having a vehicle but it's not practical. Our projections are positive that a lot of different types of folks will be riding this.”

Tampa has seen significant transportation changes this year. In October, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) received an $89,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, which saw the TECO Line Streetcar fares drop from $2.50 to free for the next three years. The grant also extended the streetcars services hours and frequency.

In November, Hillsborough County residents voted to approve a transportation funding referendum that will see a one-cent county sales tax increase, from seven cents to eight cents, for 30 years beginning in 2019.

That same month, the Cross-Bay Ferry returned to service, carrying passengers from Tampa to Saint Petersburg.

The extension and modernization plan was approved by the Federal Transportation Authority in June 2018. By March 2019, the city hopes to complete the National Environmental Policy Act review, with funding and financing plans following shortly after. 

The estimated start date is January 2024. 
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Read more articles by Dyllan Furness.

Dyllan Furness is a freelance writer and born-again Floridian based in Tampa. He covers the Tampa Bay Area’s development boom for 83 Degrees, with an eye out for sustainable and community-driven initiatives.