Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Economy hurting HART streetcar ridership

TAMPA — Supporters of downtown's streetcar thought spending $5.3 million to extend the line one-third of a mile to Whiting Street would attract riders by tying downtown to the Channel district and Ybor City.

So far, though, the results are mixed. While revenues are up, ridership is up and down.

March and June saw increases compared with the same months last year. But ridership declined in January, February, April and May.

Overall, ridership dropped 7 percent the first half of this year compared with the same period a year ago, says Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, which owns the 2.4-mile system.

HART and the board that manages the streetcar's day-to-day operations have no definite answers for the decline. They have one possible explanation, though: the weak economy.

The streetcar relies heavily on out-of-state tourists and local visitors, including weekend partiers, catching rides to the St. Pete Times Forum, Channelside, Ybor City and the convention center.

"Being in a down economy, there's only so much we can do," said David Mechanik, president of the board for Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc., which runs the streetcar in an agreement with HART and Tampa.

On the revenue side, the news was better. Revenues for January-May rose 10 percent to $304,032.

Mejia said new ticket vending machines and recent fare adjustments likely boosted sales. In November new family passes started going on sale. A family of five (one adult, four children or two adults, three children) can purchase a pass for $12.50 and ride all day.

Also contributing: advertising sales, Community Redevelopment Area taxes levied in districts where the streetcar operates and a $1 million endowment.

Mechanik said he hopes that ridership will rebound. But it will have to happen with fewer cars on the tracks, he said. Next year, the streetcar's endowment will run out. About $190,000 remains.

To cope, the streetcar board last month voted to cut operating expenses by 30 percent for next fiscal year. Cars will run every 20 minutes instead of 15 on Fridays and Saturdays, and staff will be cut to 17 positions from 24. The fiscal year starts October 1.

"It's like a vicious cycle, but there's only so much you can do," Mechanik said.

Economy hurting HART streetcar ridership 08/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 11:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics


    Winner of the week 1: 'Liquor wall’ proponents. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill to allow Walmart, Target and other big box stores to sell liquor was a victory for an array of groups, from smaller merchants and Publix (which has stand-alone booze shops near its stores) to those who feel the hard stuff …

  2. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  3. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  4. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  5. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.