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Politics

City Council approves streetcar extension

Planners expect more locals to ride it to work when the track stretches closer to downtown.

By JANET ZINK
Published April 20, 2007


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TAMPA - The City Council voted Thursday to back a 1/3-mile extension of the streetcar line.

"The system should be expanded," said City Council member Charlie Miranda. "People are going to get used to moving without automobiles, and that is a great asset to the city of Tampa."

The 4-0 vote came after representatives of the Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit Authority outlined extension plans that will cost from $3.7-million to $5.6-million. HART says $4.3-million will come from the Federal Transportation Administration.

"This project is an investment in the future of downtown," said Robert Cursey, a planner with URS, the company hired by HART to study the extension.

Right now, tourists make up most of the streetcar's riders, which reached about 400,000 people in 2006, Cursey said.

"There are very few trips on the streetcar that are used for work," he said.

But that may change once the extension is complete, which will take the track closer to downtown's employment center, and more people move in and around downtown. Cursey said about 7,500 people should be living downtown and in the Channel District by 2010, which is when the extension should be complete.

"There's an opportunity to make that change in the ridership profile," Cursey said.

The extension, which will run up Franklin Street from the streetcar stop near the Tampa Convention Center to Whiting Street, will add $24,000 to the streetcar's annual operating costs.

The track will run in the existing right of way, and will not reduce the number of vehicles the road can handle, Cursey said.

Cursey expects ridership to increase by 44,000 with the extension. Adding early morning hours could increase ridership by 116,000, he said.

The streetcar line now runs from Ybor City to the Convention Center. Plans call for the track to run through the north end of downtown to Ybor to form a loop so people living near the streetcar can ride it to work and cultural centers, such as the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.

[Last modified April 20, 2007, 06:52:31]


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