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Hooters to drop trolley service
The free shuttle between downtown and Channelside will stop running Dec. 28.
By MIKE BRASSFIELD, Times Staff Writer
Published December 19, 2007
TAMPA - Since 2004, the Hooters trolley has been a familiar sight around downtown Tampa and Channelside, ferrying lunch patrons to and fro.
Now its days are numbered.
The lunchtime trolley, formally called the Hooters Channelside Express, will stop operating at the end of the year. Its final run will be Dec. 28, when it will stick to its usual weekday schedule of 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hooters paid for the free trolley for three years, to the tune of about $330 a day, before deciding to discontinue it. Trolley riders could go to any Channelside destination for lunch or shopping once they disembarked, and Hooters got tired of paying for the shuttle by itself.
"They tried to enlist some of the other merchants at Channelside to help fund it, but I guess that never got beyond the talking stage. Ultimately, it came down to they were not willing to carry the costs themselves," said Ed Crawford, a spokesman for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, which runs the trolley.
Ridership has been steady if unspectacular. The shuttle service averaged about 1,400 riders a month before it recently cut back from two trolleys to one.
Although Channelside is less than a mile from most downtown offices, getting there on a lunch break can be a challenge. For much of the year it can be too hot to walk there in business attire, and getting a car out of parking adds its own wrinkles.
"At some point we'd like to see it come back because it was a good idea," Crawford said.
HART recently started running a 50-cent entertainment shuttle on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. from the Channel District to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. But it cut back the hours of its weekday trolley, which now runs from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 6 p.m.
"The departure of the Hooters shuttle definitely leaves a hole in daytime circulation downtown," said Karen Kress, transportation director for the Tampa Downtown Partnership. The group has started a task force to explore how to pay for downtown trolley service seven days a week.