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. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]