Guest Column
Tampa is moving closer to extending the streetcar | Column
The streetcar expansion proposal benefits residents, the business community and the tourists who visit us.
A historic streetcar at Centennial Park Station in Tampa.
A historic streetcar at Centennial Park Station in Tampa. [ ANGELICA EDWARDS | Times ]
Published Nov. 18

Having called Tampa home for the past 39 years I’ve witnessed our city evolve into a thriving urban center, drawing in new residents, businesses and visitors from around the world. As we enter this next chapter, we are confronted with new challenges, notably the increasing demand for enhanced transportation options in the face of continued growth and traffic congestion.

Alan Clendenin
Alan Clendenin [ Alan Clendenin ]

Proposed new developments, ever-increasing density, Brightline train service, along with reduced parking are poised to bring even more residents and challenges to our city. Tampa’s urban core continues to swell in population, further compounding our traffic issues. With increased urban density, our transportation infrastructure must evolve to meet the changing needs of our residents and businesses. I firmly believe that this evolution should include the expansion of our successful streetcar system.

Tampa’s streetcar is a proven concept, boasting the title of the third most ridden streetcar in the United States and breaking ridership records year after year. The system often operates at full capacity along its 2-mile route, a testament to the hard work of our partners at HART and the Florida Department of Transportation, and a clear indication that it has outgrown its role as a novelty attraction.

When I assumed office, the dream of expanding the streetcar lacked inertia with the failure of the All For Transportation initiative. Since joining the City Council I have made it a primary goal to champion the project and today I’m thrilled to share that the vision of expansion is closer to becoming a reality than ever before.

The proposed streetcar expansion isn’t geared toward tourists; it will provide a reliable transit option for our residents and enable us to accommodate more people in our urban core. This expansion will become the transportation backbone for future growth, unlocking more of our city’s potential. An expanded transportation spine will realize a future of living, working and playing car free from Ybor City, Water Street, downtown and deep into Tampa Heights.

The proposal will also act as a catalyst for density and development of key areas, including northern downtown and Tampa Heights, generating revenue that will fortify our city’s economic health, bolster city revenue and contribute to our growth. Increasing density and housing in appropriate locations, relieving the pressure to squeeze more into our traditional established neighborhoods.

Perhaps the best part of this proposal is that it won’t require a tax increase for construction; 70% of the construction costs for the streetcar extension will be covered by state and federal funds. These are your tax dollars that I am actively advocating to return to Tampa to enhance our city’s transportation infrastructure. We are also exploring ways to cover the additional 30% of construction costs including rerouting existing funds, expanding CRA resources and exploring new grant and loan opportunities.

The Tampa streetcar is not merely a mode of transportation; it’s a cornerstone of our city’s identity. Photographs and b-roll of Tampa consistently feature the streetcar as an integral part of the Tampa brand. Expanding the streetcar is not just an investment in our future; it’s also the preservation of a vital element of our history and culture.

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This opportunity is about more than just infrastructure; it’s about the quality of life in our city. The streetcar expansion proposal benefits residents, the business community and the tourists who visit us. People from around the world are increasingly choosing Tampa as a destination, and it’s high time we invest in ourselves.

Right now, we face two choices: We can either continue building our urban core without expanding transportation options, leading to more traffic congestion and limited parking options, or we can choose to expand the streetcar and invest in a more connected Tampa.

I urge you to join me in supporting the latter. Let’s work together to make Tampa an even greater city to live, work and play in. Together we can turn this vision into a reality and create a future where opportunity and connectivity thrive.

Alan Clendenin is a retired air traffic control professional who was elected citywide to the Tampa City Council in 2023.